What do plants eat?

 
Roots up close

Roots up close

 

Everyone eats. We eat carbohydrates for energy. We eat protein to build and repair muscles. And we eat fat because ice cream is delicious.


Plants need to eat too. Plants make a lot of their own food by converting the CO2 in the air into carbohydrates using the energy from light. But just like us, plants can’t survive on just carbs alone.


They need to eat a variety of other nutrients and minerals to make their own proteins and lipids. This is where fertile soil comes into play. Roots suck up things like phosphorus, calcium, and nitrogen from soil. However, roots can only absorb the nutrients from the ground in certain forms. 


For instance, one of the defining attributes of organic farms is that they use organic fertilizers such as manure. Manure has large molecules that are rich in nitrogen, which is one of the most important nutrients for a plant. The problem is that the roots can’t absorb this nitrogen while it’s locked away in these organic molecules.


Microorganisms in the soil eat the nitrogen-rich organic molecules and convert the nitrogen into nitrate, which is an inorganic molecule that plants oves and can easily eat.


Many farmers, especially hydroponic farmers, are starting to bypass this process by just adding nitrates and all of the other easily absorbed molecules directly to their soil or water. 
Bypassing this process makes it easier for farmers to know exactly what is going into their plants. Not only does this simplify farmers’ jobs, but it can also make the food safer. Manure can harbor deadly pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella that can contaminate food grown in it.

While hydroponically grown food may not by definition organic, many organic grocery stores and restaurants still love it. They know that in the end, hydroponic farmers are feeding their plants the same nutrients that organic farmers are feeding their plants. They also know that hydroponic farmers, unlike organic farmers,  almost never use pesticides.


Many people are discovering that knowing what goes into their food is more important than the labels that are on their food. More and more people are trying to take control of their food by buying locally grown food and growing some of their own food.


Starting and maintaining a garden is a lot of work, though, and local food isn’t always an option depending on your location. This is why we invented the nanofarm, a kitchen appliance that grows food for you right in your home. 


It works like this: Once you have a nanofarm, you tell us what you want to grow, and then we send you a Plant Pad that has the seeds and nutrients for what you want to grow. After that, you just fill the reservoir with water and put the Plant Pad on the reservoir. You don’t have to add more water, and the nanofarm will tell you when you’re ready to harvest. You can harvest all at once or you can take food as you need it. We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign in August 22nd. Sign up to hear when we launch.