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Ava Byte Helps Gardening Novices Grow Food in Their Kitchen

The latest urban plant system has a lot of potential, but it’s still early.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before — there’s an expensive new device that will help you grow herbs in your kitchen. It’s true that Ava isn’t breaking new ground with the Byte, but they’re making a strong argument that their grow system is the one to beat thanks to machine learning and some lofty promises.

The Ava Byte is a mini-garden that can help you grow herbs and food right in your kitchen. In fact, help probably isn’t the right word — the Byte does almost all the work. The garden uses machine learning and data from individual plants to use the right mix of water and light to not only grow food, but grow it faster than usual — it’s possible to go from seed to bunches of basil in just weeks with minimal interaction on your part.

The Byte has been designed expressly for small spaces — for apartment living where there’s not much space on the windowsill (if you even have one of those). The garden does measure 18″ x 4.75″ x 7.5″ — it’ll still take up a good chunk of space on a table or counter, but Ava has made it possible to mount the Byte to a wall to save space.

Of course, to make the Byte as flexible as an indoor garden needs to be, Ava had to take care of everything. The plants are watered using hydroponics — they sit on a tray above a reservoir that only needs to be refilled once every few weeks, so you can mostly forget about them (there’s a companion app to help you keep tabs on the plants, just in case). Up top, Ava has used LED lights that change color throughout the day to approximate sunlight, a process that will be specific to different plants. By taking into account external factors and the plants themselves to provide the right amount of light and water, Ava has made it possible to put Byte wherever is most convenient. The other big advantage to that? Byte can be used to grow crops year-round, so you can have a steady supply even in the dead of winter.

But it’s a pricey prospect, up front and over time. The Byte uses grow pods filled with a seed and plant nutrients that fit into the five slots in the tray of the garden. The resulting plants will grow fast, but they’ll ultimately die quickly unless you’re skilled at pruning or you can move the plants to an actual garden — unlikely, since the people most interested in this are the ones least likely to have their own garden.

This brings us to the lofty crowdfunding promises part. The machine learning, lights, and watering all sound good, but Ava has more mouth-watering plans for the future. While they’re mostly using basil to show off what Byte can do, they’re planning to offer a lot more options — flowers, peppers, root vegetables, berries, salad greens, and even mushrooms! Ava says they’ll reach out to backers before shipping to offer them a selection of pods.

If you want an Ava Byte plus five pods, you’ll need to contribute $190 to their Indiegogo campaign. That’s a steep discount on its expected retail price — $300 for Byte and $2 to $10 for individual pods. The whole system will work with a free iOS or Android app, which will help monitor the plants and look up recipes once you’ve got food. The app can even work with an optional HD camera that can take time-lapse videos of the plants growing, in case you’re doing it all for the ‘grams.