Sprouting Nutrients

Shuya Gong
Jan 19, 2016 · 4 min read

Imagine your house plant could grow the very nutrients that your body needed to feel its optimum. Imagine your own plant knew when you were iron deficient and it grew the right amount of iron for you to take/eat each day in the form of its leaves. Project that even further and fathom the potential to grow all of your nutrients.

This is Sprout.

A regenerating, personal plant system tailored to your nutritional needs. The potted aeroponic and temperature controlled plant, the size of a coffee maker, will sit on your kitchen counter, grow and regenerate to meet the specific nutritional needs of its grower.

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How does Sprout work?

Sprout is a cross platform experience that engages the user in a daily ritual, bridging the gap most people have between understanding and accessing their nutritional needs. The magic begins with a starter kit with a planter and seed kit. There are several features embedded in the system that really differentiate it from your garden variety flower pot, including a blade-less air wall that regulates the climate of the plant and optimizes it for quick regenerative growth and absorption into the body. Infrared lights in the base promote growth and nutrient vials in the front panel of the planter are connected to the hydration system of the roots, which are regulated by the internal food computer.

The diagnostics side of Sprout stems from the fingertip sensor on the top of the pot. The user simply presses down on the button until it vibrates, the haptic feedback alerting them that a micro-sample of blood has been taken for analysis. The results of this test are displayed immediately in the phone app to show deficiencies, and the nutrient input sprayed onto the roots are adjusted in the food computer.

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Sprout’s companion diagnostic app. Use to analyze and track your nutrient levels.

Initially, Sprout starts with the most prevalent nutritional deficiency: iron. Eventually it will include much more — Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, eventually encompassing the whole range of your daily multi-vitamins. These nutrients are fed into the plant through capillary action and are bio engineered derivatives of the succulent family, and is an efficient way to deliver water soluble nutrients, while fat soluble nutrients might be grown in a nut or more oil rich plant matter.

While this sounds far fetched, the technology is right at our finger tips, with the diagnostics inspired by Theranos, and the bioengineering inspired by the work done by the MIT Open Agriculture initiative, and we believe that this is achievable in the next five years. Eventually, Sprout could be a comprehensive home health diagnostic and a nutritional source that grows with you. Theranos, a quick at home blood test, can test for 47 different health metrics, including STDs and pregnancy. Imagine if Sprout could, through your daily diagnostic, be an up to date informant of your bodily condition, perhaps blooming a flower if you were pregnant, and then shifting the nutritional output for prenatal care as a follow up. While at surface level this is a simple plant and pot, in reality it’s a platform level revolution for nutrition and access to ensuring personal health.

So what?

Plant regeneration with Sprout means the grower can be dependent on a growing plant instead of a vitamin shop or other supplier of pills and powders for supplements. Vitamins and supplements are a $36.7 billion industry (according to Nutrition Business Journal) which is ironic, because a lot of nutrient deficiencies could be solved not by getting more vitamin pills but by eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of vegetables, proteins, fruits, and grains. Doesn’t that seem a little like a counter argument for Sprout? Yes, and no. To say that we need to just give everyone more fresh fruits and veggies implies a massive shift of culture and economy, something that is possible in the long run but not feasible on a small scale.

And so, Sprout is a nudge from a plant, reminding you that the things we need to survive and stay healthy don’t stem from a bottle but from a plant, the Sprout planter itself a reminder of an ancient art — placing a seed in a pile of dirt, to grow our body’s most vital nutrients, and the diagnostic providing access to our own nutritional status, opening the doors towards better health, reconciling the split we’ve developed between food and nutrients.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by a Food + Future coLAB Fellow to share their concepts and experiences from the second week of our January 2016 program, focused on the theme of Access. For more information, please visit foodfuturecolab.com/access.

Food + Future

Food + Future was a collaboration between Target, IDEO, and…

Shuya Gong

Written by

Designer @ IDEO CoLab. Harvard 2017. Percussionist, mechanical engineering, design. @ohmygong

Food + Future

Food + Future was a collaboration between Target, IDEO, and the MIT Media Lab that explored the future of food transparency and trust. It closed its doors in June 2017, but its thinking lives on here.

Shuya Gong

Written by

Designer @ IDEO CoLab. Harvard 2017. Percussionist, mechanical engineering, design. @ohmygong

Food + Future

Food + Future was a collaboration between Target, IDEO, and the MIT Media Lab that explored the future of food transparency and trust. It closed its doors in June 2017, but its thinking lives on here.

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