This is part of a series of posts about my thoughts and my experiences through the KOSEN-Joint Polytechnic startup program.

And we were brought to this Greenhouse as soon as we touched down in Japan. The learning trip started immediately. A professor presumably from the Chiba university greeted us and showed us around the greenhouse he and his project students had built over the years.

He opened the first electrical box filled with clunky devices, pointed to it and said, “This is commercial equipment. Expensive. Thousands over dollar”

He moved to the next electrical box that looked exactly like the first one and opened it. A small piece of hardware was mounted inside, seemingly too small in contrast to the oversized box that housed it. He pointed to it and said, “We build this ourselves. This is Arduino. Very cheap.”

He continued to get his student to share about the web-based monitoring dashboard which his student had helped built.

We can tell that the professor was excited and proud. His face was gleaming with pride.

The entire greenhouse was controlled with Arduinos! From an online monitoring system to a system that can control the temperature, humidity and soil condition of the greenhouse, it grew tomatoes with minimal soil and minimal human intervention. There were nitrogen composite tanks, pneumatic pumps, pipes, sprinklers running through the greenhouse.

Commercial equipment existed alongside with these home-brewed for good comparison. And we can’t help but awed at the Arduino-equivalents put together at a fraction of the cost, if not more powerful than the commercial ones.

W, a colleague who came on the trip quipped, “Actually, as a tech person, we know we can put together all these at a fraction of the cost too. But to see someone actually doing this is always amazing”.

Agreed. I’m super impressed too!

And it’s moments like these I’m proud to call myself an engineer.