A new Texas-based startup has invented a "smart" terrarium with minimal maintenance designed to keep your plants alive. Called OrchidBox, it handles everything from easy succulents to hard-to-grow plants like the notoriously fussy Venus flytrap.
The "smart" part consists of technology that senses when the plant needs water and syncs with the sun for proper lighting.
Founder Nathan Hollis, a 26-year-old Dallas native, used his background in computer science and his love of plants to create an acrylic box equipped with LED lighting and a watering system.
The box measures 4x4x7 inches, small enough to fit on your work desk or bedside table. You can grow any plant that fits inside the box. An app allows you to select a pre-designed environment for your plant, and you can set a schedule for how much light and water it needs.
Hollis has a huge plant collection at home, some of which he has owned for seven years.
"It's sad, I don't think young people understand just how diverse our wildlife is, and we are losing more and more plant species every day," he says.
The name OrchidBox was selected to educate people about plant varieties and endangered species.
"While most people think of the stereotypical store-bought orchids, there are actually 50,000 species of orchids, some that are very, very bizarre," he says. “Most people don't know that, and some don't even know what an orchid is, so we wanted to take the opportunity to teach people."
The mini terrarium concept has been three years in the making. When he was in college, Hollis utilized his programming and mechanical engineering education to make climate-controlled devices that were larger, before sizing down his design to something that could adorn people's tabletops.
The company has competitors, such as Biopod Smart Microhabitat and EcoQube Air, but OrchidBox is the only company with a patent, said Taylor Mason, whose company It Crowd Marketing is helping Hollis with the media buzz.
Hollis had a full-time job but quit in February to focus exclusively on this venture. He'll launch a crowdfunding campaign in 4-6 weeks, where you can sign up for a terrarium for $130 and get it later in 2018.