When last we saw the Grove Ecosystem from Grove Labs, it was available only to Boston residents, but now the fish-poop-powered indoor garden is available on Kickstarter. It’s a big ol’ cabinet where you can grow your own fruits and vegetables indoors, so it takes up a lot of space and requires some maintenance. The aquaponic ecosystem is part garden, part aquarium, and as a result can support all the steps of the nitrogen cycle.
It features a gardening bed up top for your plants; a middle shelf for seedlings, micro-greens, and herbs, and an aquarium down below to power the cycle. Instead of soil, the gardening beds use porous clay pebbles, which double as a filtration system. The system’s LED grow lights can be moved up and down, depending on how tall your plants get. The fish in the 25-gallon aquarium provide waste that bacteria then turn into fertilizing nitrates. But unlike a normal aquarium, the plants and filtration help clean the tank’s water, too.
The brainchild of two MIT frat brothers, Gabe Blanchet and Jamie Byron, the Grove Ecosystem is also app-enabled. It can help you automate the system by letting it know what you’re growing. If you choose tomatoes, for example, it will have preset conditions that optimize the lights, fans, and pumps. You can also set things up for when you’ll be out of town, so it will conserve energy and water for up to seven days.
The 305-square-inch main growing area should yield a few bags of salad greens every week or eight to ten heads of lettuce every three weeks. Beyond that, there is some maintenance involved, like testing the water regularly and, of course, feeding your fish.
Unsurprisingly, the bookcase-sized system isn’t cheap. There are still a few early-bird rewards left for $2,700, which includes shipping (an extra $250) in May 2016. On top of that, you’ll have to buy your own fish, and you can expect to pay about $20 a month between electricity, water, and seed refills. So you’ll need a lot of greenbacks to start taking advantage of your green thumb.