This soil-free smart garden promises fresh greens and veggies that are grown as local as it gets.
When it comes to naming new indoor growing products, the puns and wordplay may be bad, but getting more people growing their own food is definitely not, so please forgive the title of this article and lettuce move on to the actual product itself.
If you'd like to grow some of your own produce, but you don't have a place outdoors for a garden, or you'd like to grow year-round, a countertop indoor garden can be the answer, especially in a small space. A low-tech solution, such as a plant pot or an Urban Leaf in a sunny window, can be effective until the short days of winter arrive, after which supplemental lighting is needed until spring arrives. That's one of the reasons that growing devices with integrated lighting and watering systems are a popular choice, because they can be set up virtually anywhere in the home, without regard to access to sunlight. With LED lighting that is automated and tuned for optimal plant growth, combined with a hydroponic or aeroponic growing system, even those who've never had a green thumb can successfully grow greens, herbs, and veggies indoors.
In today's edition of YAUGU (yet another urban grow unit), the AVA Byte promises to bring adaptive intelligence and machine learning to the countertop growing scene for a hassle-free experience that is "So Smart & Simple it Must be Magic."
This 5-pot growing unit is designed to accept the company's soil-free compostable grow pods, which are pre-seeded and contain a nutrient mix appropriate to the plant variety, and which are then watered automatically according to the growth of the plants. The lighting, which is supplied by LED bulbs (no other specs given), is monitored and controlled automatically by the device, and is said to be "plant-optimized." According to the company, the lighting and growing system offers up to triple the growth rates of conventional growing, and requires much less water (something which is a feature of hydroponics systems in general).
"Growing your own food is a vote against the way the food system is today. Being food-lovers, we wanted to start a food revolution. Unfortunately, unlike houses with large backyards, a condo-dweller like myself is restricted by lack of space and access to sunlight. My kitchen herbs kept dying because Vancouver gets really dark and dry at certain times of the year." - Valerie Song, co-founder and CEO of AVA Technologies
The unit measures 18" x 4.75" x 7.5" (45.75 x 12 x 19cm) and weighs 4 pounds (1.8 kg) empty, and the lighting bar telescopes up to 21" high to adjust for plant growth. According to the company, the device is "intelligent, connected, and self-improving" and can connect with Alexa, Google Home or Apple Homekit.
Plug it in, place your pods, connect to Wi-Fi using the app, and fill the water reservoir. AVA notifies you when it's time to refill the reservoir and when your plants are ready to harvest! - AVA Byte
One unique feature of the AVA Byte is the inclusion of an HD camera pointed at the plants, which allows it to track plant health and growth, as well as letting users make time-lapse videos of their herbs and veggies. I'm not totally sure there's a huge need for more time-lapse indoor gardening videos, but it could be fun, right? There's also a mention of using the camera for something called Plant Vision, which I imagined to be something that could diagnose plant issues via an image, but nothing more is said about it, so perhaps it's a future feature. And of course, there's an app for the device, which allows users to monitor the light, water, and growth of the unit, as well as to manually customize the device's growing settings if desired.
Another intriguing element, also only mentioned briefly, was that the units could not only grow herbs, greens, and veggies, but could also be used to grow mushrooms. There's no other information about how the AVA Byte system would work for growing mushrooms, but perhaps that's another feature coming in the future, which could be a way for it to stand out among other similar countertop growing systems.
The company is currently running a crowdfunding campaign for the AVA Byte, which has already surpassed its initial goal, and backers at the $189 level will receive a unit and 5 growing pods (said to be $320 MSRP) in March of 2018. Find out more at the website.