We finally received the controllers printed circuit boards from our manufacturer and they look gorgeous (at least for geek-minded people like me). We started to test them and we immediately found an issue… one of the mounted microchip is wrong. The model number differs by just one letter, but the chip is completely different and it doesn’t work in our circuit. A further investigation with the PCB manufacturer brought to light that they received the wrong component from the chip manufacturer itself and they didn’t check well before mounting it.
After a few minutes of despair, we quickly found a solution. PCB manufacturer was very helpful and so we sent back the boards to replace the chips. They are being reworked right now, and in few days we will have them back on our desk.
This small setback doesn’t change our plan and today I’m proud to announce that we are opening subscription to our Controller Beta Testing Program.
If you are a passionate grower, you can check all the controller details here and join the program here!
If you are not interested in joining the Beta Test team and just want to receive the end product after all testing, we offer a special pre-sale price that will last until we go into full production at the end of the beta program.
You can pre-order your controller today here.
I just received news from our supplier that controller’s PCBs are on the way . We will receive them in few days and then we will program them, do the final tests, assembly the enclosures, package them and they will be ready for starting Beta Test!
In the meanwhile, we are finalizing all the documents and clearing out all the non-technical details. We will open the applications very soon, stay tuned!
Just an update on the situation in these cold days of January.
The Alpha testing phase for our controller will terminate as planned at the end of January. Then, in February we are going to start the Beta testing program, widening the circle of beta testers and opening it to the public.
Let me recap what we’ve done in the past months.
We distributed our hydroponic controller to a small group of experts to see how it would work in real life situations. This was an important step because, as usual, everything always works well in your laboratory but when your users start to play with it all the strangest things start to happen… It’s mathematical.
As a development engineer you think all the possible use cases, you write thousands of test case for unit testing, you try to crash every single software module, you smash the box, you throw it into the lake, and at the end you are satisfied. Your software is a tank. It will work forever. Nobody can stop it. Nobody.
Except your Alpha tester. The dreaded Alpha tester.
How is it possible that in half an hour your Alpha tester can cripple the product that you lovely tested for months? Does he have supernatural power? Or is it just (bad) luck?
Jokes aside, this is often due to the fact that you develop and you test your product in determined and stable conditions on your bench. Then you test different setups and it still works. But as hard as you try, it’s very difficult to test all the possible environment. And guess what? Your user has for sure one of those environments that you didn’t test and that causes that extremely rare bug to come to surface.
Moreover your extremely curious user will try to do something that you didn’t tried because you, the engineer, know that it would not work. That’s the power of user.
But I’m not blaming our Alpha testers. Instead, I want to publicly thank them for having helped us on finding those nasty bugs. During the past months we passed some great moments of frustration on both sides and I want to thank them for the patience toward us and the product. With their help we could identify some major bugs and things that didn’t work as expected. Besides, they also gave many interesting advice on how to improve the controller.
So, a big thank to you, dear Alpha testers.
This is just another demonstration of how important is to test your product as soon as possible with your users. Even on a small scale.
Now, we didn’t wait the end of the Alpha stage to implement the improvements. Hot software fixing has been done on-the-fly and automatically uploaded on testers’ machine. In parallel we started working on the improvement of the user interface, that lacked a bit of usability. This will be ready for the beta.
On the hardware side we worked on a new release of the hardware that solves a bunch of other problems. We already have the new version on our table and we are testing it internally to check that everything is fine.We still have to do some major work on the documentation, the website and everything else not technical.
But the machine is working full throttle and everything will be ready for the February Beta test.
Stay tuned on this channel, you will soon get some good news.
Long time has passed since last post and you will be curious about our progresses.
Behind the long silence there thousands of line of code, dozens of burnt integrated circuits, countless sleepless nights and hard, hard work. Uh, and even some beers.
We progressed well on all the departments and the result is that last week we proudly started our official alpha testing program for the controller.
For this first stage toward the release on the market, we provided alpha prototypes to our selected partners. We distributed a small testing kit to our testing team that includes botanists, biologists, teachers, marketing people, industrial designers and shop managers. With their help we will refine the features set and hopefully iron out most of the bugs in order to prepare the next phase, public beta testing.
For the public beta testing we will open the program to any interested party. We will announce it officially during the coming months. Subscribe to the newsletter to not miss the opportunity!
There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. (William Barclay)http://abisgroup.ru
Let me try to fulfill my promise to answer all your questions. Today’s blog will deal with the “why” we are doing all this.
We are developing a product. It will help you growing your vegetables at home. Nice. But… why?
Good question, that in reality can be translated to “why are we doing this?” and “why should you care?”.
The answer to the first question is that we really want to improve the health of our magnificent planet and the people living on it. The motivation that keep us waking up early in the morning and go late to bed is that we want give our contribution in saving the world. Of course, there are many ways. We tried to candidate to the Miss Universe contest since it seems that saving the world is the common goal of all the candidates, but without success. So we went back to what we are good in: inventing things (and having fun).
We believe that the current state of the food production chain is not sustainable for the long term. Take a look to the vegetable production. Food is cultivated in remote areas using intensive agricultural methods. You know what it means. Chemical nutrients, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are pumped into an otherwise dead ground. Water is sprinkled with a great use of energy and mostly wasted into the land and air. And then what? Vegetables are harvested almost raw weeks before consumption, they are stored in refrigerators and then they are transported for thousands of kilometers to arrive on your table.
It is happening every day. Does it sound good to you? To us, no. So we decided to do something.
We aim to bring back food production close to the consumer. It used to be this way, but globalization changed everything. We promote local production and local consumption. We are lucky to live in a country (Switzerland) that has the chance to grow its own food (not completely exploited, however), but we recognize that not all the big cities or areas of the planet have this possibility. We are working on solving this problem. We are developing a solution that will enable everybody to grow his own food directly in the kitchen, basement or wherever you prefer. Imagine that near your fridge you have another closet containing and growing fresh and nutritious vegetables. Wouldn’t be fantastic? It may sound futuristic, but it could be a reality in a not so far future.
Remember that the first cars and the first refrigerators were considered too futuristic and without future. Look at them now.