Sara Heitlinger

The Talking Plants

Interactive plant sale, 2013

As part of my research into how interactive technologies can support urban grassroots food growing communities I am developing The Talking Plants – a simple, intuitive and engaging way to learn about growing edible plants.

The project is being developed and evaluated at Spitalfields City Farm, a community farm in inner east London, UK. Visitors can approach the plants and use a watering-can augmented with RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to hear them talk. The plant voices come from staff and volunteers, reflecting the cultural diversity of the community.

The plants tell you about how to care for them and prepare them in recipes, their histories and stories of migration, as well as their medicinal and health properties. They speak in first person and address the listener directly, trying to convince you of their charms and to take them home to look after them.

Future plans for the project include collecting plant knowledge such as cultural knowledge around plants, seed legacy, growing knowledge and recipes. A website will eventually complement the tangible everyday objects, and allow people remote from the farm to contribute their knowledge and experience of growing different plants.




What is it that moves us?


What is it that moves us?


What is it that moves us?

Bronze Fennel

What is it that moves us?


What is it that moves us?


What is it that moves us?

Wild garlic

The Talking Plants Sale was implemented with an ID-12 RFID reader, an Arduino board, and a WaveShield.

Detail of RFID tags on plants