I've called a couple of my former houseplants "Planty." Despite the personality imbued by the name, I ended up killing all of my own Planties due to accidental neglect. So, both the name and the concept of the new connected planter, Planty, from garden tech startup Nthing, struck a chord with me.
Via its sensors and Wi-Fi connection, Planty can monitor the light, temperature and humidity near your own green-leafed friend, whatever it might be named. Planty will send you push notifications to its iOS or Android app should your plant need attention. Better yet, it'll take care of the most common maintenance task itself. Planty includes a water reservoir, so it knows when your flower or herb is thirsty and can do something about it.
And yes, the app lets you put whatever nickname you have for your plant into the dashboard, so if you want Planty the planter monitoring Planty the basil plant, now you can. Well, you can soon; Nthing is currently raising funds for manufacturing its smart planters on Kickstarter. You can preorder now for $100 with an estimated delivery date of November.
After fulfilling the preorders, Nthing plans to have Planty ready for retail in January 2016 with a price of $150. The company has promised to ship Planty en masse to the US, UK and Australia. No word yet on exact international pricing, but the US price translates roughly to £95 and AU$185 for our overseas readers.
The planter itself doesn't hold the same charm for me as the name. It's an all-white cylinder that you'll need to charge via it's USB cable. At the very least, it's inoffensive, if a little bland. Nthing promises the planter will light up so you can see the status of your flowers at a glance, but I've yet to see any images of that. Hopefully, it'll add a little personality without being gaudy.
The app looks reasonably intuitive. It's an updated version of the Life app, which was a smart gardening journal and the first project of Nthing. The main screen gives you a few options such as "control" to manually water your plant, "dashboard" to do a status check, and "recipe" for sharing tips with the community.
I'm a fan of fewer clicks, so I'd have appreciated a way to water and see the status right from the app's home page, but having extra organizational buckets might prove useful should you have multiple plants you're trying to track and maintain.
When it is time to water, Planty will draw from its 500mL reservoir. That's plenty for a couple of waterings, but certainly not enough volume to allow you to forget your plant for long stretches. The spouts look well designed, placed around the upper rim so they can distribute moisture on all sides of the roots.
A crowded niche
The popular self-watering planter brand Lechuza offers plenty of models that can do the same basic task, including varieties that can be had for as little as $30. Planty gets a leg up with its other sensors and alerts, but even with that extra functionality, it's hard to justify paying five times as much.
A Parrot Flower Power can tell you about those extra factors, and it only costs $60, so you could package a Flower Power to put in the soil of your low-end Lechuza and still save $60 off of Planty's eventual retail price.
Closer to its price point, you'll find a few self-contained solutions, like the $129 to $249 Modern Sprout or the $199 to $499 Windowfarm. Both of those have a completely self-contained ecosystem through hydroponics, so they take care of nutrients -- Nthing's product doesn't look to help you track fertilizer.
Modern Sprout and WindowFarm also let you grow multiple things at once. Planty is a one-plant-at-a-time kind of pot. The most comparable smart pot is the $80 Click & Grow . It's a single-plant system, takes care of its own nutrients and it ships with its own specially designed light source.
Planty certainly seems like a step up from your average clay pot, but it'll have trouble holding its own against an already established field of smart-planting competition, especially given its lofty price.
The one hope of redemption it brings is its potential to connect to a larger smart home. Planty's Kickstarter page claims you can use its app to control Philips bulbs , the Nest Thermostat , and connected switches. I've reached out to Nthing to see how it makes these connections, but the idea is certainly promising. Your plant can actually turn up the heat or the lights if it needs more of either resource.
Since Planty is Wi-Fi only, it'll have to get data from the cloud, as opposed to interfacing with the devices directly. The system will also have to strike a delicate balance between automating plant care and making you uncomfortable by changing the thermostat without your permission.
Planty will have to find a way to make this interconnectivity work and work well to stand out in an increasingly competitive field. It looks smartly designed, but for me to choose this Planty planter to save my own Planty plant, it'll have to prove it's worth the price.