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Green thumbs: High-tech home gardening brands want to help consumers grow their own food

High-tech home gardening brands are taking the guesswork out of growing your own food by offering futuristic devices that make the process as foolproof as possible.

Lettuce Grow offers seedlings for herbs, greens, fruits, vegetables, and flowers. (Photo: Lettuce Grow)
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A stroll through the local farmers’ market will reveal what’s in season: zucchini and summer squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, and several varieties of plums, to name just a few.

After a year when the pandemic disrupted supply chains and delayed inventory, consumers flocked to their local markets rather than face potential delays from an online grocery order or product shortages on a trip to Whole Foods. Others took menus into their own hands: opting to grow food in the comfort of their homes, backyards, and gardens.

As a result, demand for seeds and gardening supplies went through the roof. Not only did at-home growing provide fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables, it also offered an outlet for improving both physical and mental health in an especially challenging time.

The only problem? Millennials mostly admit they can’t be trusted with plants. One study published last year and conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with home furniture brand Article found that 67% of respondents said that taking care of plants was more of a challenge than they were prepared for, while the average number of plants that didn't survive in the care of those surveyed was seven. Just over one in five of those in the study said they were nervous about owning a plant because they’d killed one in the past.

So while this demographic may have aspirations to be plant parents, they're also a bit apprehensive about all the responsibility that comes with it.

A number of brands are tending to this matter with media-first solutions to guide the growing process. Self-described “Food Network or HGTV for medicinal plants” Personal Plants and subscription-based Pot Gang offer seeds for gardeners-in-training as well as classes, videos, a question hotline and other visual guides for growing at home. Along a similar vein is The Green Conspiracy, a physical journal to help users track growth and take notes along the way.

Gardening goes high-tech

With a central, curving pillar and radiating rings of different sizes, onlookers might first confuse Lettuce Grow's farmstand for a modern sculpture or set piece from a science fiction movie. But, in reality, it serves a very different function. Lettuce Grow is one of a new crop of brands building futuristic at-home hydroponic growing devices complete with LED lights, starter seed pods, an accompanying app, and other high-tech features, to lower the barrier to getting started and make it as foolproof as possible to grow your own food at home.

"We grow the plants to be two to three weeks old and then we send them to you, and you just put them in our unit, and they finish growing. We start, you finish a project," says Jacob Pechenik, founder of Lettuce Grow, which has 12,700 people in its Facebook growers community. "By doing that, we have a huge success rate, because everything's germinated and off to a good start, and then we have an app that tells you exactly what to do." Last year, Pechenik reports that the company grew 10x and is on track to 4x growth in 2021. The smallest size of the farmstand retails for $348 for 12 plants, and goes up to $649 for a full 36 seedlings that reaches over six feet in height.

Developed exclusively for indoor growing, design-forward ēdn and Click and Grow make tabletop versions all the way up to larger wall units that start at $199.95 and $99.95, respectively, and rely on built-in LED lights, which helps would-be growers without backyards get their hands dirty (figuratively speaking).

Pechenik said that since the brand launched its own indoor growing lights in November, 30% of Lettuce Grow customers now own them. That's opened the door to more apartment dwellers keen at trying their hand at gardening, he adds. "New York City is our fourth largest market now, and that's just happened since November," Pechenik says.

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