FloraBorg Community Update: 3 IndaPlants Up And Running

The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the myself and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants. In this effort, we have have successfully created a floraborg, a term we coined to describe an entity that is part plant and part robot. This work has recently led to the creation of a larger team which now includes the biologist Dr. Simeon Kotchoni and the computer scientist Dr. Ahmed Elgammal. Our group is currently working on the creation of a floraborg biocyber interface. Addressing the super sensory capacities of plants, this interface allows humans to decipher plant-based information on ecosystem health, the effects of climate change and air pollution. In this capacity, the IndaPlant may allow us to model and support environments that are able to sustain humans and plants alike. A video of the current project plant community can be viewed at  https://vimeo.com/90457796.

Detail of IndaPlant taken at Rutgers University, June 12, 2014.
Detail of IndaPlant taken at Rutgers University, June 12, 2014.

At the project’s inception, I initially intended to mount the plants on light-seeking Brattenberg vehicles. Originally created through a series of thought exercises by the Italian/Australian Cyberneticist Valentino Brattenberg, these simple vehicles utilize a basic schematic for attraction and avoidance. Once the IndaPlant team began considering the possibilities inherent in the creation of a floraborg however, we realized that we could instead wire the vehicle through an Arduino board. This current configuration not only allows for species-specific programming but also supports simple adaptive behavior, in the form of machine learning. The current IndaPlant community consists of three data-sharing, light-sensing, robotic vehicles, each of which can respond to the needs of a potted plant by moving it around in three-dimensional space in search of sunlight and water. The IndaPlant rides on a three-wheeled triangular carriage. An acrylic shell covers the unit’s base and internal components. Inside the unit’s housing, the Arduino microprocessor and three microcontrollers allow the floraborg to be programmed with the specific needs of the species that it supports. This housing provides a plant docking station at its apex and is externally sided with three solar panels, which the robot uses to re-charge its battery pack when the plant suns itself. Six sonar sensors, used for obstacle detection, are externally mounted the base of the unit.

The IThe IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving, Elizabeth Demaray and Dr. Qingze Zou, 2014, utilizes machine learning and robotics to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.ndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving—originally beginning as a collaboration between the artist Elizabeth Demaray and the engineer Dr. Qingze Zou—is designed to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.
The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving, Elizabeth Demaray and Dr. Qingze Zou, 2014, utilizes machine learning and robotics to facilitate the free movement and metabolic function of ordinary houseplants.

As an interactive art installation, the IndaPlant Project was created to be shown in a public exhibition space. The artwork is currently housed in the Engineering Department at Rutgers, where the floraborgs have become part of the daily routine. When Dr. Zou’s comes to work in the morning he is greeted by the three IndaPlants, which jostle with one another to exit his office in search of sun in the adjacent hallway. When an IndaPlant is thirsty, a moisture sensor sends a signal through the unit’s central processor which may decide that its plant species needs water. If so, the unit will locate a water dispenser in the hallway, via an inferred sensor. If a floraborg is in the immediate vicinity of the watering station, passer-buys are invited to give the plant a drink. IndaPlant Project status updates and current videos can be seen at elizbethdemaray.org.


  1. The IndaPlant is a great example of how far technologically advanced our world has become. Having self-sufficient plants in homes eliminates any occurrence of human error as the robot is already programmed with that specific plants’ needs.
    -Alexandra Manion

  2. Finally, plants are no longer doomed to a life of immobility. The plants are now given the ability to thrive with the aid of technology, removing the human touch. Now instead of waiting around hopelessly for humans to water them, they can seek out the water, and “ask” for it.

  3. The subject of the pictures of this post is a plant on a machine. The content is the idea of plants and machines working together. The machine is made to satisfy the needs of the plant by going towards the sunlight or sources of water. The plant is dependent on the machine to ensure its survival.

  4. Has anyone considered that mobility may cause motion sickness in plants? Is there a way to measure stress levels of these plants? This seems to be a very unnatural state of being for them. It would be as if you asked a person to have their feet sunk into concrete and never move ( don’t worry the robot will keep you alive). Is this actually the lowest form of plant torture? Don’t get me wrong, I have plants in my home, I am a bit of a plant torturer, pots, indoors, and all. Also if one can measure stress of plants what are those levels at the beginning of the incorporation with robot compared to levels after a while of being mobile, compared to if a plant ceases to be mobile. This I am very interested in.

    1. Hi Amelia, Great question! Yes, one of the project’s motivations was to avoid the sorts of longterm neglect experienced by many indoor plants. On the question of movement in relation to plant health, our aim is to create a system that can, itself, give us these answers and modify its behavior accordingly. Currently the floraborgs are programmed with the basic needs of the species. Each unit also carries a camera so that the system can track the health of the plant. Ahmed Elgammal, our computer vision specialist, is creating an algorithm that allows the IndaPlant to track immediate health and long term viability. So each system can actually measure total and specific movement in relation to plant health.

  5. Reblogged this on tomurtagh new med-ia art and commented:
    Subject vs Content Statement Re: The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving

    Subject: The IndaPlant Project is an art installation made up of three potted house plants at the Engineering Building at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Each of the three potted plants are mounted on a robotic base. The robotic bases are fitted with rubberized tires arranged in a triangular configuration to enable movement. Each base is wired with electronics that are programmed as well as solar panels that power the electrical components. As a piece, the three potted plants navigate the intended space freely as they execute daily life-sustaining needs.

    Subject 1: My initial read on a possible concept for the IndaPlant Project was this idea of a multidisciplinary approach to art-making. The IndaPlant Project, at is very core is the convergence of three different areas of study- fine art, biology, and computer science/engineering/programming. After watching the video and reading the artist statement, I think a major goal from the project was to make something that actually worked and worked efficiently with as little human aid as possible. The idea that art and science can come together and make something truly astonishing is a thought that most would be reluctant to understand or believe.

    Subject 2: A secondary read of this project that I had is more about a narrative that can be derived from the actions and interactions of the plants. I feel as thought this installation could serve as a visual representation of human life. Each of the three Floraborgs are independently acting out the same basic needs that every human goes through on a daily basis. We seek food, water and shelter just as the Floraborgs did in the installation. As humans, we intuitively compete; just as the plants competed for light in the video. The IndaPlant Project could unintentionally serve as a visual representation of individual human life and the idea of human interaction or communication.

  6. Reblogged this on mcollinsanderson and commented:
    Finally the living aspects of Nature and the stark contract of industrialization merge together. Rich soil, steel both accenting and engulfing, plastics and man made material all emphasizes the pieces contrast mediums. The free-flowing form of the plant life also is in contrast to the rigid and undeniable shapes of man made form. The name alone, The IndaPlant Project: An Act Of Trans-Species Giving— illustrates the marriage and integration of the two different mediums. The colorful wheels are emphasized, emphasizing the journey of the work; the relationship between the two and the difficult road it has taken to get there. The piece also symbolizes the positive nature and effects that happen when two drastically different aspects of culture work together. As a whole it is recognized as a new era, symbolic of separation from the industrial period and the naturalistic approach but a combination of the two.

    1. What a beautiful description. Yes, I am very interested in “marrying” these disparate materials/entities. And yes, this is a consideration of a new period.

  7. I would love to come see these in person! A possible content I can think of for this is that it is a method to get nature and technology to work together. Most of the time I feel like technology is detrimental to nature, such as how cars and factories pollute the Earth. It is nice to see a way in which we use our modern technology to help the Earth and lifeforms live better.

  8. My idea for content: For the most part common household plants are trapped in their pots and depend on their human counterparts to provide proper sunlight and water. These robotic carriages could give new life to houseplants allowing them to live a mostly independent life. It shows the compassion of humans toward these plants and our desire for them to be freed of their potted prisons by allowing them to roam at will and in our eyes live a more fulfilled life. On the flip side, another possibility is that household plants can be a lot of work. Making sure they get the correct amount of sun light and water is crucial to a plant’s life and remembering to do this is not always possible. This project could mean WE could be the ones freed from the responsibility of keeping these houseplants alive. This could also give us better piece of mind knowing that our plants can take care of themselves.

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