Good news for anyone who has been told to log out and touch the weed! Whether you’re a naturally green thumb or not, it’s easier than ever to grow plants indoors. Don’t know when to water your plants? There’s an app for that. Need a constant flow of fresh basil for all your pesto needs? Hydroponics can solve your problems. Some tech startups are even manipulating the DNA of plants to make them bioluminescent, or better at cleaning the air. When it comes to techy gifts for plant lovers, the world is yours oyster plant.
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Crop irrigation applications: Greg and Plant
I have a little problem with the plant. I have exactly 26 plants in my one-bedroom apartment, and I can tell you that exact number because I use a plant-watering app called Greg, and I count them all. Each of my plants has its own custom watering schedule created by the Greg app, which takes into account several factors: the plant species, the size and material of its pot, its proximity to a window, where the direction faces the window, how close it is. than a heater or AC unit… the list goes on. It’s hard to remember the specific needs of each of my plants, but I don’t have to think about it. Greg told me my Monstera was thirsty, and I listened.
But Greg can learn more from your own behavior — for example, you may have noticed that the leaves of your philodendron are very dry, but for Greg, you don’t need to water them for a few days. Trust your intuition. That plant needs water! And if you tell Greg that you watered your plant early, it will learn and grow, just like your plants.
The market for plant apps is pretty saturated – got on the Greg train early because I wrote about them when they first raised seed funding (yes, a plant app raised seed funding), and I fell in love with the app. But Planta is probably more popular than Greg, and offers similar services.
I tried Planta for comparison, and hey, it’s a good app. Unlike Greg, it has a light meter, and its watering schedules are a bit more accurate, giving you alerts to mist the plants or fertilize them too. But Planta works by grouping your plants depending on which room in your house they are in. Yes, my snake plant is in the same room as my cacti which sits directly on a very hot south facing window, but the snake plant is 15 feet from the window, and thus requires a slightly different watering regimen.
Each app has its own built-in community forum, where you can ask questions about your plants to a community of experts. As a concerned plant owner who still thinks “bright indirect light” is subjective, I find the forums very helpful.
Both Greg and Planta charge monthly or annual fees for their services — Greg costs $30 per year, while Planta costs $35.99 for the year. No matter where you shop for the plant lover in your life, you can’t go wrong.
Home hydroponics has been popular for a long time, and it remains the kind of gift that keeps on giving. Every time your loved one sprinkles their homegrown cilantro on their tacos, they think of you. For less expensive, consumer-grade grow systems, you can find the AeroGarden and Click + Grow, but honestly, I think the Click + Grow models are more modern. Then, my grandmother has had an AeroGarden since I was a child, and she’s happy with it, so you have options. But when I decided to buy my mom a hydroponic garden one year, I went with Click + Grow, and we were happy with the results.
Like its competitors, Click + Grow sells seed pods — perfectly sized clumps of soil with seeds in them — that you drop into the machine. Then, all you have to do is fill the reservoir with water from time to time. Most Click + Grow models aren’t app-compatible, but they do have a built-in clock that turns the lights on and off. If you want it right, you can buy it automated plugs to adjust your light schedule.
Click + Grow can grow edible vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and kale, but you’ll need a large system to be able to grow anything large enough, or else you’ll be able to enjoy the new or that innovation of eating two or three home-grown cherry tomatoes. That’s why these systems are best used for herbs, which can enrich your food with just a few leaves.
Although it’s more romantic to give your partner an actual bouquet of flowers, you can purchase flower pods for your Click + Grow. That bouquet may last a week or more, but what if you could keep growing your own petunias? (My mom, for one, prefers to plant petunias instead of lettuce.)
The Click + Grow’s least expensive model retails for around $100, but it’s always on sale — at the time of writing, you can get it for 25% off. The Smart Garden 3 can only grow three pods at a time, but it’s small and chic enough to sit on your kitchen counter without taking up too much space.
If you’re ready to make a serious change to start your new life as an indoor farmer, a countertop Click + Grow or AeroGarden won’t do.
We’ve been following Rise Gardens since their seed round (again, the puns write themselves) in 2020, and after raising over a million dollars, they raised another $9 million round the following year. Some of these more advanced systems can cost close to $1,000, such as Garden, which is absolutely beautiful, but far out of the price range for most people. Rise Gardens has some big machines too, but you can buy them 12-pod model for $349gives you more bang for your buck than Click + Grow.
The larger models of Rise Gardens can break four figures, but they are designed to look like a living piece of furniture, made of steel and wood. If you have money, is it like buying a piece of artwork that you can also eat? Is that weird?
These systems are easy to maintain – just fill the water reservoir once a week – but more advanced home gardeners can up the ante if they tire of the luxury of fresh basil in need.
“We wanted something that was flexible because once you master a hobby, you’re exhausted,” founder Hank Adams said in a previous interview with TechCrunch. “You can start at one level and swap the tray covers to grow more densely. We have a microgreens kit that you can add, or add plant supports for tomatoes and peppers. You can also make a trellis to catch the peas.
Plants that defy nature: Lightbio and Neoplants
So, you might want to keep things simple and buy your loved one a plant. Sure, I can tell you that a purple inch plant is an easy way to bring color into the house, or that a snake plant is easy to keep happy (but it’s poisonous to pets, so beware! ). But what if you could buy a rare, Mewtwo-esque plant bioengineered to be cool as hell?
Lightbio, an Idaho-based startup, recently got approval from the US Department of Agriculture to sell its glow-in-the-dark petunias. The company genetically engineered these plants to light up by using the DNA of a bioluminescent mushroom. Glowing plants are not a new discovery — one of the founders, Dr. Keith Wood, part of a team that first ignited the plant in 1986, using firefly genes. But Lightbio may be the first company to make these plants readily available for purchase.
You can sign up now to get to the waitlist to buy your own bioluminescent plant, but the company told TechCrunch that recent USDA approval will speed things up significantly.
If you’re more interested in clean air than a firefly-like plant, Neoplants has engineered a plant designed to help you breathe at home. The company claims that one of their plants has the same ability to purify the air as 30 normal house plants (this is good news for me, a person who – as previously established – has exactly 26 plant).
As our own Romain Dillet explained when he interviewed the founder of Neoplants last year, these plants target a specific type of indoor pollutant that tends to evade traditional air purifiers. While plants normally metabolize carbon dioxide, Neoplants’ Neo P1 alters DNA allowing it to metabolize air pollutants.
You can get it your own Neoplant for $179but you have to get on a waiting list before you can get your hands on the wackiest air purifier in the world.