HarvestGeek seeks to empower local farmers with "brains" for gardens

By Erin Griffith , written on February 6, 2013

From The News Desk

It is one thing to read about a cool-sounding Kickstarter project that is just too crazy to seem real, and another to see it in action. No offense to Stompy, the 4000-pound six-legged, hydraulic robot, of course.

HarvestGeek, a much humbler project which recently launched its Kickstarter campaign, has already implemented its plant monitoring and care tools at a local basil farm inside a warehouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, says founder Michael Alt. Using HarvestGeek, the farm was able to quickly scale from a standing start to producing 6000 pounds of basil a month for local restaurants.


Large factory farms have a wide array of tools at their disposal to ensure their crops are healthy, but they're out of reach for small, local farmers. They have nothing but intuition, meaning there's a lot more room for human error.

Gardening is seen by enthusiasts as an art, but by professionals as a science. Small, local farmers, which are increasingly popping up in abandoned warehouses and on urban rooftops, are transitioning from the former to the latter categories. HarvestGeek seeks to help smaller farmers turn their businesses into a science. The greenhouse monitoring system combines hardware and software to automate the plants. It tracks things like pH levels, air temperatures, infrared and full spectrum light intensity, and soil moisture, sending alerts to farmers, analyzing the data and making recommendations along the way.

Alt says HarvestGeek users have begun to learn the exact sweet spots for the best environments for their plants, as the system gathers more data that goes beyond the basics things humans manually check, like temperature. "There are a lot of details out there about how plants grow but its not concrete," Alt says. "It's out best guesses based on generic types of plants."

HarvestGeek is similar to a BitPonics, a different Kickstarter project which was funded this summer. BitPonics focuses on personal gardening use cases, specially for hydroponic plants. HarvestGeek can be used for any kind of plant. Like BitPonics, it is open source and smartphone friendly, although Alt says most small time farmers prefer to monitor things on the web.

Someone actually called this type of project a "real life Farmville." We have come full circle, Internet.