With shipping expected to begin January 15, 2011, Pocket Grow brings us the LabBox Grower, which the organization claims will be the smallest automated hydroponic system on the market today. The grow box measures a tiny 5" x 5" x 1" and features high-intensity LED lights and a nutrient delivery mechanism that are "designed to provide the best environment for a successful micro grow."
Within each LabBox Grower is a controller unit that automates the watering cycles, light
schedules and environmental temperatures. The system offers three lighting sequences, default temperature control to maintain, and watering cycles of 4 times a day. A push button switch allows you to select between the three light schedules.
|LabBox controller unit - manages automated systems|
The system boasts several other features that help to maintain a positive grow environment. The array of red and blue LEDs provides an efficient way to deliver the lighting spectrum needed for optimum plant growth. Carbon filters help eliminate some odors that may naturally permeate from the grow box, and can be easily replaced online on the Pocket Grow site. The top of the grow bed is removable for easy access to the plant's root system and is held in place with magnets.
|Diagram of LabBox Grower system|
To begin growing, simply add the included vermiculite medium and seed to the grow tray. The nutrient reservoir is filled with a nutrient solution that is cycled through the sytem four times a day. Air is pushed from a pump into the air-tight reservoir, which creates positive pressure and pushes the nutrient-rich water into the grow tray while simlultaneously oxygenating the root system. The air vents located on the grow box replace the inside air about once every three minutes, which provides carbon dioxide to the plant, oxygen to its roots, and helps maintain the overall temperature inside the unit. As plant grows, low strees tie-down points are provided in order to train your plant to grow in a certain direction or height.
The LabBox is a fantastic project, and we look forward to seeing consumer response after its release, but we also take issue with certain features of the grow box and its presentation. There has been no release of cost information, which will surely factor into the unit's sales, and more importantly, the Pocket Grow site does not list plat yield statistics. With a an actual grow space of appoximately 4.5" by 3" by 1", it will take several weeks of growing to produce enough mint for a pair of mojitos.
It is hard to imagine growing anything but herbs in the LabBox, which are relatively easy to grow on a window sill (even those without full light). We would like to learn more about the decision to enclose dozens of high intensity LEDS in a translucent box, when it seems that the compact unit could easily sit near a natural light source. What is the monthly electricity usage of a LabBox that is continually running?
However, the LabBox is certainly innovative in its hybridization of efficent growing methodology and high technology computer systems. The unit's automated systems can be accessed on the LabBox Server, which is a free software that users can download from the Pocket Grow website. Then simply connect the LabBox to to a computer via a serial cable, and you can control your box directly from the computer. And for those advanced few who speak the BASIC programming language, you can re-program the 14M PicAxe micro-controller to do basically anything you want.
If you are a bit of a more mainstream technophile, the LabBox server is i-phone, i-pad, and twiter enabled, meaning yes, you can control your grow unit and receive updates about temperature, lighting, and resevoir status with the push of a button (on your phone).
|The LabBox software is i-phone, i-pad, and twitter enabled|
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