Jun 17, 2016

Ever killed your plants? There’s a way you can stop doing that

BYRamarko Sengupta

Bengaluru-based startup Greenopia’s co-founder Mayukhini Pande tells me with a wry smile that the idea behind their self-watering planter initiative is to “make it impossible for you to kill your plants.”
You just have to add water to the planter every five days, which basically eliminates the possibility of your plant withering or dying in case you forget to water it or are travelling, she says.
It also takes away the uncertainty of how much to water and when, Pande adds.
It’s a rainy morning in Bengaluru and co-founders Pande and Mani HK (both NID graduates) sit with me on the terrace garden of their co-working space, discussing their venture. “Plants are smart. They know when they need water. It is us, who sometimes tend to kill them with excess water,” HK says looking at the mini herb garden in the terrace.
Greenopia uses a base cup that holds water, just like the water-table. “Here there is no rain involved, you fill it with water every few days, that’s the difference,” says Mani. There are wicks attached to the ceramic vase that transfer water from the base cup to the top cup whenever the ‘soil’ starts getting dry.
The company doesn’t actually use soil, instead sticking to a medium which is a mixture of compost and coco peat (made from coconut husks).
“It’s actually a 4,000-year old technology used extensively in Africa and India that got lost over time,” says Pande.
To put it simply, it is water-table recreation, she says. Water-table is the level below which the ground is saturated with water.
The startup offers both indoor as well as outdoor planters, which can be bought with or without the plants. Indoor plants include air cleaning varieties such as peace lily (flowering plant), syngoneum and baby rubber plant. Burgundy Begonias, Pink Syngoneum (variegated) and Golden Xanadu are some indoor ornamental plants to choose from.
Greenopia also plans to come out with an aromatic indoor range and is currently experimenting with geranium.
The outdoor offering is a herb garden kit where microgreens (fenugreek, mustard, radish) herbs (dill, parsley, basil, mint, thyme, coriander), medicinals (wheatgrass, insulin plant, stevia which is a sugar substitute, brahmi), and most leafy or salad greens (rocket, lettuce, spinach, fenugreek, amaranth) can be grown.
The default starter kit comes with fenugreek-microgreens seeds.
The planters can be bought from the Greenopia website. The indoor ones also retail on Pepperfry and will be available on Urban Ladder soon.
While the self-watering mini herb garden costs Rs 1,750, the indoor planter costs Rs 1,495 without a plant and Rs 1,595 with a plant.
Smart Version
Greenopia has also developed a smart version of the planters that lets you water your plants remotely via your smartphone through an app. The app notifies you when your plants are in need of water and with the tap of a button the planter releases water to the plants. However, this is not yet commercially available. The company made these for a crowdfunding initiative. However, for Rs 5,000, Greenopia can ship you one from the remaining stock of the Wishberry initiative, that helped them raise Rs 9.85 lakh.

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Ramarko Sengupta is a writer of FactorDaily.