Plant breathalyzer 'sniffs' out what plants need to thrive

They call it a breathalyzer, but for plants.

And scientists in Finland say their invention should help farmers learn from the gases emitted by their crops.

The device also measures light, water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide in real-time - feeding back information on the optimum conditions for plants to thrive.

Research scientist Thomas Hausmaninger:

(SOUNDBITE) (English) RESEARCH SCIENTIST OF OPTICAL SPECTROSCOPY, THOMAS HAUSMANINGER, SAYING:

"So these are our tests plants and here we can control the gas flow to the plants and out from the plants. By this we can learn to understand the plant language and we can listen to the plants."

In addition to helping cultivate the perfect conditions, it may also prove a boost in the growing field of urban farming.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CEO OF ROBBE'S LITTLE GARDEN, ROBERT JORDAS, SAYING:

We know that enriching the air with CO2 is good is good for the plants. It makes the plants grow roughly 15-20% better but we want to know more."

That's Robert Jordas, the CEO of Robbe's Little Garden, where the device is being trialed in Finland.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) CEO OF ROBBE'S LITTLE GARDEN, ROBERT JORDAS, SAYING:

"Knowledge of farming is always based on the best practical solutions available and that's what we have also been doing here. We are able to compare which plants and which greens actually need a vertical farm, which plants need a combination of a vertical farm and a green house and which plants are best to grow in a greenhouse."

Vertical farms have boomed in recent years.

They use up to 95% less water than conventional farms, require very little land, and use zero pesticides.