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S3E6 – Why Sensors Alone are Not Enough to Grow Urban Trees with René Voogt of ConnectedGreen

René Voogt, Founder of ConnectedGreen, and Co-CEO and Commercial Director of Sensoterra, spoke to the problems in urban landscaping, overwatering, and how integrated sensor data can support urban green across the Netherlands.

Recently Sensoterra Co-CEO and Commercial Director René Voogt was invited to speak on the Internet of Nature Podcast hosted by Dr. Nadine Galle, covering topics such as tree care, connected sensor and integrated data for urban green.

Listen to the full podcast here:

Creating un-natural nature environments

If a city wants to expand their urban green, they’ll plant trees along sidewalks, rooftops, and above (underground) parking garages to improve the ‘natural’ environment of a city. Though the citizens will benefit of improved urban green, this comes with risks to the trees planted in these un-natural environments. 

Tree roots form complex systems, and can have wide-spread, or deep tap-root systems, allowing for improved nutrient and moisture uptake, while also directly contributing to carbon sequestration. What happens, when trees are placed on-top of sealed environments, is their root systems are more vulnerable to fluctuations in soil conditions, and soil moisture availability.

Integrated data

Typically, municipal landscape contractors have a set (timed) schedule to maintain irrigation and fertilization requirements. Contractors are often required to guarantee plant growth for the first year, and have maintenance contracts for typically 2-3 years post planting.

By working with multiple sensor types along with soil moisture data, (e.g. weather data, satellite, and drone imaging) ConnectedGreen supported landscape managers with key insights into maintaining plant health, optimising their operations, and improving plant viability. The open API makes it easy to integrate Sensoterra soil moisture data into custom dashboards for landscapers for urban green.

Challenges of Hydrophobic soils

The key challenge with landscaping in urban environments is the frequency of hydrophobic soil occurrences. Hydrophobic soils behave much like a paved surface. This is for example why we are seeing flash floods when it rains in dried out areas. 

It’s when water is not absorbed into the soil solution, so it will runoff and flow towards to a lower point. So when large amounts of water (rainfall or an irrigation event) occurs at once, the soil will not absorb the moisture, but will result in runoff. 

This is not only an issue for the plants which are not accessing the moisture they need, but is an additional challenge for water management in urban environments. This brings together the importance of urban landscaping, with Natural Based Solutions for water management within urban systems.

Thankfully, preventing hydrophobic soils is possible, but it comes down to proper irrigation management and understanding soil behavior. 

Figure 1: The effect of a large irrigation event is very limited for the long term (Source: ConnectedGreen)

Figure 2: More frequent irrigation events, have a much longer-lasting effect on soil health (Source: ConnectedGreen)

About Sensoterra

Sensoterra, provides data-driven solutions for optimising land and freshwater resources for smart resilient cities, water and drought management and agriculture/horticulture. The easy to install, rugged and long-lasting soil moisture sensors offer real-time soil moisture readings optimal for data integration. Based in Utrecht, Sensoterra’s aim is to improve water management with integrated soil moisture data. Operating in 30+ countries, soil moisture sensors generate over 60 million global data points, optimized for integration. Learn more at