SCOTTS MIRACLE-GRO
INDOOR GROW SYSTEM

Year 'Round Growing Made Simple

CLIENT: Scotts Miracle-Gro

INDUSTRY: Home, Electronics

SERVICES: Design, Engineering, Prototyping

Miracle-Gro Twelve is an all-in-one hydroponic indoor grow system for the home that includes two units: a stackable unit for growing leafy greens and herbs, and an adjustable unit suited for growing larger vegetables like peppers and tomatoes. With integrated and optimized horticultural LED lighting and a built-in pump to circulate water, the system connects to an app allowing customers to control lighting, monitor water, and receive notifications. With a focus on a home décor, this minimalist aesthetic is designed to fit seamlessly into the home.

To develop this fully-integrated grow system, our team of designers, prototype specialists, and mechanical, electrical and software engineers, worked together along parallel paths of solving aesthetic, functional, and production efforts.

Seeking Simple

With an increasing desire to know where their food is coming from, consumers are turning to indoor growing but are facing a number of barriers to successful results. After continuously hearing from customers that they needed a simple way to grow food year-round, Scotts launched a new product initiative with a high priority on helping consumers solve this challenge with their R&D efforts.

When Scotts teamed up with Priority Designs, we sought to diminish the following challenges for successful indoor growing:

  • Light – It’s difficult to get enough sunlight indoors, but growing systems often don’t integrate lighting, or the lighting is insufficient, for successful plant growth.
  • Water – Consumers often forget to water, or have challenges maintaining a watering schedule.
  • Nutrients – Too much or too little fertilizer can be harmful for plants, and preparing the nutrients often requires mixing and can be messy.
  • Home Aesthetic – Indoor growing systems are often a complex assortment of fragmented equipment that is better suited for a basement than home living spaces.
  • Lack of Knowledge – Consumers are lacking the knowledge of the proper amount of lighting, water, and nutrients for successful plant growth, and having too many sources of information can lead to a confusing experience.

Process

Throughout the development of the system, designers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, software engineers, and prototype specialists all worked together under one roof. The close collaboration of teams provided seamless transitions and cohesive solutions throughout ideation, refinement, and all the way through transfer to production.

Ideation: At Home in Any Home

To kick off conceptual sketching, Priority Designs team of designers studied trends in home décor and style, ultimately identifying a need for a universal aesthetic that would blend in, as opposed to standing out, in any home environment. Our designers took aesthetic inspiration from home goods like planters and lighting, and incorporated sturdy materials and construction techniques from home furniture. Working with Horticulturalists at Scotts, designers helped define two platforms to support plants with different needs: one smaller, stackable unit for leafy greens and herbs, and a second unit with an adjustable light for larger vegetables. Aesthetically the units share a design language, but are catered to different plant needs.

Refinement: Designed for Simplicity, Engineered for Growth

As an integral part of development, the prototype specialists at Priority Designs created dozens of full-scale prototypes using laser cutting, CNC machining, 3D rapid prototyping, urethane casting, vacuum forming, metal forming, welding, and painting. To start, simple proof-of-concept prototypes were made from wood and foam core during the early refinement phases to evaluate the shape and size of the unit.

Our mechanical engineering team worked with the Scotts development team to develop and refine the design for production. Careful evaluation of Scotts’ current hydroponic system led to a dramatic simplification of the watering system, which improved assembly and cost. A complete 3D CAD database was created using Creo Parametric software, including 33 custom injection molded parts, 15 custom fabricated metal parts and weldments, 12 custom wire harnesses, 6 custom PCB assemblies, 2 custom extrusions, and over 34 different off-the-shelf components. This production-level database, along with a fully detailed 2D drawing package allowed for a seamless flow of information between the design, engineering, testing, prototype, and manufacturing teams. Special consideration was also paid to cost efficient shipping, and user assembly for e-commerce.

Our electrical engineering team worked directly with Scotts’ horticulturalist to specify the correct color temperature and power from the main source of light, an LED lighting panel. Testing and refinement of the pattern and color temperature were validated with light sensors in order to confirm that plants would receive the amount of light required for a successful harvest.

The team also wanted users to have control over the light for both the plant’s scheduled cycle and the ability to dim of the light. In order to achieve this feature, a custom LED driver circuit was designed and implemented. There are two sensors, one for the water level to signify when the water reservoir is getting low, and another to detect if the water pump is operating under normal conditions.

To create a simple, easy to use experience, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was incorporated into the electrical design. Software engineers implemented a BLE profile that allows for control over the light modes, the schedule start and duration, and monitoring of the sensors.

With this information, users can pair their unit via a connected app to receive notifications on how to maintain and control their plant grow system. In order to allow a user to interact with the device, while preserving the simple industrial design aesthetic, a single seamless touch control was added to the top of the unit.

 

As the design matured, aesthetic and functional prototypes in production intent materials were created for evaluation, refinement and testing. The design, engineering, marketing, and manufacturing teams used these prototypes test and achieve the highest level of quality and optimize the end user experience. Prototypes were also used by Scotts for trade shows, buyer meetings, and marketing literature before production samples were available.

Transfer to Manufacturing: Helping Clear Obstacles to Production

In order to become the first product to be approved under UL 8800 – Horticultural Lighting & System, our electrical engineers refined circuit designs, prototyped boards, tested under extreme conditions, and eventually passed both UL and FCC compliance tests.

Working closely with the client, and their contract manufacturer, Priority Designs’ mechanical engineering team was responsible for initiating and supporting the production release of the product. To transition smoothly into manufacturing, Priority Designs supported the transfer and oversight of:

  • GD&T specification
  • DFM reviews
  • pre-submission testing for UL and FCC
  • first article inspection
  • Beta assembly builds
  • maintaining the production 3D and 2D CAD database
  • production Bill of Materials

Final Product

The final product is an all-in-one, simple solution designed for the home consumer. The Twelve indoor grow system is designed to deliver:

Integrated LED Horticultural-grade lighting & hydroponic system:

  • Optimized for ideal plant growth with no separate hanging or wiring and set up for automatic lighting cycles. Lights automatically cycle on a schedule that is optimized for ideal plant growth.
  • Hydroponic system re-circulates and aerates water within the reservoir with a built-in pump, eliminating the need for users to remember watering schedules, or harm the plant by over or under-watering.

Home Consumer Fit:

  • Upon purchase, users walk through setup steps via a connected app. With adjustable pods, plants can be started from a seed or small plant.
  • Two options in unit size allow for herbs and leafy greens, or tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables that can grow taller with an adjustable plant cage. Smaller units can be stacked to increase plant quantity, without increasing the product footprint in the home.
  • Customers receive packets of pre-measured and pre-dosed nutrients to add just once a month. They no longer have to deal with measuring or mixing messy chemicals.
  • When water or nutrients are needed, sensors in the device send a notification to the app so users don’t need to know or remember schedules. Consumers can experience successful growing with minimal knowledge required.

Décor Aesthetic:

  • Clean, minimal forms and durable materials allow the units to blend into the décor of a kitchen or living space.
  • With just a single multi-function button, the unit intentionally does not include any screens or interfaces to complicate the design.

Impact

By developing an integrated smart device to help simplify and solve consumer challenges of growing, Scotts introduced a new family of products that is helping them move indoor growing into a new category. Scotts debuted the development of the Miracle-Gro Twelve system at the 2019 CES show, earning the Editor’s Choice Award.

As the product prepares to launch to consumers, an Early Bird release on Indiegogo has already sold out 100% of units available for pre-order. The minimal home décor aesthetic has also enabled Scotts to partner with West Elm, introducing the Miracle-Gro brand to an entirely new high-end consumer.

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