Did you know that Click & Grow was inspired by NASA? Way back in 2005, CEO Mattias Lepp felt impressed after reading an article about NASA growing plants in space. He asked himself the question: ‘If it’s possible for plants to grow in space, why can’t we develop a way to grow plants in cold urban environments where they could benefit so many people?’ Mattias pursued his vision to create a self-sufficient indoor garden, able to care for plants all by itself. After fine-tuning the technology with the expertise of various universities around the world, the concept of the Click & Grow Smart Garden was born.
Plants need light energy to grow and produce seeds. So how do plants grow without sunlight in space? The answer is light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in growth chambers. An array of LED lights are placed above the plants and these produce a spectrum of light suitable for plants’ growth. One of the best examples of this is in an Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), the size of a small fridge. It features an LED system that can be used to vary the intensity of the light. This helps scientists investigate the effects of different light intensities on plant growth in space. Without gravity, plants rely more heavily on environmental factors such as light to orient and guide their growth.
NASA’s advanced plant habitat and click & grow’s smart garden 9
In a similar way, Click & Grow smart gardens use LED lights so plants can grow in homes with very limited sunlight. Considering the variety of grow lights out there, why use LEDs? Several reasons. Firstly, they’re small and compact. Secondly, they emit fewer UV rays than other grow lights, meaning energy and water can be used to grow plants that thrive. LEDs are also durable. Their bulbs contain no moving parts, meaning they’re less likely to be damaged by external shock. Furthermore, they’re energy-efficient. For instance, the Smart Garden 3’s LED lamp consumes 8w of power, using just 3.8 kWh per month. The Smart Garden 9’s LED lamp consumes 13w of power and uses only 6.2 kWh per month. Considering the average US resident consumes 897 kWh per month, the lamps of a Smart Garden 3 and Smart Garden 9 (combined) would contribute to just a little over 1% of that amount. The newest product, the Click & Grow 25 is also the most energy-efficient among its competitors, costing $45 on average per year in electricity. Since LED bulbs are so energy efficient, they emit less heat than a lot of other light sources. This reduces the risk of plants being burned.
In space, low gravity makes water distribution a nightmare to manage. Roots are starved of oxygen while stagnant air reduces evaporation and increases leaf temperature. Watering plants becomes a whole new challenge when there’s no gravity. As Simon Gilroy, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, points out: "Watering plants in space is really hard /.../ water moves differently because there's no gravity. If you get the water onto soil particles, it'll just creep over the surface." NASA’s astronauts currently water plants with a syringe, pushing it into containers known as ‘plant pillows’. These containers can only hold a limited amount of water. This solution works well for leafy greens such as lettuce. For larger plants that need more water, NASA uses a plant growth unit known as ‘PONDS’ (Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System). The unit is passive and doesn’t rely on electricity, pumps, or moving parts. It’s essentially a free-standing reservoir of water that plants can draw from when needed. The advantage is that astronauts spend less time watering plants during growth intervals.
Filling the reservoir of a PONDS unit and a Click & Grow Smart Garden
In the cramped quarters of a spacecraft, space is at a premium. There are no farmlands, no balconies, no patios, no front lawns. The challenge is to develop compact growing systems such as the Advanced Plant Habitat mentioned earlier. To make life easier for astronauts, it’s helpful for apparatus to be space-efficient and automated whenever possible.
"In addition to making our products energy-efficient and time-efficient, it’s important to be space-efficient. As a result, all of our smart gardens are designed to make efficient use of space, no matter the size of your home. The Smart Garden 3, Smart Garden 9, and Smart Garden 9 PRO can easily fit on most kitchen counters or even windowsills. The Smart Garden 27 and Wall Farm make effective use of vertical growing space. Our latest product, the Click & Grow 25, is designed to grow significant yields while taking up floor space the size of a microwave oven," they say.
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