BeagleBone Black project spotlight: GrowCubes

By Tara Stratton

Open-source technology is all about getting the power of technology
into the hands of everyone. That’s why we at BeagleBoard.org really
like the idea of GrowCubes —stackable, modular farming environments
that use mobile technology and aeroponics to grow delicious,
organic produce indoors—using 90% less water. Developed by a team
at NYC Resistor (NYCR), GrowCubes democratize agriculture by placing
the power to grow back into the hands of individuals and
communities. “It’s based on the radical idea that food should be
healthy, tasty and accessible to all,” said Chris Beauvois, founder
of GrowCubes. This idea of open-source agriculture has implications
not only for culinary culture, but for some of the urgent public
health issues facing us today.

According to Chris, developing GrowCubes was very challenging.
“Aeroponics is a delicate process, and we spent more than a year
developing our misting hardware alone.” In addition to these
aeroponic spray misters, the system also includes a network of
sensors and data from the Internet to give the system intel about
what each plant needs. With this information, GrowCubes automatically
rotate shelves, ensuring plants get the best possible light.

GrowCubes are powered by BeagleBone Black. Chris and his team at
NYCR chose BeagleBone Black for its high performance, large GPIO
pin count and the added real-time performance of the programmable
real-time unit (PRU) within TI’s Sitara AM335x processor.
“BeagleBone Black is the most complete solution of any kind and is
especially suited to handling the complexities of our product,”
said Chris.

Now that the NYCR team has its project complete, it plans to build
a large run of GrowCubes to distribute to public schools in New York
City.

GrowCubes is currently a contender in Engadget’s Insert Coin: New
Challengers competition, where readers can vote for the most
promising crowd-funding hardware. Online voting starts at 5 p.m. EST
on Saturday, Nov. 9 and ends at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10.
If you are inspired by what GrowCubes can do for agriculture in our
cities (or anywhere else for that matter), consider voting for them
here.

Want even more information about GrowCubes? The best place to start
at the moment is this YouTube video.
You can also check out Chris Beauvois’ interview with Mike Riggs at

The Atlantic Cities blog
. And
lastly, tune into MSNBC at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10. Chris will be
a featured guest!

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