AVA Byte smart garden system

Entrepreneurs behind the recent raft of smart indoor gardens are following the digital commerce wisdom of those who understand the value of subscription-based businesses. The old, “buy the camera for cheap and we will sell you lots of film” concept has been successful for companies such as Keurig and Nespresso in maintaining multiple revenue streams.

Ava Byte, an Indiegogo project billed as “the world’s best automated smart garden,” may be the most trouble-free indoor growing appliance on the market. The Vancouver, B.C. startup has taken many of the features of its competitors such as Aerogarden and taken them to a new level. For example, the growing pods are soil free and include the necessary nutrients for optimal growth. The kit, with the standard smart garden goodies such as a base and grow light, also has an HD camera to monitor growing and sensors for precise watering. After getting Ava Bytes gardens into the hands of consumers, the company will be able to realize money from purchases of additional pods for about $6 per unit.

Ava Byte also jumps on the voice-based smart home assistant bandwagon by being compatible with amazon’s Echo and Apple’s HomeKit. The company is led by Valerie Song and Chase Ando, a former chef, born out of Startup Weekend Vancouver 2015. Song was frustrated by her inability to keep plants alive in her sunlight-challenged apartment. She teamed up with engineers, designers and horticulturists to develop the smart garden that brings a bit of nature indoors.

Another difference between Ava Byte and others in the market is that it claims to be able to grow more than the usual herbs, lettuces, and small tomatoes. According to the company’s crowdfunding page, it can grow peppers, berries and mushrooms in addition to the standard fare.

The company has surpassed its $30,000 goal by 125% and expects to ship in March 2018.

The smart growing pods are an interesting component of the smart garden space. Even though Aerogarden pods are affordable, there are a number of hacks that show how to inexpensively make replacements pods. Using proprietary growing pods does offer the ability for smart garden companies to license their technology to third parties, but could be a turn off to the DIY crowd.

Going from super high-tech to cool low-tech, another crowdsourced entrant in the indoor garden space is from Urban Leaf and is billed as the world’s smallest garden. The product is a growing pod insert that slips into the neck of a bottle (green or brown preferred). First, the bottle is filled up to the neck with water and the insert is popped in. The pod is filled with additional water and then placed in a sunny spot. An interesting component of this option is that it reuses bottles you already have (wine, soda, etc.) and does not require investment in additional containers.

The company founders are Nathan Littlewood and Robert Elliott. Nate worked in the finance industry before leaving to become a chef and took cooking classes around the world. Rob is a PhD whose focus is on Vegetated Infrastructure. After meeting Nate in 2016, the pair began working on urban food growing systems.

Urban Leaf has an all or nothing goal of $40,000. As of June 14, with less than a week to go, the offering is a little under $7,000 short of reaching its goal.

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Allen Weiner is an Austin-based freelance writer focusing on applications of new technology in the areas of food, media and education. In his 17-year career as a vice president and analyst with Gartner, Inc., the world’s largest IT research and advisory firm, Allen was a frequent speaker at company and industry events as well as one of the most-quoted analysts in the area of new media. With an extensive background in publishing and publishing technology, Allen is noted as the founder of The Gate (sfgate.com), the nation’s first daily newspaper on the web. Born in Philadelphia, Allen is a graduate of Muhlenberg College and Temple University.

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