Former students from the University of Gloucestershire beat off more than 760 teams from across the world, to come second in an international entrepreneur’s competition run by the Swedish tech giant Ericsson, with their AI-led smart planting assistant aimed at farmers and gardeners.
The Plug & Plant idea, started by 26-year-old Gloucester man Bradley Warren, is an environmental rod sensor and AI-based system which works, via the cloud, with a specially developed app to enable users to understand how their plant is thriving, connect with other local growers and sell their produce locally if they wish.
Bradley devised the system alongside his fellow co-founders Ranggada Prabu Sadewa, who now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia along with Angel Stephanie, who now lives in New Territories, Hong Kong and Darian Jason Tedjakusuma, who now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The long-standing competition, which is open to all university students of all ages based anywhere on earth, recognises revolutionary concepts that use technology to solve global challenges. The Plug & Plant team achieved 2nd place winning €15,000 from Sweden-headquartered Ericsson, one of the world’s leading providers of Information and Communication Technology. The team is now looking at taking their idea further.
Plug & Plant may have missed out on the winning slot (which went to a student from Maharaj Nagpur University, India for his affordable tablet that creates digital braille in real time), but Bradley and his team-mates were over the moon to hear of their success, against such a big field of entrants.
Bradley said: “We just couldn’t believe that our idea had beaten ideas from 760 other student teams from around the world. It was an incredible moment one I had to pinch myself when I received the email. It was amazing sense of pride to contribute to placing existing strong Gloucestershire young talent onto international map.
During this moment of celebration, I was thankful to my learnt lessons from University and QuoLux team during my placement year, especially when having our masterclasses and guest lecturers with hearing from bright leaders in inspiring change, supporting people’s aspirations making knowledge more accessible, with Plug and Plant we can achieve total syncretistic”
According to Ericsson, innovations come in all sizes, from simple changes in code that could redefine the networks of the future to complex technological advances that will advance humanitarian efforts across the world.
The idea behind the Plug & Plant came from Bradley, inspired by his mother passion. “My mum is an avid gardener, and I’ve picked up her passion too. I wanted to see if I could develop a system which would help domestic gardeners, and farmers, become more productive and efficient resource management through digital monitoring of plant vitals and sharing knowledge and information locally and widely through our database resource. If we could also sell our excess produce locally too, that will also benefit the community.
“I studied digital marketing at the University of Gloucestershire, have taken various other studies outside my realm of marketing which provided critical for our EIA idea, the development of the product took a lot of trial, error and consultation with the local gardening community, we were able to achieve our MVP in under 4 weeks thanks to all of my co-founders efforts too.”
While his degree is in digital marketing, Bradley also burned the midnight oil working on developing the Plug & Plant AI algorithm with Darien and Angel both computer scientist in his first year of studies at BINUS University in Indonesia, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“We all worked together during this amazing experience, from different parts of the world via zoom, during any spare time I also participated in online Google workshops and AI courses to boost knowledge.
I had a little prior understanding due to my internship with Adobe, my month-long internship allowed me to explore all aspects of multinational company from R&D to sales, having substantial understanding of how a big company needs to operate dynamically teaching me valuable skills in problem solving and creative thinking.
But what I loved the most was working with their data systems such as sensi for analytical capture and data visualisation, so I saw opportunity in redesigning our mobile interface utilising their Adobe XD to make interactive mock-ups, it was a success.
Additionally creating onboarding virtual programme through uses of Aero to help make learning sensi more interactive, seeing platform usage grow stronger. Throughout EIA competition we all learned as we went, picking up knowledge and learning new processes.”
Bradley is a passionate environmentalist, coder and marketer how has undertaken many sustainability projects during his time at university, including working on reusable material allocation, Co2 emission challenge and various corporate social responsibility projects during his current employment with Traffic group signals such as assisting in the promotion of our CSR policy.
He and his co-founders are now considering how best to patent their idea, working with Ericsson member Gemma Vall Llosera, senior specialist and head of innovation, who has successfully completed 5 patents across 3 continents, whilst developing our physical product to the next level hopefully working alongside University of Gloucestershire students. They then plan to embark on pitching for further investment entering google start-up programme and similar programmes.
There are many gardening apps and IoT devices which give amateur gardeners advice and monitorization. But Bradley Plug & Plant team thinks they are first movers in bringing divides of knowledge, education, social and an e-commerce function within agricultural sector into one product along with latest visualisation techniques.
Plug & Plant is a smart planting assistant consisting of a sensor device and mobile application communicating through the cloud. It aims to make successful gardening more convenient and accessible for everyone. Inserted into the soil, the device gathers data such as soil moisture and temperature and sends it to the app through the cloud.
Users can then monitor the health of their plants live, using the app. Recommendations to enable growers to cultivate their plants more effectively are generated using AI and displayed in the app. The information is tailored for the specific plant being grown.
But that’s not all. The Plug & Plant app includes a marketplace and greengrocer to allow growers to sell their harvest. There’s a social media feature too, for planters to collaborate and share their knowledge and experiences.
And finally, there’s a collection of video guides and an encyclopaedia of plants all free to access without our device, reducing searching of information and a virtual expert consultation area, getting more personalised advice and goal accomplishment.