Just What We Needed Dept.: Electronic Gardening Kit

Last year, we covered the pre-launch of the Click & Grow, an electronic gardening set that includes a soil-less pot, plant 'cartridges' and yep, even batteries. The premise is that people are either too busy or too much of a brownthumb to grow their own plants, so why not let some gadget do all the hard work? Now it's finally out and selling for not 17 € as initially anticipated -- but 59 € (about US$ 80). We were initially skeptical, but if there ever was a product that best demonstrated our increasing disconnect with nature, this one may be it -- and here's why.Developed by an Estonian entrepreneur, Click & Grow is the result of a meshing of hydroponics and aeroponics, all reduced to a series of sensors, processors and software, which surround the seeds in the disposable cartridge. All the user has to do is add batteries, light and water. Once the plant cartridge (which each start at around US $10, depending on the type) reaches the end of its lifecycle, all you have to do is throw out the old one and insert the new.

So what's wrong with this gimmicky gadget? First off, the built-in disposability of the cartridges is a definite no-no. You're locked-in to buy seeds from this company (a mini-Monsanto?) and replacing all these seed cartridges contributes to landfills. You'll also never know the joy of saving your own seeds from one season to the next.

Don't get us wrong, larger-scale hydroponics has potential for growing food in places where space is at a premium, but this hydroponic gizmo seems a little self-indulgent.

Second, it's as far from permaculture, "less is more" or do-it-yourself ethic you can get, and too expensive at US $80 a pop. Why not just set up your own hydroponic system for cheaper and grow more of whatever you want?

We're just not convinced. After all, in a world of rising food prices and a surge of relevance in urban agriculture projects that will actually feed whole communities, there's a lot to be said for learning real skills, especially when that involves growing one's own food, even if it's in the confines of your apartment. The company's FAQ implies that it may push out a USB-powered version later on, but we're probably going to have to pass on that one -- this is a definite miss.

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Tags: Gadgets | Gardening

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