Not everyone has a backyard for growing a large garden. For people in cramped spaces — say, a New York City apartment — a hydroponic garden is a good way to grow plants without having a patch of ground. In fact, it doesn’t even use dirt. Instead, plants grow in a nutrient solution.
One benefit to the small space is that sensors can easily measure all the conditions, such as pH and light levels, to let you know if your garden is healthy. That's where Bitponics comes in. The company's eponymous product is a Web-connected device, about the size of a Wi-Fi router, that operates a suite of sensors and uploads data from them to an online service — as frequently as every five minutes.
"Anywhere that you have Web access, you can see how your garden is doing," said Amit Kumar, the co-founder of Bitponics, a small company that got its start on crowdfunding site Kickstarter (just eeking past it's funding goal of $20,000). The company is based in the home of tight living spaces, New York City.
The Bitponics Base Station, as it's called, contains sensors to measure pH (acidity), water temperature, air temperature, lighting levels and humidity — "everything your plants care about," Kumar said. It also has two outlets, giving it the ability to turn on devices such as grow lights and pumps to maintain the garden when you are away. [See video of how Bitponics works ]
But if you have just a tiny garden with plants such as radishes or baby carrots in your home, why do you need an automated, remote-controlled gardener? It's obviously useful when you are away. But it also saves you from having to take readings manually and keep track of them in a notebook or a spreadsheet, Kumar said. And Bitponics does more than track. It also analyzes. [See also: Why Cloud Computing Is Hazy for Many Americans ]
The online service allows you to set up a grow plan, as the company calls it, to provide the right conditions for each stage of the plants' growth. You can see the status of the plan, with green indicating that conditions are right and yellow showing that conditions such as pH and light levels are off.
Bitpoinics doesn't provide grow plans, however. You'll have to create your own, "if you have the expertise," Kumar said. Or you may be able to find a grow plan for your particular plants that other Bitponics users have uploaded to the Bitponics website.
While it got its funding more than a year ago, Bitpoinics is just about to go live. Its Base Station is not cheap, at $499, but it does include all the sensors you need. In addition, you will need an online account. There will be various levels of service, at prices that haven't been announced yet. The company states that it will open up to customers in "late spring."
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