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Tech Life: Smart garden makes easy work of growing plants

Click & Grow's staff are incubating new ideas in Mountain View

With the smart herb garden from Click & Grow, gardeners — and those without a green thumb — can grow herbs and more without much effort. It requires a little power and a little water, but after that, the smart garden takes care of itself and lives up to its name.

"You can grow them from the moment you receive them," says Liina Ilves, Click & Grow marketing manager.

This garden/tech bundle sells for about $60 on its website, and includes three plant pods, a light with a built-in timer, the company's Smart Soil and a power cord. Once plugged in, an LED grow lamp provides light to the growing plants and operates on 6 watts, which only runs the user about $3 to $5 a year. The water reservoir can hold up to a month's worth of water, quenching the plants' thirst for long stretches. And because the plants' life cycles range from two to six months, gardeners only have to refill the water supply a few times.

"The goal has always been to make it fool proof," Ilves says.

Even though high-tech gardeners will start with only basil or a combination of basil, thyme and lemon balm, they can diversify by buying plant refills, such as lavender, petunias, chili peppers and wild strawberries. But, the mini tomato refill continues to be the most popular, Ilves says.

The garden's design stems back to Click & Grow's first product, the smart pot, which was released in 2011. Mattias Lepp, the founder, wanted to keep the user experience and design simple, Ilves says.

"He spoke with a lot of designers and came up with this design: sleek, clean, Nordic," she says.

The smart herb garden's design has since been accented by colors — green and orange — yet, the classic white continues to reign as the favorite, Ilves says.

Today, more than 300,000 smart herb gardens have been sold worldwide, including some from the downtown Palo Alto store b8ta, located at 516 Bryant St. This brick-and-mortar store, which opened Dec. 11, allows locals to buy — and see — the latest tech, including the smart herb garden.

"We saw a problem with the traditional brick-and-mortar store," says Nick Mann, one of four founders of b8ta. "In a box on a shelf, it can be hard to tell what the product does."

For the smart garden, the b8ta staff actually grew their own plants, which allowed them to tell the product's story and show customers the sprouting results.

And as expected from a high-tech gardening company, Click & Grow — a startup out of Estonia continues to grow thanks to crowdfunding and Silicon Valley insight. The company launched a Kickstarter campaign for the smart herb garden in March 2013, and within 48 hours, the project was funded.

"It was really overwhelming," Ilves says. "We really had to focus to make things work. I don't think we were ready for it to get that big."

Then, in 2015, some startup staff members planted roots in the Bay Area to work on developing a larger garden, which it calls a smart farm, at Y Combinator in Mountain View.

"The problem we tackled wasn't how do we get something to market, it was how do we expand the current horizon of the company," said Qasar Younis, Y Combinator partner and chief operating officer.

Younis credits Silicon Valley's technical talent, sophisticated technology investors and mature ecosystem for the area's ability to grow companies, and in turn, that's exactly why Click & Grow made the trip: "As a tech startup," Ilves says, "there aren't better places to gain insight and great ideas."

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This article appeared in print in the Winter Home + Garden Design 2016 publication.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 7, 2016 at 11:42 pm

Love this product! Will go and check it out in the b8ta store to see how it actually looks like and functions.


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