AI device takes all the guesswork out of indoor gardening
Many of us dream of growing our own vegetable garden, but find our efforts end in failure.
Our plants wither and wilt from too much sun and rain, or too little. Either that, or they get eaten by pests.
For those of us cursed with a ‘black thumb’, there’s a hi-tech solution that takes the guesswork out of gardening, and virtually guarantees perfect crops every time.
It looks like a wine fridge and it does everything for you, apart from actually eating the veg. It requires zero knowledge or expertise, and virtually no hands-on involvement.
The AgwaGarden, developed by an Israeli startup, is powered by artificial intelligence and can grow vegetables more predictably and more consistently than anything planted in the field.
It is equipped with three cameras and an array of sensors, which collect sensory and visual data twice a day to make sure each individual plant gets the perfect amount of humidity, light and water. And because it’s a closed system, there is no need for pesticides.
The indoor gardener simply places capsules of their desired vegetable in the empty slots, refills the machine with water as necessary and harvests the veg within three or four weeks, as instructed by notifications sent to their smartphone.
Aside from that, they can simply enjoy looking through the glass door to check on the daily progress of their crops.
“The solution is very simple: a home-growing vegetable device. It’s not a garden, and it’s not a gardening kit. It’s a box that looks like a wine cooler,” Gal Wollach, CEO of AgwaFarm, the company behind the idea, tells NoCamels.
The AgwaGarden can grow up to 60 plants at once, including eight varieties of lettuce, greens like kale, chard, arugula, and bok choy, and a variety of herbs and spices.
“We monitor your plants twice a day remotely, and collect all of this data to our cloud service, which is today based on human agronomists’ knowledge and AI. And that’s the only way to get consistent quality and yield,” says Wollach.
The biodegradable capsules containing the vegetable seeds are made of coconut fibers, so the user can safely dispose of them when the yield is no longer sufficient, or use them to feed their outdoor plants.
It takes the effort out of gardening, but it also removes the sense of pride and satisfaction at overcoming nature, or at least the sense of connection, even if it ends in failure. And it can’t grow fruit or root vegetables, like potatoes and carrots.
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But Wollach says they’re targeting a particular audience. “Our customers just want to eat great vegetables,” he says. “They’re not about getting a ‘green thumb’ – it’s not a gardening thing.”
That’s why he says AgwaGarden has no direct competitors. The United States has a $400 million industry of home gardening kits, which mostly involve indoor hydroponics that circulate water, but they are for “active” gardeners.
“The thing is, all of these systems or devices require the user to actually know what they’re doing,” he says. “Because it’s a closed system, the water starts building salinity, and you also need to fertilize but you don’t know which to use or how much, and you need to measure the pH of the water.
“And within a few weeks to months, most people just abandon it. It’s too difficult, it’s too time consuming. Most of us come home in the evening and we want to eat and we want the benefits, but we don’t stick to that device.”
He says AgwaGarden beats supermarket vegetables, which are coated with pesticides and insecticides and have lost some of their freshness and nutrition by the time they’re on the shelves.
“The vegetables we eat are polluting the planet. I used to airfreight broccoli from Yuma, Arizona, to farmer’s markets in New York. That’s crazy. And packaging – how many times do you throw away a bag with some leaves inside to the garbage?”
Wollach says AgwaGarden vegetables works out 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than buying at the grocery store, and claims the 3,300 shekel-machine (around $967) can pay for itself in 18 months.
Over 200 people have already bought the AgwaGarden in Israel, and it will be available in the US and in Europe by the end of 2023.
AgwaFarm, based in Rakefet, northern Israel, works with seed companies that selectively breed seeds suitable for its indoor garden. It plans to launch strawberries soon, as well as cherry tomatoes, selectively bred to grow in bushes compact enough to fit on a shelf.
At the end of the year, it will also launch a new line of sprouts – some of them flavored like broccoli or carrot, and regular – that can be cultivated in its device.
“We look at the plants and we tune the device to give them the perfect conditions. And that’s how you get the perfect veg,” says Wollach. “That’s the recipe: we give them much more attention than any grower in the world could.”