Indoor-grown veggie system is prepared for salad days

Indoor-grown veggie system is prepared for salad days

It's sad when shoppers in some urban centers have to cross their fingers when buying packaged food in supermarkets. They hope the brand they choose won't make tomorrow's headlines, not because of health tips but because of product warnings related to disease outbreaks.

Here's a concept that is likely to sit well with the supermarket-wary, an intelligent indoor garden—the kind that in theory makes buying overpriced packages of seem silly. A Massachusetts startup called Grove Labs has a Grove Ecosystem where you grow your own fruit and veggies.

Also, through the mobile app, Grove OS, you control and automate the Ecosystem. You also gain access to indoor growing knowledge.

Ben Schilller in Co.Exist described it as "a.bookshelf-shaped growing cabinet."

The weight is 130 pounds empty and 400 pounds full.

Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron are Grove Labs' founders. The group describe themselves as a team which includes engineers, inventors, farmers, biologists and designers.

They have delivered over 50 prototypes to early adopters in Boston. With that feedback, said the founders, they iterated up to the product which is now seen on Kickstarter. They are prepared to launch nationally and they ask for help to make that happen.

"We can kickstart a revolution, they said. "Let's bring food home again."

The system involves clay pebbles as the growing medium. Just what can you transport from your shelf to your dinner table? The system can grow a third of a large lettuce clamshell a day, said Co.Exist, and herbs, greens and small fruits.

(Arugula, watercress, mustard greens, bok choy and Swiss chard are some of the greens that are possible candidates. Fruits include ground cherries and strawberries.)

Fish, plants and bacteria get along swimmingly. You feed the fish in the aquarium. The fish process the food into waste. Helpful bacteria convert the waste into nitrate, an optimal plant fertilizer.

Indoor-grown veggie system is prepared for salad days

In this design, the three layers work together. "On top, there's a growing platform with a horticultural LED that moves up and down, depending on the height of the plant. In the middle is a shelf for seedlings and micro-greens, like wheatgrass. And on the bottom is an aquarium," said Co.Exist.

This is a 25-gallon aquarium, said the company, with integrated lighting. Goldfish and tetras are recommended. The plants return clean water to the tank again, in a continuous loop, and it's not necessary to replace the water at any stage.

How soon do you eat food that comes from your Grove? They answered, "Before you can grow the best crops, you have to grow the best bacteria. Plants will grow from the start, but they will be a little slow. The bacteria take about three weeks to establish and will keep improving with time. If your first crop is microgreens, you can expect to be garnishing salads within 15 to 20 days."

The Grove Ecosystem will retail for an estimated $4,500 starting in 2016. Through Kickstarter, a pledge of $2,700 gets a Grove system with estimated delivery in May. They have a $100,000 goal; they raised $256,791 with 30 days to go at the time of this writing.

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Nov 10, 2015
"Once your system is up and running the main inputs are:
-electricity ~ $15/month (depending on what you grow and electrical rates in your area)
-water ~ $1/month
-fish food $4.00/month
-seeds & seedlings $.50-$5 a month depending on the seeds are growing
Total ~$20/month"

"At peak efficiency - fully established microbes and using the seedling area to sprout seeds - you can expect to be turning out 8 - 10 heads of lettuce every 20 days."

So you get 15 heads of lettuce a month for about 20 bucks if things work out and you put your best effort into it.

That just expensive. You can get lettuce cheaper at the supermarket, but even if your local prices are higher it's not going to be dollars cheaper, so recovering the $4,500 up-front cost is going to take something on the order of 500 years.

This is why these things are sold on kickstarters and shopping channels instead of actual retail stores.

Nov 10, 2015
"but avoidance of field contaminated produce is the objective. "

Just wash the lettuce before making the salad.

When I was little, we used to grow our own food; potatoes, carrots, onions, radishes, beets, herbs, and lettuce outside in the yard. I can tell you it's not worth the time and effort and $4,500 plus $20 a month to grow your own lettuce. Even if you had salad every single day, you could still buy ~4,500 heads of lettuce with the money you save, and that's 12 years of eating lettuce. Or if not lettuce, what about herbs? How much cilantro or mint does a person go through in a year? Not much.

The damn thing is not even going to work for that long. The fish will die, the clay pebbles erode to silt, the aquarium pump seizes up and everything costs to replace.

Nobody's going to bother with that. It's not very useful except maybe for growing pot.

Nov 11, 2015
Nothing new... Hydroponics with fish are not uncommon. the Fish feed the plants and the plants clean the fishtank.
I'd buy one a) because it looks cool, and/or b) it's closer than the grocer or the garden (and with a bigger tank, you could also have periodic fish to eat).

Nov 11, 2015
The field is called Permaculture.

Look it up.

Nov 11, 2015
"Just wash the lettuce before making the salad."

The government's recent warning about some packaged fresh spinach has people worried about the safety of their produce, especially greens and lettuces.

After an outbreak of E. coli infections, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that consumers not eat any products containing fresh spinach from Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif., with a date code of Oct. 1, 2006, or earlier.

Apparently, the particular strain of E. coli involved in this outbreak cannot be washed off.

Nov 11, 2015
"consumers not eat any products containing fresh spinach from Natural Selection Foods of San Juan Bautista, Calif., with a date code of Oct. 1, 2006, or earlier."

Eating spinach picked in 2006 is kind of hard to do now.

Why didn't you tell us that in 2006?

Nov 15, 2015
$4,500 seems like a lot for this system.

But aquaponics in general is not a bad idea. I just can't see a return on this particular system; other than those who want to pay for the novelty.

If someone wants to run an aquaponic/hydro setup in their house it can be highly profitable. This particular system just cannot output enough product to make up for the initial cost and maintenance costs.

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