In the summer of 2015, Ramen Dutta began tinkering around with a way to more easily care for his small indoor hobby farm. Although he had a degree in agricultural engineering, he had been working in IT and created an early version of the Motorleaf system on his own. When he met Alistair Monk, who also has a background in the technology sector, at a co-working space in Sutton, a town in Quebec, Canada, things clicked and they officially founded their company.
The center of the Motorleaf system is appropriately called the Heart. It’s a computer device that collects data on the air temperature, humidity, and the light levels of your growing space. When you connect the Heart to your lighting system and feeder pumps, it’ll automate them, and using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, you can set up custom alerts about changing conditions and watch your farm in real time. “We’re the ‘plant whisperer’ since we listen to plants via their data, crunch their data, and whisper back instructions,” says Monk in an email.
From there, you can build up with three other pieces of hardware – the Droplet, the Driplet, and the PowerLeaf – to fully automate your indoor farm. The Droplet monitors your water source, including pH and nutrient levels, then sends this information to the Heart, which adjusts the water level and temperature in your reservoir. The Driplet automates the delivery of the pH and plant nutrients based on live grow conditions or via conditions you manually set. The PowerLeaf automates two other existing pieces of equipment, like your humidifier or heater – in fact, multiple PowerLeafs can control up to 200 pieces; any existing indoor grow equipment will adapt. You can use all four units of the system, or as many or as few as you like.
The Heart. Courtesy of Motorleaf
The company is currently only working with indoor growers they’ve invited, including traditional hydroponic farmers, vertical farmers, tower gardeners, freight farmers, and operations using grow tents and grow closets. Before the Motorleaf system will be available to the public toward the end of the year, they want to gather feedback and make sure “we live up to our claim to work with all types of indoor growers,” Monk says.
The whole system will cost around $1,500, a good price when compared to other automation systems equivalent to just the Driplet, which can run around $2,000. Motorleaf keeps their costs down by working directly with customers, limiting advertising, and employing a small team. They are only interested, they say, in making a decent living while helping folks grow more local vegetables.