Another established hardware startup is turning to Kickstarter to help fund its next wares. This time it’s the turn of Click & Grow, maker of the smart garden that lets you grow a plant indoors with little or no intervention. After selling over 50,000 units of its first device, the Palo Alto, U.S. registered company with an R&D lab in Estonia, is launching a crowdfunding campaign to get its second generation product — the Smart Herb Garden — off the ground.
Hoping to raise a minimum of $75,000, the money will be used to turn a functioning prototype into something production-ready, with a shipping date loosely pegged for September. The Smart Herb Garden builds on Click & Grow’s first product, but with several improvements following feedback from customers; namely that people want to grow more than one plant at a time and that the amount of natural light available in a person’s home is often not enough for healthy plant growth. The new improved version features a built-in LED light, as well as a change in the plant pot part of the design to make it easy to grow three different plants simultaneously, with the same ‘smart’ technology taking care of the heavy lifting. It also plugs into a power socket rather than relying on four AA batteries, while the new design negates the need for a pump or sensor.
The aim of Click & Grow’s smart garden system is to automatically provide the correct water and nutrient balance needed for indoor plants to grow. The company claims that 3 years of R&D has gone into the Smart Herb Garden, of which the core technology is the growth medium, a nanotech material engineered to “supply plant roots with the right amount of oxygen, water and nutrients at any time”. This is supported by the newly incorporated LED light. In practice, you simply insert the supplied cartridges and fill the reservoir with water. Then power the thing on and — bingo — in a matter of weeks you should see green shoots of awesomeness. If plants are your thing, of course.
“Very few can afford to launch a new product and fail”
The Smart Herb Garden starter kit will come with cartridges for basil, thyme and lemon balm. Refills will be available for various herbs, lettuce, mini tomato, chili pepper, and even strawberries, apparently.
Once it finally reaches market, the Smart Herb Garden is expected to retail for $79 but Kickstarter backers can bag it for $39 for a white model, or at the top tier, $1,000 for a “next generation interactive model”, though the latter is short on details.
As for why a VC-funded startup would choose to go down the crowdfunding route — Click & Grow has raised over €1.5 million from backers WNB and Primo Holding — founder Mattias Lepp tells TechCrunch that “for makers of novel hardware, Kickstarter is the best place to sense check your ideas before you start assembly lines”.
It’s hoped Kickstarter will enable the company to validate the market for its new product and get feedback on prices and colour options, dimensions, and the plants that people want to grow. “So I’d say it’s first and foremost a market insights platform,” he says. “And of course, the money also helps at our stage.”
For hardware companies like Click & Grow who have already had some success and raised funding, it’s not that they can’t afford to start manufacturing a new product, it’s that “very few can afford to launch a new product and fail”, says Lepp.