Company founder says the pandemic has helped boost sales, but the gardening trend was already in place.
TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Hank Adams, founder and CEO of Rise Gardens, at CES 2021 about hydroponic indoor gardening with the use of technology. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
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Hank Adams: We have two gardens here behind me. One is what we call our Family Rise Garden, which is actually a modular system. You're seeing a three-level garden, but it's possible to buy it as a single level or a double as well as the triple. And then we have our personal Rise Garden off to my other side here, which is a smaller version, intended to fit everybody's budgets or countertop spaces as the case may be.
Karen Roby: It seems in the last maybe two years, the amount of people that have indoor plants is just through the roof and the interest in growing inside our homes. Maybe it's because this year we've all been indoors. It's really great to see all that greenery in homes.
Hank Adams: Yeah, it really is. The trend, especially for indoor plants, preceded the current pandemic, but the pandemic has certainly accelerated it. We did launch this year, but immediately in the spring our sales just shot up. And then this holiday season, even though we had a good year, we doubled yet again. So, we've seen really strong demand. And I think it's driven by two things. One is, we're all stuck inside. We're all tired of streaming and binge watching TV or being on our devices. And those of us who are parents, as I am, we're looking for something to do with our kids that's not on a screen. And this is really great. You get to nurture something. It's a beautiful system. The plants are gorgeous. So, that's one trend. The other trend, I think, is people want access to great nutrient-dense food, and this provides it in spades. I think people who like to cook or like great fresh food for their family have found their way to these products.
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Karen Roby: Hank, let's talk a little bit about the tech behind the tech here. What's involved? I know it's Wi-Fi-enabled, there's [Internet of Things] IoT. Take us through a little bit of that.
Hank Adams: It is, at its core, a hydroponic system, which means no soil. It's all circulating water. We do have little pods that we send people, and they'll put these little peat moss pods in a cup, and then they put that in the garden. When we send it to you, some basic assembly is required, but then you add water, you put your plants in. If you enter what you planted in your app, we do the rest. We'll tell you when you need to add nutrients. We'll tell you when you need to trim or prune the plants, when they're ready for harvest, etc.
You already mentioned it, it is an IoT system, so there's some smarts on board. It connects to your Wi-Fi, and so it'll send you alerts as well if you need to add water or do whatever. So there is a lot of technology. We custom manufactured the lights, so they're a nice warm white light, but they're really optimized for the plants to grow at their optimal speed. So yeah, there's a lot of tech built in. And we just announced that we're going to integrate with Amazon Alexa as well.
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Karen Roby: Very cool. It's, if I'm understanding you correctly, for people like me that have zero luck when it comes to keeping things alive and growing in my home, you guys make it a lot easier for us.
Hank Adams: We do. I'm an avid gardener for many years. So for me, the fun part is experimenting with different plants. One of the unique parts of our system is we have adaptations. We built it as a platform, so you could swap out the trays and swap out some components. We'll sell you these plant stands, which lets you grow the really big, robust kales and chards and peppers and tomato plants. We'll also let you do things like vining crops. We have trellises that you can add to the system. You can grow rooted vegetables, even a microgreen adaptation coming soon. So for me, I love it because I get to experiment with all these things. But for somebody who's not experienced with gardening, it's kind of dummy-proof. You don't really have to know a lot about it, and we'll get you going. And it's sort of fun to explore and try and learn new stuff about gardening.
Karen Roby: I love it. Dummy-proof—that is what I need for gardening. For somebody who's just starting out, if you're not a green thumb, that's OK. This will help get people there. Well, Hank, I certainly appreciate you being with me today, and I hope next year for CES, you're able to show off your stuff in person.
Hank Adams: Yes. We would love to do that. It really does show off well in person because there's nothing better than plants to get people's attention in a busy electronic showroom, right?
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