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Through PlanEt we can detect the electrical discharge from ions present in the water intake by plants, distributed in the apoplast - that is the space between plants cell walls. That water is not absorbed by the cells themselves, and its presence in-between cells is a result of plant’s self-regulating how much water and nutrients it needs. The apoplast itself plays a major role in a diverse range of processes, including intercellular signalling, plant–microbe interactions and both water and nutrient transport.

Signals acquired with PlanEt are a result of small changes in conductance through the apoplast and that reflects changes in ion concentrations in the apoplast. There are any number of reasons why such changes might occur, including (but not limited to) pathogen defense, water and/or mineral stress, normal developmental events, cell death, circadian and/or diurnal rhythms which could be connected to photosynthesis. The signals - data which we get from ions in the apoplast - can inform us about various plant’s reactions to its environment. For example the leaf apoplast connects the plant with the atmosphere. Together with the atmospheric conditions and conditions in the leaf apoplast, it can determine the exchange processes in either direction, informing the plant about its environment.

We created PlanEt to acquire those signals because we believe that plants are amazing environmental sensors from which we have a lot to learn. By taking as many readings as possible we hope to be able to understand those signals and create a “Vocabulary of Plants”. We want to share PlanEt with anyone who is enthusiastic about it so that anyone can build, copy, improve and experiment with it. PlanEt is fairly easy to build and use by anyone with a little bit of knowledge of electronics and it is based on affordable components.

How to setup


  • In the kicad folder are all the files needed for you to reproduce the shield.
  • You can find the schematic here.
  • You can find the partslist here.


  • Using this arduino code requires you use an ethernet shield.
  • Copy the files in arduino/libraries to [path-to-sketchbook]/libraries.
  • Open arduino/vocab_mqtt/vocab_mqtt.ino.
  • On line 32 it says: const boolean USE_DHCP = false;, if you want to connect the device directly to your computer or for any other reason use a manual ip address set this to false. If you want to connect the device to a network (router, hub, etc) you can set this to true.
  • On line 53 it says: char server[] = ""; // "mqtt.lan";, change that ip-address to where you have your MQTT broker.
  • On line 56 it says: #define MQTTPREFIX "/plant/10", this is where you set the MQTT address of this device.
  • Now load the sketch to your arduino, stack the ethernet shield on the arduino and the organic cinema shield on the ethernet shield.
  • install mosquitto on your computer.


  • In the scripts folder you will find scripts we use for logging data.
  • Please read the readme in the scripts folder for more info on usage.


This work by World Wilder Lab is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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