by Callie

Cloud Farming Comes to Indoor Gardens

Foolproof indoor farming debuted at CES 2016 in Las Vegas. A plug and play smart hydroponic garden design that is fully automated, expandable, packed with high tech goodies, and comes in 3 different models to fit different growing needs. Word is that this brings professional farming in a controlled environment into the hands of anyone. It’s not a prototype. There’s no Kickstarter campaign. It’s already real, and shipping to the US is expected to begin sometime in February.

It’s the OPCOM Interactive Cloud Farm system and comes with it’s own pre-programmed tablet running professional farming software. Sensors and a camera monitor the crops continually from seed to harvest using a combination of photonics and agricultural technology. The gardener can set it to operate automatically, or by manual control. Going somewhere? No problem, you can monitor and control your compact indoor farm via the Android or iPhone app too.

Taipei-based OPCOM manufactures a wide range of high tech lighting and digital imagery products, but this is their first foray into food production. They’ve arrived on the scene ready to provide a indoor gardening system that fits both consumer and food business needs. They’ve got commercial farmers covered too with their 4th system – a customized shipping container outfitted with a series of the largest system that has a 2,000 plant capacity. Anticipating the need for energy efficiency, the huge commercial farming model can be solar powered by adding the solar panels option.

It’s equipped with UV water sterilization, so it’s ready to grow safe food just about anywhere on the planet. The nutrient delivery system uses an A-B formula, so solution mixing could be quite precise. Environmental control is provided with fans for air flow, nutrient solution heating and cooling, automated pH adjusting, highly sensitive LED grow lighting arrays, and something you won’t find as standard equipment on any other smart hydroponic garden – video cameras and sound. According to the available information the 360 degree video cameras, speakers, and microphones are part of the monitoring and sensor setup designed to make the automation more precise. Your own home garden show! Farmville meets reality TV.

Since the seedlings are loaded into the cube to begin the growth cycle, video coverage from the events it’s been introduced at give you a peek at what appears to be¬†germination chamber on one level. Perhaps that section of the large consumer unit delivers only water, because they go straight into the growth cycle once they’re loaded into the Cube. Then the gardener selects the crops on the tablet and the software controls everything… unless you set it for manual operation. It monitors and adjusts to maintain optimum levels of air temperature, humidity, light intensity and color, water quality, pH, and EC. The app and program also tracks the water level. It has real-time reporting to show you the current status of your crop environment. On the Farm Cube model it looks to be able to monitor and maintain optimum conditions for each individual tray in the 4 levels, perhaps at different growth stages, but its hard to know for sure without more details from OPCOM and other news sources. Anyone who attended CES 2016 might know, but it doesn’t appear that any of the reporters know the first thing about hydroponic gardening. They’re more excited about the “Farmville, for real” aspect.

The Farm Growbox is a system that allows you to grow plants that need support and has adjustable lights to position it where you need it (size unknown). Farm Cell is a single tray unit that measures 39.3 x 18 x 29.5 inches (1000 x 460 x 750 mm). The Farm Cube is designed for large families and chefs, measures 39.3 x 78.7 x 33.4 inches (1000 x 2000 x 850 mm), and can hold 200 plants.

Jack Ting, CEO of OPCOM told Reuters in an interview the large consumer size model, the Farm Cube can provide a harvest of 100-200 pieces in a single cycle (about 6 weeks) – depending on the vegetables being grown.

Computex, the¬†largest ICT show in Asia, calls the large Cube model as “an entry-size automated hydroponic plant factory for a large family or restaurants.” Pre-orders are currently being taken on the OPCOM website. Prices are listed in US dollars at $299 for the Growbox, $999 for the Cell, and $3999 for the Farm Cube. Learning how much that commercial Farm Container set up costs appears to be info available only through inquiry, but since it holds a bunch of these Cube stacks, it will set you back a pretty penny, if not several of ’em. While those prices will leave many would-be early adopters out in the cold, total automation in indoor growing is never cheap. Give it a year or two, and like all other new, and exciting things, the price will likely drop.

Get a closer look at what it’s all about in this CNET video at CES in Las Vegas:


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Only strangers knock on the door at Callie's house. People who know her don't bother if the sun is shining - they know to look in the garden.