In this interview, the CTO of Plantaform tells us about their journey from the initial IoT prototype to the product launch. Andres is sharing their experience of choosing hardware and IoT platform for their product, explaining which Blynk's features helped to save time and resources, sharing challenges and lessons learned along the way, and other exciting details!
Check the full video or read the key insights of the interview below!
Andres Torres, CTO at Plantaform and Iryna Liashchuk, CRO at Blynk
– Hello, Andres. Can you introduce yourself, your company, and what you have built?
My name is Andres. I'm the CTO at Plantaform. We have developed the first smart indoor garden which utilizes fog to create a nutrient-rich environment for plants to grow healthy and quickly. The technology was first developed by NASA to grow plants in space. This technology allows our device to consume a lot less water than traditional means. We have used Blynk to control our device, including lighting, water levels, plant progress, the cleaning procedure, and plant care instructions. All of these are controlled and monitored on the Blynk app.
– Great! Let's talk about the IoT development part. You started out building an IoT product and had choices for connectivity and hardware. How did you go about making the choice and what did you end up choosing?
We started developing our device using a Raspberry Pi. Then we realized we needed something more custom and cost-effective. So, we started using the ESP module, specifically the ESP32 Wroom 32E. We liked this module because Blynk offers a lot of information on it, and we also developed a custom PCB that controls all the peripherals of our device. This module also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which opened up the connectivity options we needed.
– Why did you choose Blynk as your IoT platform? Why not build in-house? Can you tell us a little bit about that decision-making?
As a startup, we have limited resources, and one of the main challenges was that we only had electrical engineers in our company. We had embedded experience but not much software experience. Blynk offers a solution that requires very little or almost no code to develop an IoT application. This allowed us to quickly develop something with the experience and tools we had in-house without having to hire an external software engineer.
– Understood. Did you consider other platforms? What were the biggest considerations in terms of features?
Yes, we initially looked at doing the application ourselves, and we explored different platforms. However, many of the platforms were not as complete and didn't offer all the services we needed for an IoT product. Blynk stood out because of its embedded side, which was simple to implement in our hardware. They also offered a customizable front-end, which was important for us. Going the custom route would have required us to hire multiple software engineers with different disciplines, and that would have ended up quickly. So, in terms of cost, Blynk was the best solution for us.
– Can you tell us about your journey, from the very first prototype?
We started using Blynk Legacy at first, just for R&D purposes. And as we started moving forward, we started developing a more and more complex solution with Blynk. Moving to Blynk IoT really changed things for us because we were actually able to move our R&D efforts to Blynk IoT. We were able to actually start developing the front-end as we wanted our users to see it. We were able to make the mobile application very customized. It took us about three months in order for us to really customize it how we wanted it to. Then we went to the Blynk Business because we did want to release the app and make it possible for our users to download it on both Android and Apple Store. It took us overall, now I would say about a year of development, but that was with us just taking a very long time working with the R&D and changing the application to whatever they needed.
– Great! What would you say are the top three features Blynk IoT is providing that are most valuable to your business?
The first one would be the device provisioning. This was something that was extremely helpful in allowing us to add multiple devices to the application. Also, having multi-tenancy and IoT device management - being able to see all the devices that you have connected as an admin, and being able to assign them to different users is really helpful. That was something that we really liked about Blynk. Also, the firmware API that Blynk offers. We were able to develop quite quickly because the API is solid. We were able to add the firmware and just worry about the back-end aspect and not have to worry about the front-end. The firmware was really easy to use. And lastly, it's being able to make changes to the templates and having those changes go right away to all of the different applications or all the people that are using the same template.
– Love this feedback! And what is next for Plantaform? Are you building more products, or focusing on this one - what can we expect?
Currently, we are finishing the assembly process for pre-sold products and preparing for delivery. We are also developing new seed packs, including a superfood salad mix, a cocktail mix, and a tomato pack, which users can grow in our device. We're also expanding to the Industrial and Commercial space. We're going to be implementing this technology in big farms in order to be able to feed a lot more people and really contribute to a more sustainable future and push the IoT tech industry.
– Very exciting! Andres, thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts, feedback, and challenges.
Hope this conversation was interesting and inspiring for you. Watch the full video interview to learn what was the most challenging part of building an IoT solution, the lessons the Plantaform team learned from their experience, and recommendations to fellow entrepreneurs!
If you are also looking to build a successful connected product, check out our Business offering.