Soil IQ looks to design, data and connectivity to make gardening & farming more sustainable

Startup Re:char has spun out a new venture called Soil IQ, which will launch the entrepreneurs’ connected soil sensor gadget, and the new company announced last week that it’s working with designer Yves Behar and his design firm fuseproject to create the device. Here’s the first images of the gadget, which were also unveiled last week.

SoilIQ.1Re:char has been working with telco Orange’s first accelerator group and Soil IQ will continue Re:char’s previous aim to deploy its wireless soil fertilizer probe to rural farms in Africa. Over the past four years Re:char has been selling kilns, which turn plant waste into bio charcoal, to Kenyan farmers.

However, Soil IQ also said that it will now focus primarily on selling its soil fertilizer probe to gardeners and small farmers in the U.S. The device will cost around $50 and will stream data about soil fertility to an app. Customers can use the device to monitor the fertility of the soil, as well as the current weather conditions, and can receive tips and info about caring for plants and growing them sustainably.

Soil IQ isn’t the only startup that has a dual focus on the developing market as well as U.S. consumers. A variety of companies launch more expensive products — in lighting and solar — in the developed world and then try to build a pared down, cheaper version that is more affordable in developing markets. For Kenyan farmers, Re:char had been hoping to get a wireless device or app — which could even be a plug-in for an Android cell phone — down to $5.

Beyond the hardware, Soil IQ’s analytics could be the key to its valuation. Fertilizer companies, home improvement shops, NGOs, government groups and any organization looking to work with either the African farming industries or U.S. small farmers could be eager to work with such data sets.

That Soil IQ has teamed up with fuseproject is also further proof that hardware design is becoming increasingly important, and more accessible, for tech startups. We’ll be highlighting device and UI design at our RoadMap conference in November in San Francisco.