Abby started her Voyage selling around 120 of its “all-in-one smart hydroponics grow box” on Kickstarter, with a relatively modest $100,000 raised on the crowdfunding platform. The device promises to help make growing your favorite plants more or less foolproof, especially if your “favorite plants” are marijuana. In its marketing, the company is careful to share that you can grow any plant you like, but realistically there aren’t many plants that need “replacement carbon filters delivered to your home every 3 months”, and the website issues a “you must be 21 or older to enter this site” disclaimer. The community is eager and ardent with its love for smoking plants. Let’s just say if you spend $1,000 on a single plant hydroponic box, you really you have to like tomatoes for it to make sense; most of its users seem to be getting more and more, uh, valuable crop.
Being based in California, where these things are legal, I figured I’d give it a shot. I bought some seeds, got the plant up about 3 inches tall and planted it in the Abby to see what would happen.
On paper, the product should be such a solid solution. The device features a water growing system with advanced automatic intelligent lighting with Samsung’s LM301H full spectrum plant lights and specially designed high power LEDs to maximize the growth potential of plant photosynthesis. It’s supposed to have “advanced sensors to constantly track growth, with ultrasonic, temperature/humidity, water temperature, water level, and 5.8G radar sensors so you never have to worry about ever again. worry about plant growth.”
The product is a cabinet with an elegant design. Sleek and white, with wooden legs and a wooden top, with a bunch of smart features inside the device: water pumps, lighting and what it claims are “advanced algorithms, sensors to state-of-the-art” and more. Measuring approximately 16x16x48 inches (40x40x122 cm), it is stylish and you could probably find a place for it in any home.
When the unit arrived at my house it had a dented door and a missing door hinge (!) which could likely be attributed to shipping rather than poor quality. Abby’s team was quick to have a replacement door shipped, along with replacement door instructions, which involved unscrewing and re-screwing nine screws. I’m no stranger to bringing tools to gear, but that wasn’t the best first impression. Overall, the hardware seems very well designed, which makes it all the more painful that at every turn the product software tries to stop you from being able to grow effectively. The list of problems is as long as my arm; there was no Android app to begin with (the company finally released an Android app last month), and from there it only got worse.
The app and integration with Abby is so bad that I had just given up on writing a review, but when the firm flooded the floors in my apartment due to a software error, I figured it might be better to write down some of my experiences…
One thing after another
Connecting to the device in the first place was impossible, and it took a good deal of troubleshooting to figure out what was going on; Turns out the Abby only supports 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, which I didn’t have installed at home.
The app is supposed to be able to give you expert live support from the company, but the first few times I tried to submit a photo on my (admittedly old) iOS device, the app didn’t kept crashing. When I was finally able to download a message, the message just disappeared. I don’t think I ever got a response from Abby. The app itself is riddled with typos and bugs, and I’d almost be able to look past it were it not for the fact that the device itself doesn’t seem to have any interest in notifying me of what I need to do with the plants.
The Abby rings me once in a while and gives off a nice green light, but each time it does, the app doesn’t seem to have any opinion on what I should do, and the display on the device itself – which would have been such a good place to communicate what the device needs – simply displays the Abby logo.
The water needs to be changed once in a while, but the app never alerted me when that was supposed to happen. The Abby box itself has a small screen on it, which rotates left and right, and has a button – much like a Nest thermostat. However, the screen never displays anything useful. Like “hey, you need to change the water”, for example.
When I finally figured out that I had to change the water manually, the app gives you simple instructions: take the hose out of the box and place it in a “at least 1 gallon container”. Which I did, but it didn’t stop automatically after a gallon, and the app crashed when I pressed the “Stop pumping water” button, which meant that the pump continued to work and sent the entire quantity of water into the tank of the device. on my floor as I ran to the sink with my overflowing gallon container. Not…ideal.
The box comes with a really nifty nutrient system: it has two slots where you can place the ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ nutrient packs. It does this because one of the packs must completely dissolve before the other is added, to avoid a chemical reaction between the two packs. Unfortunately, this only worked the very first time I set up the machine: after that, it never asked for additional nutrition packs, so the packs I had so diligently placed in the feed holes ended up dissolving in place and made a sticky mess. above the machine.
Towards the end of my review period the plant had grown a bit – I eventually resorted to manually emptying the nutrient packets as the cabinet and app never asked for nutrients. Which seemed suspicious; for my own homemade hydroponic system, I need to balance and add more nutrients every few weeks at least. Unfortunately, since Abby never warned me that the thirsty plant was drinking up most of the water, the plant stayed for a few days with almost all of its roots out of the water, which resulted in the death of many of the leaves on the plant. Not great, and another strike against the “foolproof” nature of the Abby firm.
I had the Abby plugged into a power meter to see how much power it was consuming during my exam. Over the course of 108 days, it burned 198 kWh, which translates to about $50 spent on a weed crop.
The final complaint I have about Abby is that the carbon filters aren’t as effective as they could be; especially towards the end there, my apartment reeked of weed heaven. Not the best first impression for my landlord and a plumber when they came to fix something. I managed to stammer “Uh, is it for work?” which was true, of course, but…yeah. Not great.
I should add that the app is in development and many of the initial complaints I had about the device have been resolved, at least in part. The company launched an Android version, and the water change process was “optimized” last month. Troubleshooting procedures and instructions are built into the app, and more detailed instructions are added. The company is also adding increasing timing, metric units, and later batches of the device are quieter than the one I reviewed (the company claims it buzzes at 40dB now, which is an improvement).
Overall you should be very interested in growing a plant indoors if you’re willing to drop a grand for the admittedly neat hardware that’s so heavily hampered by buggy software that’s impossible to use) and $50 energy to keep everything running growing up. It’s frustrating; I really wanted to love Abby, but in the end, it took way too much manual babysitting to justify the cost. If someone releases a product that actually delivers on Abby’s promises, I can imagine that would be a great buy. That’s not it yet.
#review #Abby #stylish #oneplant #weed #farm #apartment