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We grow our own tomato plant with the smart home Abby Grow Box

We grow our own tomato plant with the smart home Abby Grow Box (Image source: Abby)
We grow our own tomato plant with the smart home Abby Grow Box (Image source: Abby)
The iOS-compatible grow box makes it easy to grow a variety of plants and vegetables indoors the high-tech way with firmware upgrades, humidity and temperature sensors, ultrasonic sensors, a water level monitor, and more. It works pretty well unless if you want to relocate the plant elsewhere.

The abby growbox is a well built, tidy, white-painted box, with light wood highlights and a Nest-like combined display and control interface. For $999, it comes with a selection of accessories, tools, and consumables to get you started for the first 3 months, and there's a subscription scheme for consumables that runs at $25 per month. There's little provided in the way of documentation - just instructions to install an app and scan a QR code that directs to an introductory video. After launching the app and registering, there follows a reasonably straightforward process for connecting the cabinet to WiFi and linking it to the app.

Equipment, design and build

In contrast to other growboxes, the abby has been carefully designed for clean lines and a modern look. It is well built in white-painted steel and light wood, and has a simple display with a rotating ring interface. Inside, there is a tank containing some tubing, actuators and level sensors. A pair of fans sit at the back of the enclosure. At top is the light source itself, an array of a few 660nm red LEDs and many Samsung LM301H LEDs, a broad-band (around 450nm - 700nm) source targetted specifically at agriculture and horticulture.
An accessory kit contains an intake filter for the tank circulation, airstones for the air pump, some filter blocks, a pair of pruners, and a variety of equipment for supporting the plant as it grows: 2 types of magnetic attachments, a trellis net, and some hook-fastener ties. There's no documentation for where the various parts go, but it's fairly self-evident apart from the purpose of the charcoal filter blocks - the slots for these are hidden behind a removable grille, at the top inside the cabinet. Another box includes several packets of two types of nutrient pods.


The user interface on the cabinet has limited capabilities. It displays three values (presumably the air temperature, tank temperature, and relative humidity) and some status icons, although the meanings of neither the values nor the icons are documented. Temperatures are in Fahrenheit, and there does not appear to be an option to switch to Celsius. The door can be opened by turning the outer ring clockwise, or saying, "hey, abby - open door".

The cabinet relies heavily on its iOS-only app. Choosing to start a new grow cycle presents a series of dialog boxes that walk you through preparing the plant and setting up the tank. You're instructed to add water, which starts the air pump, to mount the new seedling in place, then add 2 nutrient pods to receptacles on top of the tank. The cabinet drops one pod into the tank then, a short while later the other. This is about the extent of the user interaction with the device: a red status light on the front of the cabinet indicates that attention is required, or a notification will announce that a task needs to be completed. The app provides prompts to guide you through completion of the task, and rewards in the form of an in-app currency called OxiCoins adds an aspect of gamification. There does not appear to be any customisation of parameters such light/dark timings or feeding schedules that might allow optimization for different crop types.


The cabinet draws between 15W and 20W for the controls and pump when the the grow light is off. This increases to 115W when the light is on. The illumination period appears to vary as the grow cycle progresses: earlier stages seem to use longer bright spells; later in the grow, the light is typically off at night.

Abby's sales pitch proposes that the cabinet can be used in any room, but the FAQ acknowledges that it is not silent. The air pump runs constantly, unless the water level is low, and produces around 50db of mainly 50Hz buzz (on a 60Hz supply, which hints that the pump motor may be a brushless DC motor). This is not loud, but may make it inappropriate for, say, a bedroom or living room.


When filling the tank, the air pump starts running once the water half covers a level sensor a little over half way up the tank . At this point you may think that's enough water, but there is another sensor, out of sight near the top of the tank, and it's this sensor that needs to be immersed. This is not pointed out in the app - the primary source of any form of documentation - but can be found on the How To section of the web site.

There appears to be an intermittent sync issue with the app, too. Several times, the app reported that it could not start the pump to change the water because the door was closed, despite the door being open. The only way to resolve this was to kill and restart the app. On one occasion, a potential OxiCoin reward for changing the water disappeared once the app was restarted; this could detract from the gamified element of using the abby.

Thirdly, the instructions in the app can be inaccurate. When changing the water, the app sometimes pumps out only a pint or so, but then instructs you to add 3 gallons. It's not clear whether this is a documentation issue, or that draining the tank stopped prematurely.


In our test, the abby produced stunning growth from a tomato plant cutting. Initial growth was slow but really took off once the cutting had pushed roots through the mounting plug and into the tank: the plant developed both root mass and foliage exceedingly rapidly. It grew far better than its sibling plants, which were grown conventionally in compost and placed in good sunlight, and has since gone to fruit well ahead of its outdoor counterparts.


This is a nicely built piece of equipment that is capable of producing excellent growth rates for fairly modest energy requirements. It is let down a little by a lack of configurability, sparse documentation, and some glitches in the iOS app. However, the app is still being actively developed, so it seems likely that these minor issues might be addressed in future updates.

Disclaimer: The Abby Grow Box was provided to us by the manufacturer for the purposes of this review.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2022 10 > We grow our own tomato plant with the smart home Abby Grow Box
Allen Ngo, 2022-10-10 (Update: 2022-10-10)