The company has gone through seven prototypes, the most recent of which has been undergoing testing in 50 Boston homes for the past six months as part of the company’s “Early Adopter” program. The feedback from these early adopters has helped inform a number of key design changes and improvements (more on that later).
The final product is essentially a cabinet—made out of engineered bamboo—with a 26-gallon aquarium at the bottom, a 230-square-inch secondary grow bed dedicated to seedlings in the middle, and a 305-square-inch main grow bed on top. The ceiling—which houses a set of LED grow lights—can be adjusted vertically according to the height of the plants. The 115-pound cabinet also has a built-in storage space for all your aquaponic paraphernalia: seeds, fish food, nutrient supplements, aquaponic test kit, and what have you.
This latest iteration is better than the beta version in several regards. First things first, the fish tank and the grow bed are both bigger than before. And the secondary grow space for seedlings and micro greens is an entirely new addition to the design. The company has also managed to make the whole thing more power efficient—the system consumes just over 100kWh per month—by optimizing the LED lights.
Speaking of which, Grove Labs touts its custom-designed LEDs as the best grow lights in the business. “LEDs are one of the fundamental technologies that will allow indoor growing like this to be sustainable and effective,” Blanchet says, adding that the company decided to come up with its own solution as none of the off-the-shelf LEDs were “tuned for both optimal, healthy plant growth and human comfort.” The full-spectrum (2000- to 5000K), fully dimmable LEDs inside the Ecosystem are designed to mimic the sun so as to stimulate photosynthesis in plants.
Enough with the plants, it’s time to dive into that fish tank. In case you’re wondering which species are ideal for this particular setup, Blanchet said “We recommend schooling fish, such as tetras, blue fins, etc., in addition to snails, clams, and other aquatic life.” What he doesn’t recommend, however, is people growing fish like Tilapia to eat—owing to the tank’s relatively small size. As for stocking density, the company suggests that you stick to one pound of fish per 10 gallons of water.
“[The operational cost] varies depending on what you want to grow. If you are growing fast, you could expect to spend up to $20 to 25 per month in seeds and electricity to run the efficient (but powerful) LED lights and the other electronics. If you focus on culinary herbs and leafy greens, the monthly expenses will be a bit lower.”
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