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Sep 25, 2016 3:11 PM ET

Archived: Smart Microgarden: Meet SproutsIO, the high performance system that makes growing Personal Produce™ a pleasure. Grow indoors, year-round, soil-free.

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 25, 2016

SproutsIO: Smart Microgarden

Meet SproutsIO, the high performance system that makes growing Personal Produce™ a pleasure. Grow indoors, year-round, soil-free.

About this project

Connect with food on a whole new level.

We’ve been out of touch with what we eat—it’s time for that to change. With SproutsIO, you can reliably grow fresh fruits and vegetables indoors, year-round, soil-free, using an app-controlled system that learns from your preferences. No matter your experience in a garden, SproutsIO makes the process of growing food pleasurable and rewarding.

Based on original research initiated by Jennifer Broutin Farah at the MIT Media Lab in 2011, SproutsIO was designed to help change our relationship to food by connecting people to the source of their produce and allowing them to experience the joy of growing their own. Three years of intense research and development has culminated in the world’s first-ever intelligent, plug and play, hybrid hydroculture system.




A variety of produce can be grown in SproutsIO from fruiting plants to leafy greens and herbs to root vegetables. In three short weeks you can grow up to 18 servings of leafy greens such as arugula or lacinato kale. We source all of our seeds responsibly through partner seed banks, offering access to produce of the the highest quality and diversity. Our expected launch plants are illustrated below.


Nothing compares to homegrown fruits and vegetables, but not everyone has the time, space, or experience to plant their own garden. SproutsIO makes it easy for you to grow your own produce, regardless of where you live or how much experience you have. From the kitchen to the living room to the office, SproutsIO helps produce thrive in the setting of your choice.

SproutsIO is elegant and thoughtfully designed. We solve the typical pain points associated with growing such as time consuming setup, tedious maintenance routines, and ad hoc component assembly. We’ve thought through the smallest details to ensure that you are able to experience the pleasure of gardening.

Setup is Simple 

Start growing in under 5 minutes. Plug in your SproutsIO, and download and launch the SproutsIOGrow mobile app to connect your SproutsIO to WiFi. Place the sIO seed refill in the basin, the camera will recognize the plants you are growing and confirm recommended settings. Just add water and now you are growing. The video below walks you through this process. 

Enjoy Watching Your Plants Grow 

Tending to your produce and watching it grow is fun and pleasurable. With SproutsIO you can check-in on your plants from anywhere and at anytime using the SproutsIOGrow mobile app. Take a look at pictures of your budding tomatoes, dive into real time data about your plant’s growth, or find out when it will be ready to harvest.

Just Water Once A Month 

Growing is so efficient with SproutsIO, just add water on average once a month. You can use tap water – our system will automatically calibrate to the composition of your local water. If you plant is thirsty and additional water is needed, the SproutsIOGrow mobile app will notify you, so you can take it easy.

Harvest to Plate 

Produce grown on SproutsIO doesn’t need to be washed since it’s not grown in soil, and no pesticides are used in the growing process. The distance from harvest to plate has never been so short. Dishwasher Safe Maintenance is simple with SproutsIO, just unscrew the sensor module and place the growing basin in the dishwasher. No need to disassemble and fuss with cleaning individual parts and seals.

Continue Growing with the sIO Subscription 

To help maximize the yield from your SproutsIO we created the sIO subscription. It ensures that you have on-demand access to sIO seed refills in your queue as soon as you are done harvesting. All sIO seed refills feature the highest quality seeds from our partner seed banks. 

Expandable and Adaptable to Your Needs 

SproutsIO is modular by design so you can expand your garden, no matter the location. Whether you have SproutsIO at home or in the office, continue to add devices to your garden, and monitor them all as one through the SproutsIOGrow app. There is no limit to how much you can grow.



SproutsIO revolutionizes the concept of local produce with a high performance growth system that brings the producer to the center of the food chain. The SproutsIO System provides growers with a thoughtful end-to-end experience by integrating our intelligent gardening device, sIO refill, and mobile app with software services. The system is modular, enabling a grower to have one or multiple devices controlled seamlessly through the mobile app.

SproutsIO Device

The SproutsIO device is the home of your microgarden, designed to monitor and nurture your produce. The device is equipped with WiFi connectivity, environmental sensors for monitoring both plant and ambient conditions, camera, high efficiency LED lighting, and an electronic mister. The thoughtful design allows for ease of use and maintenance wherever you live, work, and play. A full list of technical specifications are detailed below.

sIO Refill

The sIO refills include everything you you need to grow produce: seeds, nutrients, and growing media. These fully integrated refills are delivered to you via our subscription service. Grow plants from seed to harvest without damaging transplanting. Our sIO seed refills include responsibly sourced seeds and nutrients for maximum transparency. The sIO is designed to be compostable and is derived from environmentally-friendly plant-based materials.


SproutsIOGrow is a mobile app that helps you monitor and tend to your produce with SproutsIO. The app provides access to a comprehensive software services platform that optimizes how your produce grows. This is based on your preferences and SproutsIO best practices to deliver the Personal Produce™ experience. SproutsIOGrow reports real-time plant growth data and predictive growth cycle and harvest scheduling that can connect to personal activity trackers, meal planners and calendars so your produce harvest will integrate seamlessly into your daily activities.

SproutsIO enables you to grow produce based on your personal preferences. Personal Produce™ is grown in system according to settings you customize. This combines the satisfaction of participating in the process with the comfort of knowing how your food is grown from seed to harvest for results you can taste. Regional, seasonal, and heirloom varietals are now possible any time, any place – from home living spaces to highrise offices and professional kitchens.

Tasteful Technology

SproutsIO makes it possible for you to personalize produce by using growing profiles that alter the growing conditions of your produce. The same seed and plant, harvested at the same age can have entirely different flavors, colors, and textures, simply because of how they are grown. This variation is caused by the growing conditions, which are determined by factors such as light and irrigation.

Here is an example of a mizuna leaf, harvested on the same date, grown from the same seed, but with different growing conditions – lighting, nutrients and watering were varied. The mizuna on the left was stronger tasting and more fibrous. The mizuna on the right was more delicate in texture and milder in flavor.


Not only does Personal Produce provide better quality and diversity of produce to growers, it is also more economical than store-bought organic produce. The value propositions for tomato, wheatgrass and lettuce are illustrated below.

To understand what this means for you and your family of growers, let’s look at a big picture example of living with SproutsIO. It’s impressive!

For a family of four, it’s possible to grow all of the monthly USDA recommended intake of leafy greens, such as kale, spinach or arugula, in two SproutsIO devices with two sIO refills. That can be compared to 30 clamshell packs (5 ounces) of leafy greens. Within seven months of growing, SproutsIO pays for itself in the savings from the produce grown rather than purchased.


SproutsIO’s highly efficient, hybrid hydroculture system simplifies the growth process, allowing anyone to grow their own produce anywhere, anytime, and with a fraction of the resources used by standard practices. SproutsIO provides source transparency and conserves resources in food cultivation, using only 2% of the water and 40% of the nutrients compared to traditional soil methods. With greater growth density by area and in half the growth time, refrigeration is no longer necessary as SproutsIO provides fresh produce at peak ripeness and an expanded palette of heirloom seeds and varietals.


The unique hybrid hydroculture system has the technical performance to grow quality produce indoors, year round. Machine learning software develop growing profiles and harvest schedules from real-time system data analysis. Wavelength-tuned smart LED lighting, plant health imaging, time-released nutrients and electronic misting system adjust automatically to produce a sustainable and energy-efficient environment for optimized yield.


Proprietary Hybrid Hydroculture

The SproutsIO proprietary hybrid hydroculture system is a soil-free growing environment that uses both hydroponics and aeroponics to optimize for different types and stages of plant growth. SproutsIO uses an electronic mister that is silent and easily maintained – there are no loud mechanical pumps or nozzles to get clogged as is often the case in most commonly used hydroponic and aeroponic systems. SproutsIO efficiently grows using only 2% of the water and 40% of the nutrients typically used in soil-based cultivation.

Sensors Monitor the Environment

SproutsIO is equipped with precisely calibrated sensors that read ambient temperature, root temperature, lighting spectrum and intensity, electrical conductivity for nutrient monitoring, water level, humidity, with an available plug in for pH sensing. Data from these sensors are sent to our cloud database, where machine learning software processes the data and provides continuous updates that optimize performance and plant growth.

Adaptive Lighting with Smart LEDs

SproutsIO’s wavelength tuned, high efficiency LED lighting is intelligent. It adapts to the plants’ needs and ambient light levels to provide the optimum growing conditions and ground-breaking energy efficiency. By comparison, we use half the power of a standard incandescent light bulb to power the whole SproutsIO system! SproutsIO’s LED’s are also designed to appear white to the human eye, resembling daylight for comfortable viewing, while providing the blue and red spectrum needed by plants.

Plant Health Imaging

SproutsIO takes images of your plants while they are growing for both health diagnostics and to provide a continual log of your plants’ growth that can be shared with and learned from the growing community. View an up-to-the-date time-lapse capturing your plants growth.

Intelligent Growing Profiles

SproutsIO is always learning. Core to the SproutsIO experience is the ability for the system to adapt and learn over time and optimize each plant’s growth based on your personal preferences. Machine learning software develops growing profiles and harvest schedules from real-time system data. Traveling on holiday? SproutsIO can slow the growth of your plant to prepare for harvest upon your return.

During her time at the MIT Media Lab, CEO and co-founder Jennifer Broutin Farah researched new technologies to develop a system that translates the intimacy of growing into a format that is efficient, easy to use, and easy to maintain—all while using a fraction of the resources of standard growing practices. She brought this research into the lab based on a collaboration and prototype development with the NYC Parks Department in 2009. In 2013, Jennifer and her partner and co-founder Kamal Farah started the company to bring these ideas to the world.

SproutsIO has been thoroughly designed and tested. We have conducted extensive surveys and testing sessions to provide the functionality, performance and user experience of the system that supports the interests of our growers.


Beta Testing

In 2014 SproutsIO conducted an online survey with over 800 respondents who registered through the company website to identify our target demographic, identify beta testers and asked pertinent questions to inform development.

In Spring of 2015, we conducted a rigorous beta testing program for the Complete Functional Prototype (CFP) that included focus groups, in office beta testing sessions with observation, and at home testing without observation for a period of two weeks. Surveys, interviews and recordings were conducted to document the process. SproutsIO interacted directly with our customers to test design and interaction features associated with the user experience.

Tastemaker Program

In Winter of 2015, we piloted our Tastemaker Program for the Design For Manufacturing (DFM) model with chefs and culinary professionals in order to refine the taste, texture, color, and shape of the produce grown for their dishes. We were also testing the performance of the system in the demanding environment of a professional world class kitchen. SproutsIO was piloted for two months in two of James Beard Award-Winning Chef Barbara Lynch’s kitchens: Menton, a Relais & Châteaux restaurant, and No. 9 Park in Boston. Together, the menu planning requirements of each restaurant were analyzed and a tailored growing program was developed for each.  

Menton’s Head Porter & Saucier Brian Krieger demonstrates the benefits of having SproutsIO in a restaurant kitchen while preparing “Tortellini en Brodo”.


Interview with Chef Barbara Lynch

Acclaimed Chef Barbara Lynch explains the limitless culinary possibilities that SproutsIO creates through Personal Produce™.

Interview with David Rose: Author, Technologist, Entrepreneur

Award-winning entrepreneur, author of Enchanted Objects, and MIT Media Lab instructor David Rose, discusses the role of SproutsIO in connecting with your food.


SproutsIO is thoughtfully designed so that all you need to grow is included in system, in a convenient size.

  • SproutsIO Device Dimensions: 12 in (30.5 cm) diameter base x 36 in (91.5 cm) fully extended height 
  • SproutsIO Device Weight: 12 lbs. (5.5 kg) 

When you receive your SproutsIO out of the box, it will come in two parts, the lamp arm and the basin. Place the basin on top of the lamp base before getting started.

 The details of SproutsIO have been thoughtfully considered.

The Specifications & Features video provides a demonstration of the following:

  • High Efficiency, Spectrum Tuned, Smart LED Lighting – energy efficient LEDs that provide tune to appropriate light levels for you and your plants 
  • Plant Health Imaging – on board camera monitors growth, and nutrient density 
  • Status Indicator Light – a visual cue of your system status 
  • Adjustable Lamp Arm – easy to position, flexible arm 
  • Plant Growth Measurement – visual guide for tracking plant growth and lamp position 
  • sIO Integrated Seed Refill – seeds, nutrients, and growth media in a single seamless assembly 
  • Watering Lip – add water directly to the basin, even while plants are growing 
  • Growth Support Ring – stored onboard the device, this provides extra support for fruiting plants 
  • Root Viewing Ring – elevate your plants to view the roots without disturbing the growth or your surroundings 
  • Water Level Measurement – determine water levels at a glance
  • Integrated Drainage – easy pouring direct from the basin 
  • Removable Sensor Module – consolidated sensor module for easy maintenance 
  • Dishwasher Safe Basin – quick cleaning, no fuss 
  • Cord management – easily adjust the distance to the outlet without any slack 
  • Plug & Play – simple setup for maximum growing 
  • App Controlled – an all in one gardening tool on your mobile phone

The research behind SproutsIO began in 2009, and we have been in product development as a company since 2013. Our prototype development and design for manufacturing process is tested, thorough and held to the highest quality standards. We have lined up a comprehensive supply chain and costing both in the U.S. and internationally to support the manufacturing, quality assurance, compliance testing, assembly and shipping of SproutsIO.



FEED + SproutsIO Market Bag

We have teamed up with our friends at FEED to offer backers a custom Market Bag for showing off your produce! Every FEED product sold has a measurable donation attached to it and, to date, the social business has been able to provide nearly 95 million meals to children and families globally through the WFP and Feeding America.

Single SproutsIO

This reward includes 1 SproutsIO system in white with 6 sIO seed refills. Start growing with SproutsIO!

Double SproutsIO

This reward includes 2 SproutsIO systems in white with 12 sIO seed refills. Great for couples, friends and family!

SproutsIO Bundle

This reward includes 5 SproutsIO systems in white with 30 sIO seed refills. Great for workplaces, schools and restaurants!

SproutsIO Holiday Edition

This reward includes 1 SproutsIO system in white with 6 sIO seed refills.

We have teamed up with our friends at FEED to offer backers a custom Paa Bag for showing off your produce! The purchase of this bag provides 10 school meals for children around the world.

Receive the tote bag in December in time for the holidays, and SproutsIO will follow soon!

Stir + SproutsIO Special Event

We have teamed up with our friends Barbara Lynch Gruppo to offer an exclusive private event at Stir in Boston, MA for six people. Meet the SproutsIO founders, learn to cook a meal with renowned chefs, then share dinner and drinks with your companions.

Reservation date to be scheduled with Stir in Boston.

Each of the six participants will receive 1 SproutsIO system in white at the event with 6 sIO refills each.



Our mission is to develop technologies that shift dependence on industrial agriculture by repositioning people from the end of the supply chain to the center of their own food cycle. We are passionate about creating a more centered, healthy lifestyle with a personalized, sustainable approach to growing produce.

As founder and CEO of SproutsIO, Jennifer is committed to realizing a new future for local produce at a personal level. Drawing from Jennifer’s own childhood experience growing fruits and vegetables in the suburbs of Detroit, SproutsIO provides an intimate yet high-tech approach to growing, while representing a more thoughtful approach to nurturing and participating in the world surrounding each producer.

Jennifer earned an M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, an M.S. Advanced Architecture Design from Columbia University, and a BArch from the University of Miami. She has taught at Columbia University, Pratt Institute, and at the New York City College of Technology, and continues to lecture internationally. She was selected as an Innovation Fellow by Wired Magazine, a Tech Hero by Glamour Magazine, a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, and an INK Fellow.

As founder and COO of SproutsIO, Kamal is passionate about each and every aspect of how SproutsIO will redefine individual’s relationship with food. His experience developing complex design projects reinforces his commitment to the role of the smallest details in delivering a meaningful user experience. From how the device is manufactured, to developing the proprietary hardware and software, to growing delicious produce, Kamal oversees every step of the process and quality assurance.

Kamal earned an M.S. in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab, an M.S. Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University, and a BArch from the University of Miami. He has taught at Columbia University, has been an invited critic at Yale, Parsons The New School, Pratt, Carnegie Mellon, and lectures internationally.

Our technology is developed in-house by our highly specialized team of experts; we approach every challenge with curiosity, tenacity and grit. We care deeply about the quality of our product, your experience, and your produce. We are passionate about creating a more centered, healthy lifestyle that integrates seamlessly with the technology already at your fingertips. We’ve been hard at work, listening to your feedback and improving the features that make SproutsIO efficient and easy to use. Get ready to connect with food on a whole new level.

Thank you for your contribution: 

Ryan Durkin, Andrea McClave, Sean Olszewski, Tanya Merrill, Kari Bender, Arthi Vezhavendan, Julia Drubel, Jedidiah Phillips, Allen Huang, Mike Malouly, Ben Kertman, Lindsay Walker

A special thank you!

Kamal Farah, Leila Farah, Stefania Farah, Larry Sapp, Evan Schulman, Glorianna Davenport, Michael Baum, Barbara Lynch, David Rose, Michelle Carter, Abby Gregory, Brian Krieger, Ben Weisberger, Jacques Panis, Laia Mogas-Soldevila, Jorge Duro, Maureen Lewis, Jason Kropp, Grey Parker, Curt Bailey, Nate Delong, Nick Kast, Carlos Perez, Kenneth Kelly, Meredith Mendosa

Risks and challenges

The research and development behind SproutsIO is seven years in the making. Every aspect of SproutsIO has been thoroughly and thoughtfully designed, carefully built, and rigorously tested.

We have developed strong relationships with our manufacturers, suppliers, and engineering partners over the past three years as we have steadily worked from Proof of Concept (PoC) prototype to Complete Functional Prototype (CFP) to the development of our Design For Manufacturing (DFM) model. They have been involved every step of the way, from evaluating costing, material performance and selection, to the way that parts come out of the mold, and assembly sequences, in order to minimize any surprises in the manufacturing process. We have selected partners who have a history of delivering high quality products and are able to grow from the delivery of the initial run to high volume fulfillment. This ability to scale was an important factor in our selection process.

The Design For Manufacture model of SproutsIO has already been realized and tested in Chef Barbara Lynch’s kitchens. With your support of this campaign, we can move SproutsIO into mass production and into your homes, where we can all enjoy Personal Produce™

Contact Information:

SproutsIO Inc.

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