SproutsIO is the brainchild of Jenny Broutin Farah, an architect who's worked on large-scale gardening projects with the New York City Parks Department. She wanted to make fresh produce something that anyone, from restaurant chefs to home cooks, could keep around their kitchen without worrying about it going bad quickly or not being clean enough.
The first step in that process is the SproutsIO pot itself, a modular system designed with convenience in mind. The bulk of the product is the basin, which is where you put the water, and it contains the monitoring systems as well. There's no soil: The Sprouts IO is a hybrid hydroculture, using hydroponics and aeroponics to care for the plants. Hydroponics involves keeping roots in a nutrient-rich water solution, while aeroponics mists them with a similar mixture.
These methods enable easier management (no need to change the soil, for one) and lighter weight; you can remove the top layer of the SproutsIO, containing the plant, and pop the lower basin into a sink or dishwasher for cleaning. The modular nature of the pot also means it's easy to adjust the height of the planter, leaving more room for the roots or letting you switch between hydroponic and aeroponic modes.
The SproutsIO even comes with its own light source, a flexible LED lamp that can be removed for better access to your project and consumes less power than a standard incandescent bulb. In fact, the whole setup consumes less energy than a laptop. The lighting scheme can be customized to each project, from a harsh white to softer shades of red and blue. There's also a camera so you can peep at your plant from afar in the SproutsIOGrow app.
SproutsIOGrow lets you adjust things like the lighting and misting, but the real power of the program is how it learns from experience. Horticulture is more than just sticking a seed in some dirt and watering it regularly; small changes in temperature, humidity, light levels and soil acidity can render very different variations of the same crop. SproutsIOGrow contains information not just about the ideal conditions for your plant to grow in, but about which conditions can render greener spinach or juicier tomatoes.
Farah hopes the app's database will grow over time, not just through machine learning but also via contributions from SproutsIO users, who will come up with their own "recipes" to share. It's a lot like taking advice from a forum for amateur botanists, except you're all using the same tools already.