“My educational background is in statistics and business management, but I have always been passionate about agriculture, ecosystems, and nature,” says Mike Lee, co-founder of Oasis-X. “My co-founder, Aviel Stein, who is completing his Ph.D. in computer science, is a long-time gardener like myself and has experience working with permaculture systems to grow and sell his own local produce.
We began tinkering together with electronic growing systems in 2019. While trying to automate our mushroom greenhouse and herb hydroponic systems back in 2020, we suddenly found ourselves with food shortages during the pandemic, and the concept of Oasis-X grew out of it.” In August 2020, Mike decided to quit his job in venture capital to pursue Oasis-X full time. Right now, he is working with his colleague and a few interns, preparing Oasis-Grow to launch pre-sales on Kickstarter at the end of October 2021.
Oasis-Grow is the first fleet of Oasis-X products consisting of visual and environmental sensing modules aimed to provide automated technology to smaller and medium-sized growers that were previously only available to large-scale cultivators. The fleet of products includes hardware and software modules for computer vision, environmental sensing, and AC equipment control as well as a few ready-to-grow container farming systems. “In short, we offer an easy-to-use open-source platform for a controlled environment and greenhouse automation. Sensors and pre-programmed responses can regulate your growing systems, Oasis-Grow is a very secure automation platform that puts growers in control. If you want, you can engineer parts of it yourself, but you don’t have to,” Mike explains.
Mike Lee and Aviel Stein
The Oasis-Grow system is completely modular and currently capable of sensing temperature, relative humidity, lux, and water levels. It intelligently switches standard AC power to enable PID temperature, humidity and airflow control, light and water cycle management, and timers. “We've open-sourced the firmware of our device and are publishing a web app to enable seamless remote monitoring, but we also plan to open-source our server and data-model structure so that others can create their own interfaces as well,” Mike adds.
Supporting local production
The benefit of helping smaller growers is synonymous with supporting local production. “We’ve all discovered the benefits of local food production, powered by smaller growers. Yet, the economic viability of smaller companies is easily limited by labor and management overhead, high set-up costs, and a lack of marketing structure. There’s a whole sub-set of growers out there, small family farms, that can’t really leverage the latest technology in an easy way. Our system works for exactly those growers, delivering an affordable system for precision agriculture.” Mike states.
Petri Dish Culture Habitat, with a camera, temperature & humidity sensor.
The aquaponics test garden, with camera, light cycle, and water cycle monitoring.
Rather than offering ready-to-use data, Oasis-Grow allows growers to find what works for them, finding the perfect parameters for their growing systems. “The idea is to save labor and collect data by means of side-by-side experiments. People can set up two sets of data and use them as side experiments while growing, but our core is machine learning: a system that will get better and better to provide information on how to best take care of your given crops.”
Supporting local production
Not only growers can profit from the Oasis-Grow platform, but also newfound plant parents who started a new hobby during the pandemic can monitor their plant babies’ growth with the Oasis system. “We have easy-to-use time-lapse cameras for house plants monitoring, to schedule the watering, for instance. But it also works for indoor herbs, leafy greens, mushrooms, and outdoor monitoring of garden beds.”
Oasis-X also offers solutions for caring for tropical plants.
Mike in the mushroom greenhouse
“Our Kickstarter campaign will launch at the end of October 2021 so we can raise money for professional manufacturing capabilities in the US, but our platform is already on Github, a platform for open-source projects. The great thing is that you can build it using only a Raspberry Pi, so the platform can be installed and reproduced by anyone with some simple coding and electronics knowledge.” Right now, they are still working with manufacturing partners and refining their software to get it polished and ready for release. “These early applications, even though they are just prototypes, have already given us promising results and useful insights,” Mike adds.
Greenhouse for mushroom production
Mushroom spawn incubation chamber
“We believe that we’ve entered a new era of growing with open source environments. Our idea is that the community will continue to add code and data to the project. ‘By growers, for growers’, we like to call it. By saving time and monitoring resource use, growers will be able to make better decisions. With our 'simple to set-up and use' system, we aim to open the market to all growers, putting growers themselves in control.”