MADE Project Spotlight: GrowMotion by Chico Weber
If you’ve be at MADE in the past month, you’ve probably run into a giant wooden box that MADE Member Chico Weber is working on. What is this giant thing? It’s not a stargate, or a micro home– it’s the exoskeleton for a hydroponics growing system built by MADE’s on Chico Weber! We sat down with him to ask him some questions about it, and here’s what he had to share:
What exactly are you building, and why?
I’m building an LED-based hydroponic growing system for food, called GrowMotion.
Why? Years ago I partnered with the local non-profit, Beloved Streets of America, and together we wanted to create a solution to the food deserts around St. Louis. Throughout this partnership I have been able to design and test a number of hydroponic and aeroponic systems with the help of a grant from Wells Fargo and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Most systems on the market are cost prohibitive to own and operate, even my own custom systems had the same issue and for years this project had remained dormant until the LED technology was able to catch up.
With a background in 3D printing and product design, I have worked with and built motion control systems and even 3D printers. I decided to apply both technologies directly to GrowMotion to allow the light to pass over a large number of plants rather than stay fixed. This not only allows a single LED quantum board to grow a larger area of crops but also eliminates hot zones that can cause leaf burn and reduce yields. GrowMotion can be used as primary or supplemental lighting in vertical farms and greenhouses. The GrowMotion system also utilizes 3D printed components, making it the first product that takes advantage of a direct-to-market 3D printing system that I have been developing since 2014.
Focusing on this product has been a labor of love really. I have been self funding this project after the funds from the grant ran out. The pandemic has really proven that we can no longer rely on traditional food sources and must find creative ways to access locally grown food or grow our own.
What is the mission of SquareFruit Labs?
Revolutionary products take years to develop. After years of R&D and launching our successful design service, SquareFruit Labs is now poised to offer a line of products that can grow food, provide VR/telepresence assistance, manufacture parts, and store energy.
What sort of prototyping do you do at MADE?
I do custom design work for early stage products. Lately business has been slow and I’m exploring how to bring my own products to market- like GrowMotion!
Who is GrowMotion for?
It was developed through a partnership with Beloved Streets of America. I really wanted to break the barrier to entry in the agriculture market with a more cost-effective solution that allowed individuals and businesses to grow healthy food without the high upfront costs of ownership, depreciation, and maintenance.
What are your next steps?
The GrowMotion system will be made available as a monthly subscription service. I am currently seeking beta testers. A demo of GrowMotion will be available to the public at MADE starting in October. Build plans for the hydroponics system will be free to download later this year.
Working with Beloved Streets of America will allow me to help them realize their vision of opening an urban hydroponics facility that is focused around job training and sustainability that will also take advantage of a number of GrowMotion units and our hydroponic system. I am also reaching out to potential partner businesses and non-profits focused in the agricultural sector.
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