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back to blog Ricky Stephens October 15, 2018 1:33 p.m. EST

‘GrowStrip’ Brings New Level of Control and Automation to Indoor Growing

This article, featuring AgTech X Co-Working Member Dan Nelson, was initially featured on www.agritecture.com

Grow Computer, an agriculture technologies startup that grew out of the Agtech communities in Brooklyn, NY, and Sacramento, CA, just launched a campaign for their debut product: GrowStrip.

The team at Grow Computer is developing a suite of devices that make indoor grows simple, smart, and bountiful. At the core of this system is GrowStrip, a single device for powering, monitoring, and interacting with the different parts of a “grow”.

The days of plugging different system components into multiple power strips each with different timers is over, as GrowStrip’s 8 programmable outlets allow you to wirelessly control and monitor the power consumption of each plug through any device. Grow Computer’s ultimate vision is to give every grower the technology to grow any plant, anywhere in the world.

Agritecture had the opportunity to sit down with the Co-Founder of Grow Computer, Dan Nelson, and hear about his incredible story and vision. You can watch our exclusive interview below! Prefer to read? Scroll down and read Dan discuss his pathway to becoming an Agtech entrepreneur, and his vision for Grow Computer into the future.

How did you originally become involved in Agtech?

Dan: I think I had a pretty unique path to Agtech, as I never really had even grown plants until a few years ago.  My real journey down the rabbit hole started a few years ago when I was leaving on my honeymoon and needed to figure out a way to keep my balcony garden watered for 17 days. As a natural tinkerer, I started playing around with irrigation and researching a bit about hydroponics.

While on the trip, I read Abundance by Peter Diamandis which introduced some of the exciting potential opportunities around the “Future of Food” and I came back hooked and on a mission. When I got back from the trip, it was right in time for Agtech Week 2016 (in NYC) and I was able to meet some folks in the community, and was instantly hooked.

I also realized pretty quickly that I was never going to be a farmer, and my interest was always about making farms smarter, (as my 2016 SquareRoots application shows). I first started with container farms, then moved to grow racks, then grow boxes, and ultimately just the computing and data side.

Why did you decide to start Grow Computer?

I don’t think I was looking to start Grow Computer at all, it was just an amazing confluence of things that came together at the right time during Agtech Week 2017. I was given the chance to present some research I had been working on around the landscape of at-home hydroponics “appliances” because I was convinced that people would want to grow food in their homes and was researching devices in the space while building some of my own devices and boxes at home.

For that event, my now Co-Founder Ian sent me a prototype he was working on, at which point I took it apart, and said “this is it”.  Ian and I then started chatting weekly to discuss some thoughts around this device and what the product could look like in the future. For me, the most important part was “plug n play” sensors (think computer keyboard, you plug it in and it just works), because we needed this to be easy and accessible for everyone. After about 6 months of research and conversations, Ian figured it out, and we incorporated a few weeks later.

It was only really a company once we brought on David, Dylan, Monti, Wythe and Andrew. These guys are amazing and have dedicated their time and effort towards building something special, and we would not be here without them.

What is Grow Computer, and how do you think it will impact the landscape for indoor agriculture?

Our first product is called the GrowStrip and is the first consumer-friendly digital platform for indoor growing. What that translates to is a simple device that anyone can integrate into their new or existing indoor grow setup and finally get access to remote monitoring, data collection, automation and recipe sharing, right from their phones.  Right now, unless you are in front of the plants themselves, there is almost no affordable and accessible solution for people to know and control what is going on within the grow.

We believe that when combined with easy data collection we can unlock an entire world of exciting new food production in cities around the world. We see GrowStrip being the bridge to a global community of farmers, home-growers, students and researchers working together to get better and smarter about indoor growing.

What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have done with my life, and I have taken more than a few lumps along the way. Every day is a challenge because there is no script, and you are constantly working to best utilize the resources you have at your disposal, whether it’s time, money or most importantly, focus.

My biggest specific challenge is balancing the emotional side of starting a company. Every moment is a balance of expectations, both within the company and personally. There is a fine line between getting riled up and excited about the potential world-shaking long-term vision, and the focus required to handle minute details of what you are working on at that specific moment. Even when you get to the point of a temporary balance, anything can set it off both high and low, and if you can’t recover, everything will spiral out of control.

The only two ways I have found to combat this is to first surround yourself with amazing people both on the team and personally, as you need people you can trust and turn to when you are in that foxhole.  Second, is to only control what you can control, and not let your balance be set off by things that you can’t control, no matter how much effort you put into it.

What are a couple of the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a company?

I think operating as a bootstrapped company is a unique challenge, but it has been a great exercise for us. While it would be great to be able to invest in everything we want, having a limited time and financial budgets allows us to be super focused on everything we are building and keeps us grounded on delivering an amazing product to as many people as we can.

What does Grow Computer look like in 5 years time from now?

I would like to think that Grow Computer will continuously turn out smart products to make indoor and urban agriculture easier, smarter and more capable. We are looking forward to being able to integrate some of the most exciting technologies like artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics into indoor farming, and to see what happens when anyone around the world has access to this technology. Most importantly, we hope to build a community of passionate growers that are pushing the limits and capabilities of urban agriculture around the world.

Learn More About the GrowStrip Here


About the Author

Ricky Stephens

Co-Founder, AgTech X.
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