Lettuce is a pretty stupid thing to transport long distance: Ninety-six percent of it is water. From an environmental point of view, it makes more sense to grow lettuce locally, or with the help of a new appliance, even in your own home.
Grove Labs, a Somerville, Massachusetts, startup, is set to release its Grove Ecosystem this November. It’s an intelligent bookshelf-shaped growing cabinet. It can grow a third of a large lettuce clamshell a day, according to cofounder Gabe Blanchet, plus herbs, greens, and small fruits.
The Ecosystem has three layers. 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. The three parts work together.
“The aquarium’s meant to replace people’s flat-screen TVs,” Blanchet says. “It’s an engaging aquatic habitat, as well as the lifeblood of the system. The waste poop and the ammonia becomes nitrate for the plants.” 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.
Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron met at MIT before founding the company in 2013. The 20-somethings then raised $2 million to develop their machine, which they’ve been testing with 50 families in Boston in the last few months.
Aside from functional, Blanchet also sees the appliance as educational–a centerpiece for the family to share and communicate around. “The Grove is meant to inspire and educate families, especially children. It’s bringing you closer to nature and allowing people who love to garden to garden all year round,” he says.
The kit comes with starter materials, including Hydroton clay pebbles (the top growing medium), gravel for the aquarium, and a jerry can. The whole thing looks lovely–though it’s on the pricey side. The Grove will cost $2,700 during an initial Kickstarter campaign that launches today, and an estimated $4,500 after that.