Respira's Smart Garden: Dawn of the six-hundred-dollar pot plant
Some people, and I count myself among them, are so scatterbrained and disorganized that they should never be put in charge of another living being. It's too late for my children – poor souls, wherever I left them – but technology is here to save your indoor plants from the ravages of your incompetence, allowing you the soothing joy of your very own captive piece of nature with next to no responsibility. Welcome to the future, come get your six-hundred-dollar automated pot plant.
I beg your pardon, it's a US$629 pot plant. And that's at a heavy discount from the Respira's normal retail price of $849.98. But what a pot plant it is! Three feet (91 cm) high and half as wide, it looks for all the world like a huge iPod that's sprouted legs (just an extra $33) and been reclaimed by nature.
If you can't keep these low-light, non-pollinating, tropical plants alive, it's a wonder you can remember to breathe without a calendar reminder. Well done for reading this far! The Respira Smart Garden has its own accessory 20W LED grow light (just an extra $75), so you can put it in the dankest garage if that's your bag. It's got a 5-inch touch screen to play with, a robust Wi-Fi connection, and sensors to monitor and/or manage water temperature, water levels, water flow, dissolved solids, air temperate, humidity and total volatile organic compounds – a nebulous measure of air contamination.
It's got a fan, to pull air in through microbial bacteria in the root systems, and gently blow planty goodness out through the room. The company says "by leveraging the natural processes of biofiltration, Respira removes and permanently destroy's (sic) airbone pollutants, naturally," and that this conclusion is "backed by science." Probably not this science, which concluded "it would take hundreds of plants in a small space to even come close to the air purifying effects of simply opening a couple of windows." But hey, maybe this fan-forced microbial root biofilm action is a game-changer, and if your place is anything like mine, windows can be all the way across the room from where you're sitting.
The Respira is low-maintenance. It is not, however, zero maintenance. Instead, it's like a vegetable Tamagotchi that will make its demands electronically, via a phone app. Every 10 days, you will have to drag yourself to the sink with a jug and fill up its 16-liter (4.2-gal) water tank. That seems like a lot; I don't think I drink that much water myself. Every six months, the whiny little blighters will demand "nutrients." The first refill's free, and after that Respira will be happy to supply you for a price.
Every two months, you'll have to pull a filter out and give it a hose down. And, it's worth mentioning, it arrives with its own plants, but you'll have to pull each of your 13 plants out of a bag and poke them into the hydroponic "grow media" that will be their home until you forget to feed yourself and expire in confusion.
I don't know, it's all sounding a bit much to me. Maybe if Respira provided a plant technician that could handle all the busywork. I guess I could give them a key, so I don't have to get up and open the door all the time. Cyberpunk 2077 is due out soon and I'll have some serious sitting around to do.
Orders are open now on a limited run of 500 initial Respira Smart Gardens at the aforementioned price of $629. A quick back of the envelope calculation tells me this much money would buy a dozen Zebra plants, 10 Peperomia Moonlights, 25 Fruit Salad plants, five assorted Anthuria, a bucket of "lucky bamboo" and something called a Fiddle Leaf Fig at my local mega-barn hardware store. But they wouldn't text me when they're thirsty.