Plants and Plastics
Today I'd like to tell you about the evolution of the GROWcube, as it helps illustrate how efficient it is in it's present incarnation.
Three years ago I began experimenting with different containers for starting seeds out of the pure motivation to quit using black, vacuum formed plastic. Through the trials and errors that are only partially illustrated in the video, I honed the problem. No more BP (black plastic) AND efficiently divide a block of soil into sections.
The earliest GC's (grow cubes) were made from postcards that were semi waterproofed with packing tape. They were remarkably effective but had to stay in one place in a big tray or the soil would fall out the bottom. Also, it took forever to cut all the little slots in the postcards so I only made four units. I decided it was a pretty good idea that needed work.
About two weeks later, I knew it was a Very Good Idea that needed work. This is a picture of the stars of year one, the pepper plants.
These were not highly controlled experiments, by any means, but I did keep all the peppers together in a single tray and used the same soil mix and fertilizer/water schedule on all plants in the tray. The plants were outside on my deck during the day and inside at night. So the only variable was the size and type of cell that each seedling was grown in. There were four varieties of peppers.
I was truly amazed. The kale plants (shown below) also did better in the GC but not as dramatically as the peppers. Here are two pics of the kale. I photoshopped the bottom image just to make the plant root system more visible.
In the third and fourth units I planted celery and leeks, but I didn't plant any in BP because I knew the celery wouldn't do well and I don't remember why I didn't plant more leeks. The fourth unit was smaller (I was getting tired of cutting slots). So I don't have a comparison photo for celery and leeks but here's a pic. I was putting squares of thin wood under them at this point so I could move them out of the trays.
Last year I spent a few hundred dollars to have plastic inserts cut so that I could continue experimenting. I also began looking at different manufacturing methods. Plastic injection molding seemed to be the only way to go for the trays that I wanted but I couldn't quite accept that it would be the best option for the inserts. I looked into stamped parts and laser cut parts but the per piece cost for these methods was too high and the available sheet plastic didn't have the strength or the recyclability that I wanted.
I decided to get a quote to have each part of the GC (tray, sides and inserts) plastic injection molded.
Well. After many phone calls I found a company that was willing to give me a quote, because they specialized in smaller production runs and product development. Then I got the quote and it seemed so insurmountable (22k to 27k depending on plastic type) that I abandoned the project. Then, in January, I heard about Kickstarter.
So what is happening right now, with your backing, is not just the possibility that I will raise the money for a trial run but I'm getting great feedback on the marketplace viability of this product. I would like to partner with a nursery or seed company that will have distribution and marketing capabilities that I don't have. Each dollar contributed AND every backer lends credibility to that intention and is very greatly appreciated.
Also, I've managed to get a couple of plastics companies to give me verbal, off the record quotes just to get some feedback about what a cost run would be on a larger basis and making sure that this money will be well spent. The consensus is that the numbers I'm working with are feasable. I think the best plan to bring the unit market price down will lie with big sales and minimal profit margins. I dearly hope that the GROWcube can ultimately retail for under $20.
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A PDF of how to make containers for seed starting from common household items. What works, what doesn't and why. How to modify and make adaptations so they do work. PLUS when, why and how to use peet and manure pots.
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A PDF of how to build a redwood box to grow salad greens. With dimensions, supply list and growing tips. And the PDF above.
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Your very own GROWcube! plus all of the above.
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TWO GROWcubes!! plus all above
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