At the forefront of living green wall technology

Wireless sensor technology has been advancing rapidly the last couple of years and is enabling landscape contractors with data to make new decisions. If you are interested in learning about how Joe Zazzera at Plant Solutions is watering his projects from remote places like Machu Picchu, Peru, and is while reducing his plant replacements and on-site visits, then continue reading.

“The top reason is that by having data at our fingertips, we can quickly make decisions on how to maintain our walls.” – Joe Zazzera

Taking the guesswork out of watering

Green walls are sensitive living ecosystems and can be challenging to take on. Technology can now significantly reduce this knowledge gap. Joe Zazzera is using wireless sensor technology that measures soil moisture, temperature, light and nutrients in combination with internet connected controllers. He describes the times prior to before implementing this technology:

“Everything was done visually and by feel. We were visiting every project on a regular basis, and if they were tall walls we have to get ladders and feel the plants. We often had  would have to guess at the watering cycles until we could get them dialed in, without being able to see how the water is flowing, or get your hands on the plants in the wall, we couldn’t always tell how much to water.”

Dialing in the irrigation from season to season is not only very difficult, but often seasonal guesswork is significantly impacting how profitable a project becomes: “Part of plant maintenance is using one’s intuition.  Different technicians have different levels of, acquired knowledge so our biggest problem was we were having plant failures. Plant failures translate to plant replacement costs, which in turn lead to lower profit margins.”

The key is that reducing time spent on watering not only impacts your bottom-line, but as Joe Zazzera states “…our technicians can focus on the health of the plants in terms of the aesthetics; cleaning, pruning,  and trimming, everything that goes into plant maintenance outside of watering.”

Data compliments your expertise

Finding just the right green wall system takes effort, but enabling performance data from your projects can speed up how fast you will get comfortable, Joe Zazzera explains;

“At Plant Solutions, we like the plug and play systems. They give us the flexibility and the control we need to create and maintain designs that complement what we do.” – Joe Zazzera 

Joe Zazzera maintaining his living green wall at Renaissance Square, Phoenix, Arizona.

Sensor technology is now part of planning every new green wall project, what is important is that “We primarily use sensors in various locations in a wall. Depending on the size of that wall, we will determine how many sensors to use we put different sensors in different zones, or maybe multiple sensors in different zones, so that we can chart and graph the history of the water cycle.”

Using the data is all about making better maintenance decisions everyday for Joe, who states that “The data gives us the knowledge and information we need to to analyze the condition of our living walls enabling us to make decisions based on data.”

Watering while travelling in Peru

Remote watering capabilities also bring new flexibility to your maintenance that has not been possible before.

Joe Zazzera tells the story of how he had an aha moment when watering a project while travelling at Machu Picchu: “I love having the flexibility to monitor our plant walls – no matter where I am. In fact last year, my wife and I were on vacation in Peru at Machu Picchu and I was able to water from our hotel room. Her and I looked at each other and just laughed; 20 years ago could you imagine sitting in Peru watering plant walls? It was one of those aha moments about how technology and plant care have had this crossover. It also gave me hope for the future that this is technology that we can implement in our everyday world at Plant Solutions.”

Impacting your maintenance operations

Any interiorscaper needs to watch out for how margins are developing in a green wall project. According to Joe it impacts his operations, and as he states: “Operationally,  it gives us the ability to manage projects from off-site which saves drive time, gasoline, fuel, oil and our technician labor. This provides huge benefits and savings for us.”

Spiio’s wireless sensor
Spiio’s smart data and App

Plant replacements are also positively affected: “For example in terms of replacements, using sensor data and having controlled watering remotely significantly reduces our replacement rates to single digits.” and Joe Zazzera continues: “Plant replacement costs are an important part of our business, we know these costs directly affect our bottom-line, so reducing those costs through the use of technology is very important to us.”

Moving green wall maintenance forward

Joe Zazzera is a technology first-mover and rightly so: “I don’t think the technology is fully evolved yet and I think there’s still much more to come. I know Spiio and others are working on that. I’m very happy to be a part of moving the needle on this technology.”

His personal advice is to get onboard, sooner or later you will have to start complimenting your business with hard data:

“I would say to those that don’t embrace technology as a future for living walls, may get left behind. I think technology is moving plant maintenance forward. The time will come where all successful living walls will have some form of sensor technology.  The ones that have technology integrated into the system are the walls that will be successful. So my advice would be: get onboard.” – Joe Zazzera 

Read more see some of Spiio’s projects here.