With the Wise Orchard sprinkler valve, my garden now knows more about the weather than I do. It draws info from thousands of weather stations and local forecast services and will automate your watering schedule accordingly. With it, you can supposedly automate your gardening care to be as hands-off as you'd like, and you'll never run into the situation where your sprinkler turns on during a rainstorm.
The nitty gritty
Wise Orchard, from startup company Wise Computing, attaches to your hose and fits on the standard pipe threads for both the US and Europe, so it can control the majority of garden-hose-fed sprinklers as well as common drip-irrigation systems. Put in four AA batteries (which can supposedly last up to a year), connect it to your home's Wi-Fi system, and you'll be up and running.
You'll be able to control your Wise Orchard valve with its iOS or Android app, and you can keep as much control over the watering schedule as you'd like. Turn your sprinklers on or off manually without ever leaving your couch, program the times yourself, or let Wise Orchard do the automation.
Wise Computing claims to have a wide database of plants, so it can recognize and customize a program for your specific species and give you recommendations for when to harvest or prune. Smartly, you can walk the line between automatic and manual control to conform to any local watering restrictions. Simply tell Wise Orchard when it's allowed to run the sprinklers, and it'll program the schedule from there.
Another clever perk to the system -- it stores your watering schedule in its local memory, so it can keep working even if your home signal fails. That said, I doubt it will be able to make weather adjustments should that happen.
Wise Orchard looks to be a clear step up from a non-connected irrigation timer. Using it will certainly be more convenient than walking out to the garden and turning on the faucet yourself, but it's not the first device to smarten up watering.
Both the Rachio Iro and Blossom Smart Watering Controller do largely the same thing but replace the controller for your built-in sprinkler system. Wise Orchard is one of the few that just needs a gardening hose to work, making it arguably more customizable and accessible than Rachio or Blossom since you can point a sprinkler anywhere. Still, if you have a built-in system, one of those models probably makes more sense for you as they can each automate all of your zones with one smart device.
The upcoming water valve from Edyn connects to a hose and functions in the same way as Wise Orchard, acting as a gatekeeper from your hose to your sprinkler. It does have the additional advantage of the info gathered by the Edyn garden sensor to help it plan your watering schedule. That sensor will gather info from the soil in your beds, so in theory, it can more precisely adjust watering based on that than Wise Orchard will with just forecasts and a temperature sensor.
Since Wise Orchard can't monitor the soil near your plant to get information like Edyn can, it looks to be at a disadvantage in terms of smarts. However, neither Wise Orchard nor Edyn has been released. So perhaps when put to the test, Wise Orchard will be just as effective by focusing on fewer pieces of info.
You can pre-order Wise Orchard via its Kickstarter campaign now. The prices are listed in euros with the US dollar approximation shown underneath, and the device will ship anywhere in the world. You'll spend an extra $10 shipping it to the US or Europe; no word on the cost to ship to Australia. The base price on Kickstarter is about $66, which converts to roughly £43 and AU$86. The expected price at retail is $69 (about £44 and AU$89).
By comparison, the Edyn Water Valve costs $60 (£39 and AU$77) and the Edyn Sensor is $100 (£64 and AU$129). The valve itself will be cheaper, but you'll have to spend more than twice the cost to get the advantage of the associated sensor.
You can join Wise Orchard's beta testers via Kickstarter as well, and that's expected to start in December with the final version of the product shipping in March of 2016. Since each device can only control one hose, you'll need a few to control multiple zones, so the price could add up. If the experience proves seamless and the system can effectively save water while saving you time, buying into this system could end up being a wise move.