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FOOD + DRINK

SproutsIO Hybrid Hydroculture Technology

A soil-free countertop personal farming system that even a novice indoor gardner can master

by Evan Orensten
on 21 September 2016

The best way to be close to your food is to grow it yourself, though many people can't keep houseplants or herb gardens alive in the best of times. With SproutsIO, funding now on Kickstarter after extensive product-testing, a self-moderating hybrid hydroculture technology now helps you grow food on your kitchen counter. This is a personal produce system, entirely soil-free, controlled by an app that even novices can master. And it's functional year-round. Based upon three years of research and development, stemming from CEO and co-founder Jennifer Broutin Farah's thesis work at the MIT Media Lab in 2011, SproutsIO utilizes a mix of hydroponics and aeroponics to maximize growth of tasty food.

Aside from the connection one builds to their own vegetables and herbs, there are two other fundamental values to this system. First, there's the financial savings—especially when one considers the cost of organic kale in-store versus producing it at home. From their fact sheet, the SproutsIO team makes clear that in one month, two of their systems can produce 36 ounces of kale. In roughly seven months, a system will have paid for itself by way of savings. There's also technological efficiency here in that minimal resources are used in the growth process: 98% less water than traditional methods of growing and 50% less electricity than a standard 60-watt lightbulb—all while delivering at-home "crops" in half the time of a normal growth cycle.

Second, it's worth noting that the design itself—from visual presentation to technological accessibility—makes the device intuitive. The growth system offers everything from a camera for plant imaging and time-lapse growth photography to a fog-misting system, all launched with two steps: plugging it in and downloading the SproutsIOGrow mobile app. This app, and the proprietary technology that binds it to the farming system, allows for the grower to take more control when more experienced—if that's something one finds appealing. Otherwise, it can self-adjust accordingly. Watering only needs to occur once a month, and the seed wheel needs only be replaced after everything has been harvested.

SproutsIO uses a proprietary disc that's pre-loaded with all the seeds and nutrients that crop needs. The disc itself is completely biodegradable and compostable; six are included in your purchase, with additional seed discs available through a subscription. As the system knows the status of your crop, it knows when to ship you your next disc. Clever. The available seed list includes everything from Tiny Tim tomatoes and a lush lettuce mix (including kale, arugula, and mizuna) to various types of multi-plant herb mixes and even a tea collection.

The earlybird Kickstarter price of $559 for a SproutsIO system offers more than a $200 discount from their potential future retail price and comes with six seed wheels. If funded, the product will ship in April 2017.

Images courtesy of SproutsIO

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