Sensors inside Grobo, deliver data via a Wi-Fi connection to its appGrobo
Run the AeroGarden through its app, or through Amazon's voice assistant AlexaAeroGarden
One of the more affordable option on our list, Niwa taps into hydroponics to grow your plantNiwa
The app can prompt you to get more involved
If the user wants, the Grobo can grow plants pretty much by itself. Seeds are placed in a growing medium made from recycled coconut husks, with the user telling the device what’s been planted so it can regulate the delivery of water and nutrients. Sensors inside the Grobo monitor how much of this material is absorbed by the plant and measure its height, allowing the app to make adjustments to the growing schedule or alert the user if they need to intervene. LEDs inside mimic a full 18 hours of sunshine every day, while carbon filters can be turned to eliminate any odors created by the plants.
We’ve seen more than a few products that offer customers the chance to grow fresh fruit, herbs, and vegetables in their own home with minimal effort, but a device named Grobo from a Canadian startup looks like it might be the most straightforward yet. Its creators describe it as a “Keurig for plants.” You simply fill its reservoirs with water and nutrients, drop some seeds into its base, and then hit a button on a connected app to start the growing process. A couple weeks later, you’re ready to harvest.
“There’s very little you have to do but there’s a lot you can do,” says Dawson. “So if you want to learn how to grow better, in the app there are prompts at different phases of plant growth, saying things like: ‘You should trim this part of the plant and if you do you’ll get better results.'” Users can also program their own growing instructions into the app, with Dawson noting the only real limitation on the Grobo is size. “You wouldn’t be able to grow something like a watermelon, for example, because the plant itself gets too large.”
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“[making] it as easy as possible for people to access fresh produce and medication.”
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“One of these people came to us early on to help with testing,” Dawson tells The Verge, “He spent eight to 10 hours a week to grow the medication he needs — time he could have been spending with his family and children.” Dawson says they’d originally started with a smaller product, but make it bigger to accommodate users such as those growing medicinal cannabis. “We’re really just trying to make it as easy as possible for people to access fresh produce and medication,” he says.
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The Grobo uses sensors to monitor the condition of the plant, automatically adjusting its watering schedule, and then lets you know when it’s ready to harvest. It’s suitable for a range of crops — including tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, herbs, kale, and more — but Grobo’s founder and CEO, Bjorn Dawson, says the device’s creation was inspired by the challenges Canadians face growing medicinal cannabis at home.
There are costs to all this convenience, the biggest one being the device itself. Starting today, the Grobo is available for preorder for $899, but this is only for the first 30 days, and will gradually increase until it hits its regular price tag of $1,399. Users can also expect to spend between $15 to $20 a month on nutrients and the growing medium, but the electricity costs of the Grobo are small — about the same as a ceiling fan.
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Grow cycle: 2 weeks (but no seeds provided)
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It can be a bit fiddly to replant the delicate seedlings, which are grown on plugs made from stonewool (absorbs water and provides a good base for the roots), into the baskets with pumice stones without damaging them. We found we didn’t plant the plugs deep enough and some of the roots were exposed, which meant the plants could not support themselves and fell over. However, things get easier once the seedlings have been replanted as there is a water level and a funnel to make topping up easy. The red/blue LED light means you can grow all year round, but doesn’t come with an integrated timer.
Growgreen hydroponic tube: £44.99, Amazon
Grow cycle: 2-3 weeks for coriander, 4-5 for tomatoes (but no fruit)
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Plantation, created by Polish artist and designer Alicja Patanowska, is slightly different to the other hydroponics kits we tested. It comprises four different ceramic pots that can be placed in or under a variety of standard-sized drinking glasses, and is ideal for growing plants such as garlic, onion, potato, herbs or even an avocado, or the perfect solution for rooting grafts. This method of growing allows both stem and roots to be seen so the entire process can be observed. One of the pots can also be turned upside down to create a mini greenhouse ideal for germination. Nutrients aren’t provided but they can of course be used.
Botanium: £59.00, Botanium
Grow cycle: approximately 40 days (5 weeks)