If you've ever struggled to grow houseplants and wondered how the green-fingered do it, take solace in this: In the future, you'll be able to call on the network to make sure you've got the right water levels, pH, and lighting.
The MEG is a sophisticated indoor greenhouse developed by engineers in Italy. It lets you control every conceivable growing variable, down to the light spectrum for a particular flowering period. The best bit, though, is that your greenhouse is part of a crowd of similar devices. So, if you're not doing it correctly, there is always someone on hand to help things along.
"We try to standardize and give growth parameters to each plant," says Carlo D'Alesio, one of the engineers. "All the sensors and programming contributes to this open and shared knowledge vision. We call it growing automation."
The network doesn't quite exist yet. The MEG, which is roughly four feet high and 2.5 feet wide, is still in a late development stage, and the developers need cash to complete the software. But it's already showing how greenhouse technology could become democratized. "Until now, these technologies have been limited to big players in growing. We developed this technology to be accessible to anyone," D'Alesio says.
The system runs off an Arduino control board, and includes an automated "light engine," water and nutrient tank, fans and sensors (humidity, temperature, and pH). Using an app, you'll be able to set levels by the hour, either manually or using a crowdsourced growing plan.
"You can have a dialogue between one user and another, because all the MEG users have the same language," D'Alesio says.
The greenhouse, which costs $5,000-plus in a fully assembled version, is due for shipment in October. D'Alesio hopes that individuals as well as research labs will be interested in buying into the network concept.