Most of the research I have found on the subject relates to airborne sound, but with new advances in technology, we can now create customized vibrations using transducers that can be actuated via sound files.
The Science Behind Plant Vibration Trainer (PVT)
Q&A with Glenn Holland, Co-Founder & CEO | The Human ConneXion LLC
Give us a brief summary of your background and how you came to begin The Human ConneXion.
I am a 50-year-old lung cancer survivor that spent his life in New Jersey, Ireland and North Carolina. I have a beautiful wife and 3 grown sons. My professional career has been in the turf power equipment industry from day one with the last 13 years having been happily employed by John Deere. With John Deere, I was heavily involved in the product delivery process of all functional areas from marketing to engineering to parts to order fulfillment. But by far the most enjoyable was customer support. The world is getting smaller, consumers have more choices and technology is moving full steam ahead. A massive part of how you will differentiate your company is through customer support. There is a gap here that I wanted to bridge. That bridge can easily be traversed by looking at nature and particularly, the plant world. By mimicking their journey to success, we can change our world and not destroy theirs for a truly symbiotic relationship. That is how The Human ConneXion was born.
You’ve developed a device that brings new meaning to the notion that talking to your plants improves growth, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Sure. Most of us have heard that talking to your plants helps them grow and that notion entails the typical response that it is caused by our carbon dioxide respiration. While that is true, there is another aspect, sound vibration. Plants feel vibration and while we do not know the exact mechanisms why this is, it is there. Being sessile organisms, plants do not have the ability to get up and walk away when danger appears, whether that be from a tornado or a leaf eating pest. Yet they have survived over 500 million years. It may take time, but plants remember and evolve due to all kinds of external stimuli, including vibrations. During my cancer battle, I used a combination of modern and holistic treatments to slay the beast and 3 years later, I am still here. Those treatments included cannabis for pain, to stimulate my appetite and for creativity. I was able to flush my opioids down the toilet, write a book and reflect on the next half of my life while still working and being an asset to society. Chemotherapy does not make you sick right away, it accumulates. The final month of my chemo treatment when I was at my lowest point, I had an epiphany. My wife and 3 children decided to take a trip up to Washington DC as we had never been there as a family and the boys were starting to fly the nest. Visiting the modern art museum, we experienced an interactive exhibit called “Pulse” where you would place your hand on a screen and sensors would pick up your heartbeat and transpose them visually onto a movie screen and mechanically into a pool of water causing ripples. There it was, that spark, that flame. I thought to myself, I wonder if I could vibrate the plants I grow for medicine with my heartbeat for a truly customized and unique treatment. Thousands of hours of research, 5 prototypes, tests upon tests, submitting for a patent and 2 years later, the plant vibration trainer is ready for the limelight.
I understand the concept as do many of your readers, but what about the science behind it all?
Many people may not know this but the book “On the Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin was not his last piece. After shocking the world with his revolutionary ideas, he spent over two decades studying botany. Ill health plagued him after his sea voyages, and he never left England again. However, undeterred and with the help of his son Francis, they turned his residence at Down House into his personal garden and laboratory. One key stimuli he studied was thigmotropsim (directional movement of plants as a mechanosensory response to a touch stimulus) in which he changed the movement of vertical bean root from its typical direction by simply touching it. Fast forward 100 years or so and there has been massive interest in how plants are affected by touch. In 1973, botanist M. J. Jaffe coined the term thigmomorphogenesis, which is a Greek term meaning thigmo - touch, morpho – change and genesis – create. His was a modern discovery of what some cultures knew for centuries, that regular rubbing or bending of stems inhibits elongation (height) and stimulates radial expressions (girth). Again, while we do not know the exact mechanisms that create this, it is thought to be changes in gene expressions likely in the calcium binding protein or calmodulin. Most of the research I have found on the subject relates to airborne sound, but with new advances in technology, we can now create customized vibrations using transducers that can be actuated via sound files. This opens the door for a whole new leg of research on the subject and it’s affect on plant health. This of course has a direct correlation to the health of our planet.
Have you done any side by side testing to back up your claims?
Yes, we have. After creating the first prototype, I recorded my heartbeat and mechanically vibrated 5 subjects with it from seed germination through harvest 24 hours a day, seven days a week while having a control with the same exact environment except vibration. The results were visibly apparent and while this was performed in my basement with amateur means and tools, it convinced me to keep going. Fast forward a few protypes later and we acquired a grow tent for a more controlled test. The results from the first 4 plant versus 4 plant tests resulted in an average 74% cannabinoid content increase from seed stock. Our next test was from the same mother in which we saw an average 10% increase in cannabinoid content increase. This was all done in my basement while I was still working with John Deere. Hence, I was unable to gather internode, overall height/girth or yield differences accurately and thus the need for more testing by 3rd party experts or universities. Our beta testers and current customers are also reporting similar results.
When it comes to CEA (Controlled Environmental Agriculture), what role do you see your device playing?
Currently, CEA controlled variables include temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, light, nutrient concentrations, nutrient pH and pests. One variable that is not included is vibration. I want you to think about this. The earth has its own vibrations created by natural stimuli, whether that be tectonic, running water, wind, rain or even human activity like transportation. Plants have evolved with these vibrations for millions of years. Now we want to take plants and move them indoors where the harmonic resonance is now creating man made stimuli from lights, fans, pumps, etc. So, plants grown indoors are missing a piece of their natural evolution that is being replaced with man-made ones. We need to give them ALL of what has made them thrive and survive and that includes vibration. Our device is completely customizable. Meaning that once we have the ideal vibrational stimuli for certain stages of growth for optimal health, we can feed that vibration directly to them. This type of stimuli affects the whole plant and not just the canopy or roots for a holistically organic approach to improving plant health. Moreover, plants from certain geographically areas that are grown indoors in other locations are also missing this input. Landrace is the term given to species of plants or animals that have adapted over time in a certain geographical with environmental stimuli that include vibration as an input. Think about food that is grown near the ocean like the pacific side of Central America where many root tubers, grains, vegetables and fruits originated. They had constant vibrational stimuli from waves crashing on the beach. Supplying this input via our device could give them an additional boost that could reduce the need for some nutrients in other geographic locations.
What about seed germination, are there any benefits to using your device?
Ultrasonic priming of seeds assists with a more complete and faster germination with higher crop yields. For older seeds, sonication also helps water penetrate the hull. This enables more seeds to be used beyond their original shelf life. The problem with current sonication devices are they are expensive ($1k or more), are only used for seed stages and do not the ability to rapidly change pulses. Most sonication devices use rotary motors with weights that create oscillations to vibrate the medium. Our device uses a linear transducer that can change pulses at a much faster rate. My side be side testing has shown a decrease in germinations times by ~ 1.5 to 2 days and increased over all rates by ~25%. Some of our customers have also seen similar results. The best part about our device is that the entry level model is ~5x less expensive and can be used for clones, tissue cultures, vegetive and flowering growth. I even have a video showing the force of a hemp autoflower seed “popping” open using our device.
So this looks like it is great for indoor applications… what about outdoor crops, anything going on there?
While the device is currently not designed for outdoor use, there are developments in the works to evaluate getting this baby going outdoors in row crop applications. There are currently devices that emit airborne sound to stimulate growth, but we are targeting mechanical vibrations as they can travel much further without dissipating. But the device currently can be used for crops that are started indoors and then moved out. There is a research paper out there written by Ritesh Ghosh titled “Mechanostimulation: a promising alternative for sustainable agriculture practices”. In it, he writes about priming plants to be more resilient to environmental stresses over non-primed plants. This allows for plants to have quicker and stronger reactions to those stresses. Not only that, but primed plants will remember this reaction and pass it on to their offspring for generations. This suggests that a vibrationally primed plant can have offspring that have the same stronger defenses that parent did. So, for outdoor applications, our device may not need to be utilized outdoors, simply put, the crop can be prepped for success indoors. Another aspect to think about is companies that grow seedlings and clones for transport to other parts of the country or world. These companies know that during transport, they will lose x number of plants due to circumstances that may be outside of their control. Our device may help bolster the strength of said clones or seedlings so they may fare better during transport, thus increasing revenue, decreasing costs and help to feed the hungry.
When it comes to IPM (Integrated Pest Management), are there any applications where your device can be used here?
Yes. This is currently the holy grail for us. Indoor farming can be infiltrated by pests very easily and decimate a crop quickly. IPM’s first defense is to incorporate proactive, preventative, knowledge-based and low-risk methods. Of the inputs to IPM, vibration is currently not included. Enter our plant vibration trainer. With enough research and development, we will be able to determine the magic frequencies that cause pests to flee, fall off the plant or stop mating. It is a known fact that insects use vibration as an input to survive. What if for example, we can find the right resonant vibration that causes aphids to go into defense mode and fall off the plant or causes a spider mite to not look for a mate for procreation. Once the grower identifies an intruder, they could go to our website and enter our sound file library. From there, they would drill down to the plant species, stage of growth and pest they are trying to get rid of, download the file and voila. Incidentally, there are many studies out there on insects chewing on plants and their response to release auxins that then communicate with their neighbors. So IPM is definitely in the cards!
What are the future plans for Glenn Holland and The Human ConneXion?
That’s a tricky one for me. Lung cancer is the number 1 cancer killer worldwide. In fact, it is more deadly than the next top 3 combined. Therefore, I have some doubt about my future, so it is “go time” for me to make this a reality and help this planet and beyond. Our mission statement says it all. “To disrupt the agricultural industry. Pioneering an alliance between plants and humans, synergistically enhancing each owns evolution thus holistically benefiting the future of our planet”. Our plant vibration trainer is a piece of the overall picture and only the tip of my iceberg. You know what they say about icebergs… only 10% showing with 90% under the water. I’ve got so much more in the hopper. Watch out world, cancer only made me stronger.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AgriTechTomorrow
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