Grow your own greens with Homefarm - Stuff

Grow your own greens with Homefarm

Grow your own greens with Homefarm

Ever dreamed of a compact, app-controlled, hydroponics system you can use to grow your own greens (no, not that sort) at home? No? Just us then? Well, our dreams might just become a reality if local startup Homefarm can raise the fund it needs to bring its product to market.

Homefarm is hosting its crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo (it runs until 17 June 2017), and aims to raise $40,000. While there’s a range of backer tiers that start from as little as $10, if you actually want the device and a seed starter kit you’ll need to commit to $450 (around R6,000) or more. Tiers above $450 include some of the non-device items, like branded chopping boards and knives.

And if you’re really keen on supporting the initiative, $5,000 will get you a flight to Johannesburg (assuming you aren’t there already), a tour of the Homefarm studio, and more Homefarm kit than you can shake a butter lettuce at.

Pod packs, which include six different pods and are themed (“Salad Mix”, “Kitchen basic mix” and so on) will cost R120 each. Homefarm plans to sell the kits via its own e-commerce platform once it’s delivered the grow units at the end of the 2017.

Homefarm estimates the unit will consume around R60/month in terms of electricity, and about 20 litres of water a week. What can it grow? Herbs like coriander, basil, parsley, mint, thyme, wheatgrass and a range of micro greens. Moreover, because it’s a highly efficient hydroponic system, you should be able to harvest all year round.

Sensors built into each unit check water and nutrient levels, and apps for Android and iOS send users updates and reminders based on data from the control systems. The unit can either be connected to water mains, or can be topped up manually if that’s not possible. The app will also enable users to buy additional units, pods or other kits from the Homefarm e-commerce store.

If an app’s not your style, there are also touch controls on the front of the unit, and a press-this-and-forget mode for the truly lazy. Because it’s a sealed unit it keeps the bugs at bay, and full-spectrum bulbs and a built-in fan are designed to maximise growth. But should you wish to override the timer (perhaps you’re having a seánce and the light is killing the vibe) you can do that via the app or touch controls, too. But to ensure you don’t forget to turn the lights back on, they’ll revert to their usual schedule as soon as the next cycle starts.

A germination mode on the unit boosts the temperature inside to expedite germination when you’re starting out, or when you’re trying to kickstart new pods. Further modes might follow via a firmware update should they prove necessary.

The Homefarm team estimates it’ll take a couple of years for the device to pay itself off in terms of yield, but we don’t really expect it’s the frugal farmer that’s the target market. We’re not frugal farmers. Heck, we’re not farmers at all. But boy do we want one. Homefarm’s hoping you do, too.

Craig is Stuff magazine's editor. He provides tech analysis and commentary for TV stations like eNCA, CNBC Africa and BusinessDay TV, and radio stations like 702, CapeTalk, PowerFM, MetroFM and Classic FM. You can contact him via craig@stuff.co.za

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