GrowOS Is The First Digital Operating System For Indoor Agriculture

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Agritecture sat down with Grow Computer before this year’s GreenTech Conference in Amsterdam. Grow Computer is participating at the Vertical Farming pavilion at GreenTech 2019.

Agritecture: Tell us a little about yourself, and why you started GrowComputer?

Grow Computer: We started Grow Computer to help the world build smarter farms.  Originally, our team was working on the MIT OpenAg project, where we saw global excitement and opportunities around indoor agriculture, yet we were consistently frustrated by the lack of ‘modern’ and accessible technology.  When we started in 2017, we wanted a system with access to our growing data, controls, monitoring and more through a digital platform (like our phones), and couldn't believe there was nothing available for hobbyist growers like us.

As we started talking to more and more folks in the space, we realized our problems were not just isolated to our home growers.  Farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, researchers and more have told us time and again about their desire for better tools, connectivity and products to take their systems to the next level.

Our team believes that the global impacts of climate change are going to open up future opportunities for indoor and controlled environment agriculture to take a larger role in our food system. With this thesis, we saw that there was a huge opportunity to develop a smart and flexible operating system for indoor agriculture that is a better tool for growers, of any size, to better visualize, track, monitor and share their grows with any other farmers around the world.

What’s the vision of GrowComputer as a company, and what are some of the different products you’re working on?

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We believe that there is a global demand for fresher, better and more local food, yet the potential for this opportunity has just barely been scratched. Indoor and controlled agriculture is an exciting trend for the future of food, but we believe that the tools to enable profitable and successful growing need to be better democratized to everyone and anyone who wants to grow. We are seeing amazing progress here in NYC with industry leaders like AeroFarms and Bowery farming, but we also see that many people who want to participate don’t have access to $10’s of millions to invest in new farms and systems.

Our mission of Grow Computer is to be an accessible, affordable and flexible technology platform and tool for all of the passionate entrepreneurs, farmers, educators, enthusiasts and researchers to have a digital platform that can unlock some of the capabilities of the big indoor farms on an individual level.  

We are most excited about hearing from makers of all kinds who have a project in mind, and without the Grow Computer platform are stuck building futuristic projects with antiquated tools. With our system, and some easily accessible IoT hardware, we can instantly bring any grow to the 21st century.

How is GrowComputer different and better than many of the other products already out there?

There is so much attention on the ‘Agtech’ market right now, and so many great entrepreneurs creating amazing solutions for problems faced in the space. However, we see that time and again, these companies get stuck in a ‘hardware-silo’ or ‘software silo’, where there is little interconnectivity between these systems.

Almost every hydroponic farm or grow is a totally unique system to itself, with a unique combination of hardware components (lights, fans, pumps, HVAC, etc) and software platforms.  Because of the lack of standardization and easy communication protocols between these companies right now, it’s impossible for any of them to support connectivity to all of them. Now, with each farm being isolated in its configuration, there is a huge transaction cost or software lead time to get these farms to communicate properly to all of the components within it!  

Our goal with GrowOS is to be able to talk to EVERY hardware component and data source that exists in the market (all of the lights, pumps, data sensors, weather apis, solar panels, energy utilities) into one “contextual ontology” that is flexible enough to interpret devices from different manufacturers into one structure.

The real key is that once we have that consistent structure, we are allowing ANYONE to build software that can operate on any system using our platform, and we can create a global network of growers and farmers that can share information and software between their grows seamlessly.

What is different from the last time you were featured by the blog in 2018?

In 2018, we were a very different company, and we have evolved a lot since we were covered by the blog in 2018 for the launch of our GrowStrip on IndieGogo.

Last year we were still solving the same challenges of getting growers better access to their data and controls ‘from their phone’, however we had a fundamental flaw in our thinking. In December, after a debrief of why the campaign was unsuccessful, we realized that hardware manufacturing was not going to be our competitive analysis, and looked to new options of getting people to our software, GrowOS, which we believed was where our real promise was.

We looked into Internet of Things ‘IoT’ and saw an amazing match. Rather than build and manage our own manufacturing, we can take advantage of over 100bn devices already IoT capable. Now, for our early tests, we can source components through efficient channels like Amazon Prime right now to set up grows, and don’t have to worry about our supply chain (yet). Also, the IoT Market is projecting 40% growth for the next 10 years, and is projected to be worth almost $1.6 Trillion market by 2025. We feel that focusing on software, and leaving our hardware selections being more market driven will allow us more flexibility in our strategy and let us ride the IoT wave more efficiently.

Looking back, it seemed like we ended up in a common entrepreneur problem! We were so consumed by the product we were selling that we lost sight of solving problems for our customers.

Who should be thinking about using GrowComputer for their operations?

The best part of our job is to hear the exciting projects people are working on, and hearing that they wish they could have control, monitoring and data from their phones!  Everyone says “its 2019, why isn’t there an app for my farm?” We have heard from people growing things like microgreens, leafy greens, cannabis, mushrooms, and other plants to animals like crickets, fish, chickens and even lizards!

We would say that anyone who is looking to control and manage a physical system or controlled environment of any type should reach out to us!

Author Bio: Dan’s Agtech Odyssey started  when he tried to figure out how to keep his NYC balcony garden alive for his 17-day honeymoon, and has been obsessed with smarter farming since then. He is an experienced entrepreneur and startup founder and has spent his 15-year career applying his knowledge of economics and strategy to work with startups and founders.

Contact Dan: dan@growcomputer.io

Agritecture