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Smart Home

Root's indoor gardening system lets you grow 16 things at once

Root's hydroponic system helps with water, nutrients and light.

root-scene-kitchen-juicing.jpg
Ohneka Farms

Root's planter will let you grow a varied crop with smarts. An indoor hydroponic garden system, the $299 Root (available internationally for about £190 and AU$350) lets you grow up to 16 seedlings at once in one compact tower. The first product from Ohneka Farms, a startup dedicated to urban farming solutions, Root has the pieces to take care of every aspect of nurturing those seedlings into your own source of fresh food. And with built-in Wi-Fi, Root can let you know when you do need to do something such as refill the water.

Features

Standing 2 feet tall, Root comes with attached growing lights, so you can place it near any plug in your home. An ambient light sensor will supposedly dim or brighten the LEDs automatically to match the location, and a reservoir on the bottom of the unit distributes water and nutrients automatically. Depending on what you're growing, you'll need to add water every week or so by pouring into the top of the planter.

You'll also need to add nutrients regularly, but you can drop in a small amount from the included bottle of solution while you water. This single nutrient solution bottle will supposedly last as much as a year or two, keeping the fertilizing process simple through multiple growing cycles. The system will even send you a push notification when it's time to fill up the reservoir.

root-scene-kitchen.jpg
Ohneka Farms

Since the root pods are reusable, once you're up and running, you'll be able to keep growing, either with more seedlings offered through Ohneka Farms subscription service called Root Shares, or with your own seeds.

Ohneka Farms looks to have a smart, comprehensive approach with Root that'll make growing your own garden simple from start to finish. With a simplified process for light, nutrients, and water, they've taken a lot of the guesswork out of gardening. The only drawback I can see, if everything works as promised, is the lofty price.

Competition

At its $299 price point, Root will be too costly for casual adoption. Root looks to have the features to be amateur-proof, but that same amateur who wants to try simplified gardening might be more enticed by cheaper options -- and there are a few.

For starters, connected plant sensors can stick into the soil near your existing plants and let you know via an app when to add water or fertilizer.

As far as planters are concerned, the $60 (available internationally for about £38 and AU$69) AliGro will attach to a hose and take care of watering for you. Lechuza offers similar planters with reservoirs. You have to fill Lechuza's devices manually, but not very often.

Moving to all-in-one solutions, the $79 (available in the UK for £100; not available in Australia) Click & Grow uses special soil to manage nutrients and comes packing its own light source. Like the Root, it has a water reservoir so you can plant your seeds and let them grow on their own. Click & Grow's price looks to be a steal when compared to Root, but Root offers 16 spaces to grow, compared to single spot for Click & Grow.

Modern Sprout and Windowfarm use similar hydroponics to Root. Modern Sprout is designed to evoke traditional windowsill planters, and with three pod spaces, it still doesn't come close to the capacity of Root. Its pricing varies from as low as $129 up to $249 (available internationally from £82 to £158, and AU$151 to AU$291) depending on if you want to add solar power to your planter. The US-only Windowfarm offers space-saving columns of up to four plants with bundles running from $199 to $499.

Outlook

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Ohneka Farms

For the capacity, smarts, and overarching functionality it offers, Roots price turns out to be more than reasonable. If you want to dive in to growing food in your home, it certainly offers the most cost effective way to simultaneously plant a variety of seeds. That said, if you're an amateur looking to try out homegrown foods, it might be more prudent to try your luck with a smaller option first.

You can preorder Root via its Indiegogo campaign now. Some early bird discounts are still available, including their best deal -- a single root for $199 (about £127 and AU$233). Ohneka Farms hopes to ship by November of 2015. You can have one sent anywhere in the world, just add a $60 (£39 and AU$70) delivery cost outside of the US or Canada.

Root is still in the manufacturing stage of production, which is why they need funds from Indiegogo. Getting everything right to effectively keep 16 different plants alive will be a tall order. If it works well, the Root will be an exciting option for varied, compact and easy gardening.

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