Over the last few years I've found myself trawling through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to see the latest gardening inventions. Sometimes it's hit or miss—but they [the sites] are far more geared towards the "cutting edge" than say—your typical garden center. As more of us move to cities and begin to feel "disconnected" from nature, it's almost an inevitability that we'll see a resurgence of plants in the home. And this resurgence may very well indeed bring new inventions to home gardening.
One of the cooler products that will be launching tomorrow, (Tuesday, April 18th, 2017), on Kickstarter is the LeGrow system created by designer Haobin Lin. I was fortunate enough to trial one of the early prototype models, which now sits on my kitchen countertop growing everything from a mushroom plant (Rungia klossii) to a Callisia repens variegata. I took a moment to speak to Haobin about the mission and inspiration behind LeGrow.
Summer Rayne Oakes: Since I've never had the pleasure of personally meeting you, I’d love to just get a sense as to what drew you to design (in general) in the first place?
Haobin Lin: Well, I’ve always loved the aesthetic beauty of well-designed products and machines; and when I started university I decided to pursue industrial design, so that I could create my own unique products. Clean, well-formed products often have a special personality to them, in addition, to their basic function. When I finished my studies I worked for both Samsung and Philips designing consumer electronics. More recently, I designed many of the subway ticketing and turnstile machines for various metros in China. These projects were interesting, but I wanted to design products that were more important to me. I wanted to design products that could incorporate nature into our hectic modern lives. So I began researching and studying gardening and plant products.
I designed our first garden product 3 years ago. We call it the Mini Power Station. It’s a planter pot with a clock built into the exterior. What makes it unique is that the clock doesn’t run on batteries or plug into a socket. Instead, it generates electricity from the plant itself through a natural chemical reaction in the soil. I learned about this principle in a textbook while researching this industry. The product has done quite well and gave me the confidence to continue working with gardening products.
SRO: Did that inspire you to continue to make an all-in-one-gardening system like LeGrow?
HL: Yes. I was quite happy with the Mini Power Station's success. We were profiled in more than 30 media outlets in my home country of China. Over half the country had heard about our product and our desire to introduce more nature into people’s lives. I was quite surprised by our success and wondered if it was just my design skills that made it a success, but I quickly realized that it was the people themselves. All over the world more and more people are getting involved in indoor gardening and growing plants in general. I think most people share my desire to re-introduce nature into our daily lives, and if I can make it easier and more accessible, all the better.
SRO: What are some of the special features of the LeGrow system?
HL: Well the name itself is a play on one of our favorite features: the LEGO-style stack ability and expandability of our pots. We wanted people to have fun, get creative, and have the flexibility to reorganize their gardens into many different styles. We also wanted our product to be inter-generational so that grandparents through grandkids would enjoy planting and growing gardens.
But in addition to the modular design, we have LED Grow Lamps, a 360° Humidifier, and a Power Pot with 4 USB charging ports. These features are included in various packages or could be purchased separate as add-ons as your garden grows.
SRO: There are so many ways to incorporate plants into one’s environment; you chose to keep a soil-based system vs. something that is hydroponic. Was hydroponic something you considered? What is it about your system that you like?
HL: Because at present the soil-based plant is easy for consumers to buy, easy to transport, and easy for us to construct. The types of plants you can plant are also very diverse. I tend to define plants as an environment, more than crops. But I am also very interested in hydroponic and looking forward to partnering with experts who can help us design an amazing product.
SRO: The LeGrow system is modular and modern in design. I’d love to get a sense of your design process.
HL: It started with the modular design, actually. And this is because I’m fascinated with its possible applications. I used it for computer design and subway equipment design over the past few years. So when I decided to work in the gardening space it was a natural step for me to include this concept into LeGrow’s indoor gardening system.
SRO: What’s the mission behind what you’re doing?
HL: We hope that everyone will be able to include more nature into his or her living space. Introducing more plants into your home has so many health benefits. It’s been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, it’s calming, and depending on the plants it can help clean the air. We want to bring more balance to people’s lives. This is particularly important as the world becomes more urbanized and we lose outdoor space. So LeGrow is all about making indoor gardening clean and easy, especially for beginners.
SRO: How would you like to see plants incorporated more in the urban environment?
HL: It all starts at home. We would like to see more people grow their own indoor gardens to improve their living space. Once they’ve seen how it improves the atmosphere of their homes we would like to see gardens expanding onto balconies and rooftops. This is becoming more popular in China as people are trying to green their environment. It would also be nice to see our governments spend more time and consideration when planning urban spaces. More parks, trees, and plants are good for everyone. China is getting better at this right now, especially in the wealthier cities. But there’s still a long way to go.
SRO: You’re launching on Kickstarter soon; tell us your goals and where we can find you!
HL: Yes. We’re very excited about it. LeGrow will be launching our Kickstarter on Tuesday, April 18th at 8:00am EST (New York). We are hoping to raise $30,000. The money we are raising is to take our Smart Garden into full production. Click here to view our Kickstarter campaign page.
SRO: Good luck! I'm sure you'll do well! 🌿