Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Project Leader(s): Aditya Deshpande, Siddhant Doshi
School(s) involved: The International School Bangalore (TISB)
For the last 7 months, we have been working with social enterprise Daily Dump to try and develop a low-cost easy use commercial soil testing kit. A soil testing kit is a device that allows people to ensure that their soil, or in some cases compost, is in good health and can adequately support the plant growth. This quality analysis can be conducted by measuring several indicators such as soil pH, the concentration of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (macronutrients essential to plant growth), the moisture content of the soil, and a variety of others. This is especially useful for Daily Dump’s customers, many of whom are interested in gardening and composting, and at least have a few potted plants at home. Therefore, the soil testing kits can be used by them to decide to measure the quality of their compost. In regards to sustainability, we believe a tool as such would make it a lot easier for people to compost and might encourage them and others to participate as well.
This project involved many stages – the ideation of the product, deciding which factors the kit should be able to measure, research on how to measure those factors, the creation of a prototype, and finally the design and packaging of the product.
Inspiration and How it Began
We had just completed the Sustainability Survey project with Daily Dump, which will be coming soon under the awareness and education section. We were both eager to continue working with each other and continuing the partnership, so after discussing some of the needs faced by Daily Dump and its customers, we found out that there was a need for customers to be able to test the health of their soil in an efficient and cost-effective way. Dailydump had conducted research on this matter previously and suggested that we could continue and build on the work done previously. Thus, the idea of a soil test kit was born.
Stages of Project
The research stage consisted of 2 parts. The first was to determine what factors would be required in a soil testing kit. The team members researched on what one needs to know about soil when growing plants, and we also studied the features of some soil test kits already available on the market. The list of possible features that we identified were:
This was eventually cut down to just the pH and NPK sensor.
The second part of the research was to understand how to measure pH and NPK concentration (concentration of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) of the soil with ease and also while remaining under the expected budget of 1000 Rs. After scouring through the web, we were able to find a Arduino compatible pH sensor and a journal paper by Masrie et al which describes the use of generic electronics components to measure NPK concentration.
Once the composition of the device had been finalised, we could go ahead with designing the casing and bringing together all the relevant elements of the product. There were a few iterations of the prototype, however after the 3th one, we were able to settle on the design shown in this post. The design features of the product were validated after a consumer survey was conducted, which revealed that the design was moving in the right direction. The only thing left to do now was to refine the prototype into a final product complete with all design elements, packaging and instruction manual.
There were numerous challenges throughout the project ranging from excessive burden from schools to the procurement of the build of materials for the prototype. However, delegating tasks on a weekly basis proved very effective in setting and achieving goals. Additionally, having a team with a diverse range of skills definitely improved our ability to tackle unfamiliar issues.
If you have experience with design and technology and are looking work on a similar project, our recommendation would be to form a team of students, with a diverse skill set, and get in touch with a environmental organisation through your school’s environmental club. Start of small. Alternatively, you could move forward with the project independently. Running a precursory search on google can give you ideas on how technology could be used to support the environment. If you looking for any assistance with a technology based environmental project you can also reach out to Aditya Deshpande (email@example.com).