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A countertop smart garden that can grow everything from pot to peppers

This start-up is planting a new smart garden for those looking to cultivate their green thumbs year-round. And it says users can grow anything from basil to pot right from the kitchen counter — no soil required.

"It typically costs around $1,000 to do an indoor grow setup, and we are making a garden system that is easier to use, more affordable and more manageable," ROOT co-founders Brielle Pettinelli and Eric De Feo told CNBC.

The two met in grad school while working on their degrees in product design. Their focus was to create products to better connect people to their food sources.


ROOT’s indoor smart garden uses programmable LED lighting and an irrigation system to help maximize growth.
Source: ROOT
ROOT’s indoor smart garden uses programmable LED lighting and an irrigation system to help maximize growth.

So the duo came up with ROOT, a 2-foot-tall plastic planter device lined with cutouts to fit small, seeded pods, where individual plants can grow. The founders said ROOT uses programmable LED lighting and an irrigation system to help maximize growth.

"LED lighting mimics the natural sunlight stream that plants crave so your garden will flourish faster and grow more quickly and efficiently," De Feo told CNBC.

Users can then sync the device to the ROOT smartphone app, which sends reminders to add water and nutrients. Customers can also garden on the go, by selecting the time of day that the LED lights turn on or off via the app.

The ROOT garden grows 12 plants at a time, anything from cherry tomatoes, kale, hot peppers and pot. The system, which does not work with root vegetables like carrots or potatoes, is best for growing a group of similar plants that require the same amount of light and water.

ROOT is currently pre-selling its starter kit online for $299, including lettuce seeds and a dozen planting pods. According to the founders, customers will be able to order refill pods on Amazon, likely for $40 each, the founders said. They plan to roll out the device this spring.

Getting into the weeds

Patrick Rea, co-founder of Canopy Boulder, an accelerator for early marijuana start-ups, wondered who would be the target customers.

"One in 3 Americans statistically want to garden, but where we find that the earliest adopters in this space will be is the cannabis space. That's because people are willing to pay the price for new technology today," Pettinelli said.

But David Wu, a venture capitalist at Maveron, asked whether ROOT would make money on the device or by selling seeds and planting pods.

"Over time with scale, we will be able to make a really decent margin on the product itself. We can take the technology that's used in the ROOT system and scale that to an entire family of products," Pettinelli told CNBC.

ROOT is manufactured in the U.S. and is patent pending. But there's already competition in the space, including companies like Miracle Gro-AeroGarden, another indoor soil free system, and Leaf, a smart indoor garden just for pot plants.

ROOT, headquartered in Redwood City, California, is funded with $500,000 from investors including Dreamit Ventures. The start-up told CNBC it plans to launch another round of funding in the spring.

Additional reporting by Kelly Lin.

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