Food & Drink | September 28, 2016 9:00 am

This Device Will Change How You Eat

A countertop garden that’s “set and forget it” easy

We’re going to discuss hydroponics.

Um, like adults.

This is about knowing where your food comes from. It’s about the tactile pleasures of growing your own produce. And it’s about doing it all with one snazzy countertop device (courtesy of an MIT brainstorm) and a smartphone app.

This is going to change how you eat. For the better.

The device is called SproutsIO, and it’s a countertop microgarden that allows you to grow your own produce year-round in your kitchen. Advantages: No gardening (actually, no soil as well). No pesticides. And near-instant food a la The Jetsons thanks to an appliance the size of a breadbox (36” x 12”) that easily nestles on your counter.

But this is real food: the device allows you to grow dozens of different leafy greens, fruits and herbs in as little as three weeks. All year-round.

Developed by architect/teacher Jennifer Farah at the MIT Media Lab, SpoutsIO utilizes a concept called hybrid hydroculture, which features an array of smart LEDs, cameras and an ever-watchful app to stimulate plant growth without soil — it uses about 2% of the water needed for traditional soil gardening.

The device’s camera monitors the seeds and surrounding environment 24/7 and relays the feed to your phone via an app, and it’s a cinch to use: basically, just turn on app/device, insert seeds, adjust lamp arm to about six inches above your intended produce, and add water once a month.

Three weeks later, it’s ready for salad-making.

You can adjust the water and light intake to alter flavors, and the company claims that a family of four can grow the USDA-recommended monthly intake of greens with just two SproutsIO devices and two seed refills (the devices are modular and also easy to pair up in multiples through the app). Theoretically, the device will pay for itself in about seven months with the money you’ll save on groceries.

Not that we’re against traditional gardening, but this is great for city dwellers and people who want quick, always-available access to their favorite herbs or greens. As for what you can grow: think basil, kale, herbs, tomatoes and a variety of herbs. Nothing with deep roots, obviously. A subscription service is available at launch for always renewing your favorites.

The device is available now on Kickstarter for $599 (normally $799), and ships in May 2017.