Grove begins selling indoor garden ‘Ecosystem’ on Kickstarter

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Grove, the Somerville startup that intends to allow city dwellers to grow bushels of tomatoes even in the depth of winter, is giving Boston residents an opportunity to purchase its product.

Grove has raised $4 million in funding and like other hardware startups, is aiming to supplement that through pre-orders on Kickstarter. The company hopes to add an additional $100,000 and use the platform to spread the word about its primary product.

The “Ecosystem,” the company’s indoor veggie garden, will sell commercially for $4,500 when it goes on sale. But backers on Kickstarter can obtain one for $2,700. The company expects to ship by next March.

The Ecosystem looks like a well-made cabinet, and the team says it’s designed to fit unobtrusively into your kitchen, living room, or bedroom. Plants are fed by bacteria in the unit’s soil, along with detritus extracted from a large fish tank that sits at another level of the setup.

Grove has also fine-tuned the lighting built into the unit to deliver wavelengths that crops would typically get during their peak growing season. The lighting and watering cycles can be controlled through a smartphone app, which also offers tutorials on the best conditions for various indoor plants.

Since this spring, 50 units have been tested by people and companies around Boston.

“Some people treat it more like a medicine cabinet where people have all their herbs laid out,” Grove co-founder Gabe Blanchet said. Another early adopter, Blanchet said, focused on growing grains.

Not surprisingly, Grove found that first-time users need consistent training. In response, the company changed its app to include a training program that walked users through the system.

Co-founders Blanchet and Jamie Byron met as undergrads at MIT. Byron set up the earliest version of the system in their fraternity room.

Grove was formed in 2013 and eventually set up shop at the Somerville incubator and workspace Greentown Labs. Byron and Grove employees have grown jalapenos, tomatoes, Thai basil, mizuna, and kale, and herbs ranging from cilantro to sage.

But first-timer growers don’t need to be as ambitious, Blanchet said. “If you wanted the hardest-to-kill, the most hands-off, if you travel a lot or don’t want to spend much time with it, have a full bouquet of culinary herbs,” he said.

This article was updated at 2:45 p.m. ET to reflect the correct name of the company and founder.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about science and research. Email her at nidhi.subbaraman@globe.com.
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