Listening to plants in the greenhouse

Technological progress has not yet solved the labor shortage in greenhouse horticulture. 5G can accelerate innovation for sustainable food supply and stimulate more efficient cultivation. The Delft startup Plense Technologies uses sensors that record ultrasound to improve cultivation quality.

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What does this research focus on?

Duration: March – August 2024

Partners: TU Delft (Do IoT Fieldlab, RoboHouse), Plense Technologies, TNO, MCS, Tomatoworld.


Growing healthy plants in greenhouses requires significant attention. Up until harvest, plants are usually visually assessed by staff based on their experience.

Plense aims to automate these checks with sensors that register ultrasound (sound that is inaudible to humans), providing a detailed overview of the plant's needs. The collected data is presented clearly to the grower, who can then monitor the health of the crops and make adjustments as needed. This technology complements manual and visual inspections, leading to a more advanced cultivation process.


Plense listens to the moisture flow within plants. Tiny microphones capture the sounds plants make. The sensors measure the xylem vessels in plants, sending ultrasound waves through the stem and receiving them with a microphone.

As the plant warms up, transpires, or reacts to its environment, its internal structure changes, affecting the sound waves traveling through it. Plense translates these changes in vibrations into data, information, and actions using algorithms.

This data provides growers with insights into the needs of their crops, such as moisture levels, substrate condition, and the microclimate around the plant. Additionally, they can measure how plants respond to changes in the cultivation process, leading to better-informed, data-driven decisions.


Plense's sensors were previously physically connected to a computer because wireless data communication did not work well in greenhouses. Obstacles like the greenhouse structure (glass and metal) and the plants themselves hinder Bluetooth and WiFi connections.

This experiment tests a 5G connection in combination with the sensors. One research direction focuses on processing data in the cloud. Although the current data volume from the sensors is low, it is expected to increase in the future. Fast data transfer will then be crucial for plant monitoring.

5G offers possibilities for fast, secure, and reliable wireless data communication in greenhouses with lower energy consumption, which becomes attractive for growers as the number of sensors increases.

Plense is conducting this research at two locations. The first phase takes place at the TU Delft fieldlab RoboHouse, where the technology is tested and calibrated. In the second phase, the scale-up occurs at Tomatoworld, where 5G experiments are conducted in a fully functional greenhouse.

MCS is partnering in this project with TNO, TU Delft, RoboHouse, and Tomatoworld.