Herbot: Automatic Indoor Gardening Robot
Name “Herbot” makes reference to herbs
then refers to gardening and see later claims
about food in general. It’s commonplace to see
exaggerated claims, mixing scales, and making
grandiose visions from only one small device.
Is this a “robot”? The URL
uses “system” but the
project became a robot.
Also “automatic” is an
interesting addition: aren’t
robots automatic? What
really is automatic or
robotic about this
system? Why is the term
2 “Indoor” indicates the focus on urban
living spaces that are increasingly small
especially in high-density cities. This
product appeals to a “return to
Nature” with references to healthier
and more pure living, a key paradox
Peculiar design decision: a glass enclosure
that isolates most sensorial qualities of
gardening and frames the presence of
Nature in an otherwise artificial setting,
alludes to similar tensions in Sci-Fi:
5 A peculiarly poorly done psd
edition of these graphics
6 Clear clues that indirectly point to a type of users: frame sitting
on the floor, books used as bookcase. Also, is that an empty pot
on the wooden block?
8 Ironic line here. Turns out many clues are often explicitly stated
and “hiding in plain sight” –used in cynical, humorous ways. Yes,
this does look like an expensive (and over-designed) way to grow
plants, arguably one of the most natural things in the world
7 Question: is the name “Her-bot” referring to a feminine
task? The logo is an H in a leaf shape, mediocre design.
The dark video presents a machine with polished metal
finishing, round corners, and (of course) LEDs
12 What is the Google Assistant for? Is left
unspecified, sounds like something else it must
have: feature creep.
13 LEDs seem to display only Google Assistant
functions, unclear but unlikely to communicate
any plant status, watering, etc.
10 A (very tacitly put) “razor and blades business model” where
users are “locked in” into buying proprietary consumables.
9 The imagery is very telling: decorations of “high tech” that are
superfluous, false, and frankly, cheap.
“Bro language” and Apple-like font type. Telling of values and
aesthetics of the designers and possibly their target users
So, this devices uses electricity to supply light, circulate air, and
dispense nutrients. It also produces new waste: empty nutrient
So, remember #2? Tight indoor spaces (city apartments)? This looks
like a big suburban house. There. Are. Plants. Outside. Big. Ones.
15 Size! A monstrous device using very valuable kitchen real state.
Availability. Why must the herbs spend most of their time (growing)
being at hand in the cooking area? Seems like the main function of
this is to display the plants, hence it’s a “conversation piece”
This version looks like a prototype hacked poorly, see the
glass jars used as “nutrient dosing system” and the plant
sticks out of the enclosure
18 What are the children supposed
to be doing? There are claims of
“learning” (science fair type?),
another sign of feature creep
19 Size (again), now placed in the dining area: device obstructs
visual contact and interaction between these actors.
Scale: started with herbs, moved to
garden, now to food. Implying that
all or a good portion of “your own
food” is grown at home. But it’s just
20 Cables supplying electricity are never shown
23 We meet the team. All male, all young, all cool. The clothing, the angles, the settings, the ethnic diversity, all conform to
the message of tech entrepreneurs, the mythical figure of “disruptors”. The language by Talha Sabri is worth analysing
24 Are young people meant to have this box as a centrepiece?
25 All bros have not one but two titles!
Talha mentions the “Global Innovation Exchange” as the origin. Keller says he is
an alumni, but the website does not mention them or this project at all:
https://www.globalinnovationexchange.org Tried to contact Keller by email.
27 Device grows herbs, but ok.
28 This “centralized” argument is pervasive in selling futures of
personal technologies as liberators from top-down control. Claims
of access, democratisation, giving people control (yet, you will buy
their nutrient cartridges). The field of tech entrepreneurship is full
of contradictions and arguments with holes
“More”, “faster”, and “less” than… what precisely?
Agricultural systems have very different impacts depending
on location, scale, practices. You will see this type of empty
claims in many cases
30 At times, numbers and percentages are thrown
in, but go deeper and you will often find no
sources, no specific details, only ambiguous lines
Another box checked: some reference or far-in-the-future (and geographically
remote) vision of doing good. A social saviour complex permeates many emergent
technology applications. As usual, argument here is incoherent and ambiguous.
31 So, Herbot uses less water… therefore show picture of a desert,
and disregard the fact that machine now uses electricity and
access to the Internet, and will need repairs. To grow herbs.
33 Not one, but five (5) different nutrition cartridges are required
34 Of course, there is an app. Machine needs an app to work.
35 Detailed information: how necessary and meaningful? Do
people need this feedback and (false) sense of control to grow
36 Always expect the “i” word, and the “s” word (smart)
Lots to analyse here:
- What does the term “AI” really refer to here? A
bunch of sensors with if-then rules to adjust light,
air, nutrients, water. Yet, see the words used:
think, brain, know.
- They consulted gardening experts to create a
machine for you, the “less experienced” gardener.
This gives a good indication of how they see their
- Machine connect to the cloud, to access a
database… for what? Wasn’t it AI-intelligent?
- Language of precise control, guaranteeing you,
knows exactly, and sophisticated.
- System is smart, so users don’t need to be: a
breeze, at your fingertips.
- Just add water, seeds, and… nutrient solution (in
the cartridges that they will sell you, but nothing
in the campaign or video specifies anything in
relation to the nutrient cartridges)
38 - “Makes gardening more accessible” (at a higher cost) “and more engaging” (putting the plant in a glass enclosure and interacting with your
phone rather than with the plant)
- “Plant growing algorithms or build your own recipe to experiment”
- HerbotOS (the name) “is the portal to the Herbot community” points to the social dimension of gardening
- Marketplace: this is the closest they come to referring to the e-commerce side of Herbot: where the machine will (likely) ask you for
39 Herbot: “a social gardening robot” that… “plays a song or any other
functionality of Google home”. Yes: Play. A. Song.
44 Teleport yourself (choice of words)
41 We learn here that the water in the device is heated and enriched with oxygen (a
pump). Hence, the energy consumption of this device is higher than expected
42 A “personal sun” and UVA, Why, what for? What are the use scenarios where
this would be necessary? Where sunlight is scarce, but this goes against all the
photographs of the locales where the device is shown. In all those images
there is natural light.
43 Assurance of “being entirely safe”
46 The ubiquitous use of “happy” in emerging
technologies. A promise of “happy plants” and “we”
(they) “keep you happy”
48 It is a hydroponic system, but this word is only used
47 How do hydroponic systems use nutrients? A DIY guide:
45 Claims of “energy efficiency”, yet… why add energy in
the first place?
49 “A preferred level of acidity”See step 5 in the wikihow
guide. This customised recipe of nutrients is likely to be
used to justify the business model of using five
50 The three models offered. Each in a few different colours (not shown).
We learn here that the devices come with a HD Camera and Bluetooth
speakers. Because why not. The Mini is good for 12 herbs and comes with
sensors but no nutrient cartridges. So, it’s an enclosed display for plants.
The Grande “takes Pro to the next level” and it “can grow almost
anything”. The graphic design of the LED displays looks improvised, and
the brand language in these three products is inconsistent and looks
51 The choice of questions in the FAQ is worth a separate analysis
altogether, as they point to the voices that the designers hear or imagine
52 The device is growing food, so what are the
regulations that such a device will have to meet?
53 The Global Innovation Exchange is cited here in very
ambiguous terms. However, the Herbot as a “hipster
appliance” doesn’t align with the goals of the organisation:
“a global development technology platform for innovations,
funding, and insights. GIE's mission is to help scale the most
promising innovations by utilizing its ever-growing database
of information to serve as a reliable fundraising resource for
global development innovations, as well as a source of
credible innovation data for the international development
Harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to grow
any plants, anywhere you want. Just pop in a pod,
and let Herbot grow it for you!
150 backers pledged $43,620 to help bring this
project to life.
“I am currently in talks with investors to raise money early next month to fund the
manufacturing of Herbot, since most of the Kickstarter money has gone towards
development and certifications. My team will stay committed to developing
Herbot and fulfill every single order. I am also trying to fundraise for Herbot
through consulting contracts and am hoping to raise enough money to either
manufacture or refund every order by July 2019. We want to assure every single
backer that if we are unable to deliver, we will return every single $ raised on
Kickstarter. The refund process may take some time since we have contracts with
industrial designers and manufacturers.” –Talha Sabri, CEO
Herbot: Automatic Indoor Gardening Robot
Harness the power of Artificial Intelligence to grow any
plants, anywhere you want.
1 Campaign | Seattle, United States
$71,071 NZD by 165 backers
$64,532 NZD by 150 backers on May 5, 2018 with
by farm 4.0
Oct 9, 2018 • 12:04AM
10 months ago
Product Development and App Design
We wanted to reach out with some amazing updates on what the
team has been working on for the last 6 weeks. We were finally issued
the pledge money from Kickstarter two weeks ago and our product
development work is back on track.
We are finalizing the redesign for Herbot Mini, which is being made to
comply with FCC and CE certifications and we are hopeful we can
begin production by early January. Herbot Pro and Herbot Grande
designs are currently being evaluated for nutrient scheduling and CO2
dosing and we expect to get the production sample for them by early
Our software team has also been working hard to finalize designs for
the Herbot IOS and Android App. We will be sharing a remote user-
test for our App in the next 3-4 weeks so stay tuned for that.
Due to financial and design challenges faced by the team in the last
two months, we have not been able to communicate well with the
community. We sincerely apologize for that and hope to stay more
present on the platform in the future.
Building Herbot to be of the highest quality and effectiveness is of
utmost importance to us, and we’ve been working diligently to ensure
everything we’re doing will deliver the best experience. Although we
know this delay is difficult for you we believe that it's in the best
interest of you and our final product. Thank you again for your
support and patience.
CEO, farm 4.0
54 Talha Sabri’s LinkedIn profile lists his role in the
Farm 4.0 company ended in June 2019. Many
people on Kickstarter are furious because there
is very scant communication and it’s likely that
the whole Herbot pitch was a scam, or at least a
very irresponsible project. It is still useful for our
analysis, and it leads me to analyse other
“Automatic indoor gardening” machines… are
there a few or many more out there?
55 The company’s logo of a leaf with USB
roots is also worth a mention, for the
56 Ok, so a simple search shows that there are many such systems out there. It does seem like technology people want to solve gardening…
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