US inventors launch farm for your front room

Two former students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a successful kickstarter campaign to fund the development of an ecosystem that people can install in their houses to grow food all year round.

It’s just like the early days of the refrigerator in the fifties – people are still figuring out exactly how they fit into their lives and how you use them– Gabe Blanchet, Grove Ecosystem

Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron developed the idea of the indoor hydroponic farm while they were studying and installed one in their shared dormitory during their senior year.

After leaving university the two put together a prototype "Grove Ecosystem" and formed a company to produce it commercially. The unit they came up with is about the size of a chest of drawers, and resembles an ornamental feature in a front room.

Blanchet told GCR: "Right now the Grove Ecosystem that we launched on Kickstarter is just one unit and it comes in a standard sizes but we have a vision for all kinds of different products that work together. Eventually people could plant entire rooms where they could grow a large percentage of their family’s own fresh food."

At its base is a tank filled with aquarium fish, which produce nitrogen-rich liquid that can be used to fertilise layers of herbs and salad vegetables grown on clay pebbles. The water is cleaned by the plants and their bacteria, before being returned to the fish.

The system is self-contained, apart from LED lights that provide artificial sunlight, and the vegetables do not require any tending. It can also be remotely controlled using a smartphone app, which comes with a vacation setting so that Grove owners to not have to rely on neighbour to feed their fish while they are absent.

The Grove is available for pre-order in the US with delivery set for March. The company made the units available last week and has taken orders for almost 100 of them so far.

Blanchet said the company was in talks with developers and architects over making groves available as a feature for new-build homes. "We’re working with developers and architects to build Groves right in," he said. "I think they’ll help condo builders differentiate and sell their product. And I think architects are going to show us some possible directions we can take the idea. I don’t think they’ll want bespoke products, though – when you have 600 condos you’ll want to stick with something that’s tried and true. We can do custom wood and things like that."

The company presently employs 18 staff and is looking to expand, although Blanchet says he has no idea how quickly. "It’s just like the early days of the refrigerator in the fifties – people are still figuring out exactly how they fit into their lives and how you use them and we’re on that journey with our customers."

The kickstarter passed its $100,000 target and has now raised more than $250,000.

The cheapest version of the ecosystem will cost at least $2,700.

Images via Grove

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