From January 2016 until just a few weeks ago, 30 nanofarms have been put through their paces in the homes of our beta testers. Each beta tester has had the chance to harvest between 2-4 crops of produce, and they are very happy with the results. See what two of our beta testers had to say below.
While the beta testers agree the nanofarm does a great job growing food, they had lots of helpful criticism that led to the added features you see in the production model:
- A tinted glass door - so the grow light doesn't light up your whole house
- A tray that holds more water - so you have more time to harvest
- An indicator light - so you know when to harvest
- A splash guard for the tray – so it is easier to carry from the sink to the nanofarm
Aside from those added features and some changes in materials used for the frame, the production model is the same as the beta model.
Simple to use: There are only two controls on the nanofarm: the weeks dial and the start button. To start a grow cycle, turn the weeks dial to the number indicated on the plant pad and push start. The harvest light turns on when your plants are ready to eat. It's that easy.
Easy to clean: The only parts of the nanofarm that get dirty are the tray, grate, and splash guard. They can all be cleaned in a dishwasher. There are no pumps or filters to clean or maintain.
High-efficiency lighting: Daylight LEDs provide as much light as a summer day while using only about a dollar of electricity per month.
Smoked glass door: Plants love daylight all the time. People don't. That's why we've equipped the nanofarm with a smoked, tempered glass door to keep the light where it belongs - inside the nanofarm. The door also keeps pests, pets, and small children out of the nanofarm.
Modular: Since we all have different produce needs, the nanofarm is modular. You can use one nanofarm to grow fresh herbs on your counter or build a living wall of nanofarms and feed an entire family. Nanofarms can be stacked vertically up to 4 units high. On average, 4 units will provide fresh produce week after week.
Built to last: The frame of the nanofarm is made from tough powder-coated steel and natural wood. The door hardware is made from highly corrosion-resistant marine-grade aluminum. The tray is made from tough food-grade plastic that can withstand the extreme heat and cleaning solvents inside a typical dishwasher. All of these design decisions were made for one reason: to make sure your nanofarm is around for the long-haul.
See it in action: A timelapse of the nanofarm growing bok choy.
What are plant pads? Plant pads are made of layers of paper, minerals, and wax. They're fully biodegradable and compostable. When you're done harvesting from a plant pad, you can put it in the compost bin if you have one, or throw it in the trash bin. Much like soil, plant pads rely on capillary action to wick water from the tray. Unlike soil, plant pads don't harbor insect eggs or pathogens such as E. coli or Listeria.
Grow locally, eat globally: Instead of buying produce that's been shipped thousands of miles, grow produce from around the world right in your home. The variety of produce that can be grown in plant pads is staggering. Any leafy green, herb, microgreen, or bulb plant (like radish or beet) will grow in the nanofarm. Replantable offers not only staples such as lettuce and basil, but an ever-expanding variety of exotic veggies like shiso and fenugreek.
Organic Seeds: Replantable uses only organic, non-GMO seeds in its Plant Pads. In fact, many of the varieties we source are heirloom. Mass-produced veggies have been bred or engineered over the years to ship well, have long shelf lives, resist drought and temperature extremes and be resistant to pests and pesticides. At Replantable, we're going back to a time when only one thing mattered: taste.
Get veggies in the mail: Plant pads fit in a standard envelope, so they're quick and efficient to ship. Since we use paper envelopes, there's no plastic packaging to stick around for years in the landfill.
How many plants on a pad? Depends on the plant. We put the optimal number of plants to get the highest yield out of each pad. A very large plant like romaine lettuce might have 4 plants per pad, a small plant like arugula might have 25 plants per pad and a microgreen pad could have over 100 seeds. Also, one pad can have multiple kinds of plant. We offer many salad and herb mixes to choose from.
A step-by-step guide to nanofarming:
1. Choose what you'd like to grow.
2. Receive your plant pad in the mail.
3. Fill the nanofarm's tray with water.
4. Put the plant pad in the tray.
5. Slide the tray into the nanofarm.
6. Set the weeks dial and press start.
7. When the harvest light comes on, you're ready to eat!
8. Put the tray in the dishwasher, and you're ready to start a new grow cycle.
Alex Weiss (left) and Ruwan Subasinghe (right) met while studying at Georgia Tech. Both of them cooked often, but were frustrated by produce that wasn't fresh and spoiled too quickly to use. After graduating, they founded Replantable to provide a much fresher, hyper-local alternative to industrialized agriculture.
Alex Weiss heads R&D at Replantable. Previously, he performed clinical research for Clean Hands Safe Hands, a startup that monitors hygiene in hospitals. While studying Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech, he researched hematology and remote diagnostics, which led to his involvement with Sanguina, a startup that makes a point-of-care rapid hemoglobin test.
Ruwan Subasinghe leads product design at Replantable. While earning his Mechanical Engineering degree at Georgia Tech, he machined microfluidic devices and instructed students in the campus machine shop. He has brought a hands-on design approach to startups like Intuitive Pickups as well as larger companies like Verizon Telematics.
Replantable is lucky to have gone through Create-X, a Georgia Tech startup accelerator that provided funding and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs. Replantable is now a member of the Advanced Technology Development Center, one of the world's top business incubators. The Georgia Centers of Innovation have also lent Alex and Ruwan a hand by connecting them to prototyping and manufacturing resources in Georgia.
For technology and design projects, it's not enough to come to the Kickstarter community with just an idea. The development process for a hardware product takes too long and carries too many risks to start only after a campaign has been backed. The nanofarm has been in development for over a year, and we've done all the necessary work to prove this project will deliver what we promise. The first nanofarm was verified as able to grow plants automatically on November 8, 2015, nearly a year ago. Since then, we've been refining the design, taking into consideration results from our extensive testing and feedback from our 30 beta customers.
We've done all of the legwork before launching our Kickstarter campaign: sourcing parts, finding a manufacturer, handling logistics, and getting quotes for all components. That last one is important. With quotes in hand, we know the cost to produce a nanofarm and we know we're asking you for the right amount for one.
Below is a breakdown of the allocation of funds, assuming exactly $50k is raised. If more is raised, these numbers change because of the ratio of fixed costs to cost of goods sold. There's one important and often overlooked segment to this breakdown: "Risk Mitigation". With hardware projects, there's always a chance parts and/or tooling will need to be reworked/remade. Read more about risks and how we will deal with them in the "Risks and Challenges" section below.
Risks and challenges
There are many risks associated with bringing any product to market, and the nanofarm is no exception. However, we've done a lot to mitigate those risks, and we have plans in case we do run into challenges.
We've essentially removed all technology risk through our beta test. The nanofarm was used for months by actual customers, and we've confirmed that it does a great job growing produce automatically. The plant pad technology is working beautifully, and we're working on patenting it right now.
Manufacturing risk on the other hand, is impossible to completely eliminate. Parts don't always come out the first time with acceptable tolerances and may need to be reworked or remade. This can be very expensive if there is a tool (mold) that needs to change. This is why we've made the decision to design the nanofarm with only a couple parts that require custom tooling. The rest of the parts are made using low-volume processes, which can adapt quickly to adjust for out-of-tolerance parts. For example, if one of the holes on the nanofarm's sheet metal body doesn't quite align with the circuit board, we can reprogram the turret punch with a new hole location and we've only lost one part and a few hours. For a new product like the nanofarm, this gives us incredible flexibility.
The parts of the nanofarm that require tooling are the tray and the circuit board. For the beta nanofarm we have been producing the tray in-house using vacuum forming. We will continue to produce the tray with the same production method, but we are switching to a contract manufacturer. The risk here is low because we've proven the part can be produced with this manufacturing method. However, with a new manufacturer comes risk. If the mold was not cut properly the first time, it may need to be reworked or remade which could end up being an expense of up to $3265. This is one of the expenses that we have covered in our budget under "Risk Mitigation".
The custom tooling for the circuit board is inexpensive and quickly produced, with lead times in the 7-14 day range. Even factoring in a couple sets of bad boards, we have plenty of money left in our "Risk Mitigation" fund and plenty of time left in our manufacturing timeline to deliver the Kickstarter units on time.
Another risk with the printed circuit board assembly is that, by the time we start production, certain components could be end of life (EOL). This would likely pose more of a threat to the timeline than the budget, because the board would have to be redesigned with a substitute component. There is also a chance, however, that the substitute component is more expensive. We've mitigated this risk by choosing newly-introduced components for critical components in our design.
We are confident that we are raising enough money to cover these risks, and that we have set a realistic delivery date given the possibility of these risks occurring.
Thank you for supporting our campaign. We're excited to bring this groundbreaking technology into production!
- (42 days)