My Hands-On Review: Does the Abby Grow Box Actually Deliver No-Fuss Growing?

If you’re tempted by the idea of having fresh greens and herbs within arm’s reach but don’t have a green thumb, the Abby Grow Box promises near effortless indoor gardening. This smart appliance handles all the tricky parts – no soil, no complicated lighting schedules, no fretting over nutrients. Just set it and watch your plants thrive with minimal work on your end.

At least that’s what Abby claims. And as an apartment dweller itching to grow my own pesticide-free produce, I was intrigued enough to give this inaugural automated grow system a try.

Over the last three months, I‘ve been putting my Abby unit to work. In this hands-on review, I’ll share how the reality stacks up against the hype when it comes to ease of use, yields and operating costs. I’ll also dish on a few bugs and downsides to factor into your buying decision.

Overview: Inside the Abby Grow Box Ecosystem

Before we get hands-on, let‘s quickly unpack what this emerging smart garden is all about.

The Basics

The Abby Grow Box is an indoor hydroponic garden system designed specifically for worry-free growing. The brains behind Abby aimed to make home agriculture as simple as using your microwave.

The system takes care of just about everything that trips up novice gardeners. It features soilless growing chambers with sensors to track moisture and auto-refill nutrient tanks. Custom LED lighting panels automatically mimic optimal outdoor light levels. And integrated air conditioning regulates temperature and airflow to avoid common issues like mold.

With the Abby unit handling this garden grunt work for you, it promises to reduce the usual hours of soil mixing, lighting calculations, watering and equipment checks down to mere minutes per week.

What You Can Grow

This hydroponic setup can accommodate a sizable variety of plants:

  • Herbs – basil, oregano, thyme
  • Lettuce & microgreens
  • Tomatoes & peppers
  • Flowers – roses, lilies, petunias
  • Cannabis (in legal regions)

Vining plants like cucumbers may require some trellising hacks, but generally, the system‘s flexibility surprised me. The only caveat is that Abby works exclusively for indoor growing due to its reliance on artificial lighting and climate control.

How Much It Costs

The main hardware unit retails for $999. Abby also offers a quarterly subscription for $75, which delivers nutrient packs and other replenishable supplies to your door.

There are also deals if you commit to a longer 6, 12 or 18-month subscription upfront, with savings up to 20%.

Now let’s get into the good stuff: how well the Abby Grow Box actually performs when you take it from box to planting.

Unboxing & Setup: Plug-and-Play Process But Heavy Lifting Required

When I slid my new Abby Grow Box out of its shipping container, I immediately understood why the 50 lb weight warning was plastered all over the box. This thing is built solidly from thick steel, with some serious heft in a relatively compact 24” x 24” footprint.

If you can, absolutely get a second set of hands for moving it into position. I was able to awkwardly wrangle it solo down a hallway, but it’s no fun trying to adjust 175 lbs of metal and electronics safely.

Step-by-Step Setup

Fortunately, the rest of the unboxing was smooth sailing thanks to Abby’s handy quick start guide. Here’s how it went:

  1. Lifted frame from shipping pallet and moved to desired spot
  2. Removed interior cardboard braces and protective wrapping
  3. Plugged power cable into outlet
  4. Downloaded Abby mobile app and connected box via Bluetooth
  5. Let automatic first-time calibration cycle complete (~20 minutes)

And…done! Under half an hour from box cutter to fully operational automated grow unit.

Truly, the app connectivity and onboard automation removes virtually any complicated configuration you’d normally tackle separately for lighting, pumps or ventilation. I especially appreciated the minimal cord clutter since everything runs off the main power cable.

Getting Started: Intuitive Onboarding But App Can Be Quirky

With setup complete, I wasted no time getting seeds germinating using the recommended Abby seed starting kit (sold separately).

The seed kit takes a lot of Failure Points off the table compared to my previous DIY adventures in seed starting. The removable growing sponge cradles seeds at the ideal depth and moisture level for sprouting success.

I went ahead and started a mix of 3 lettuce varieties and some cilantro to stock my first grow chamber.

App Onboarding & Controls

The Abby mobile app immediately starts guiding you through the early stages once your box connects. It prompts you to name your garden, log what you’re growing down to the seed variety, and will even send handy reminders for milestones like when to transplant sprouts over to the hydroponic module.

[Mobile app screenshots]

As seedlings establish, you use the app to select premade grow profiles that dictate lighting schedules, nutrient mixes, airflow and temperature parameters. I chose the leafy greens profile to start.

One quirk I noticed is that the app can sometimes lose connection to the Grow Box hardware after being idle overnight or while away from home. When I came back from a few days of travel, it failed to find my garden! The only reliable fix was power cycling the main unit.

While irritating when it happens, this seems like the kind of bug Abby can smooth out in future app updates. And they do already have a firmware update process for tweaks just like this.

For newer smart appliance companies still establishing robust manufacturing pipelines, it’s smart to budget in extra lead time for parts replacement as the occasional dud still slips through.

Thankfully throughout my testing though, the hardware itself hasn’t run into any functional issues – just the occasional wireless hiccup.

Reviewing Performance: How Much Does Abby Actually Automate?

Alright, down to the big question: does the Abby Grow Box really deliver nearly effortless indoor gardening results as promised?

Here’s what I found from spending a quarter growing herbs, lettuces, peppers and even flowers in my Abby box…

Convenience: Near Complete Hands-Off Growing

I have never spent less time actively maintaining any garden over the last decade-plus of urban growing attempts than I have over 13 weeks with the Abby system. It just works seamlessly once up and running.

On average, I only need ~15 minutes of attention per week to:

  • Quickly check seedling/plant health
  • Top off the water tank if low
  • Mix in nutrient packs each quarterly subscription shipment
  • Occasionally prune leaves or tilt branches if overcrowding

The onboard sensors seem to keep environmental conditions steady as can be. I never dealt with issues like damping off due to low temperature swings or light adjustments with the automated LED panels.

Honestly, the only aspect I still needed to actively manage was pruning/training – but that’s hardly a dealbreaker.

Automation Rating: :star::star::star::star::star:

Yields & Growth Rate

My Abby garden produced its first harvestable lettuce and herbs right around the 7-8 week mark on average.

I was floored by the productivity over my usual DIY setups – partly thanks to not constantly sabotaging seedlings by overwatering or exposing roots to temperature swings during indoor-outdoor transitions. Oops.

Here’s a quick yield snapshot:

  • 5 oz of mixed lettuce varieties per monthly harvest
  • 0.5 oz of cilantro per weekly harvest
  • 6 oz golden pearl tomatoes per weekly harvest

For a compact 2’ x 2’ unit, I find that output incredibly impressive. It definitely adds up faster than you might expect!

I’ve even successfully grown vibrant petunias, mint, green onions and celery using the same profiles, though harder veggies like tomatoes took longer (~4 months) to fruit compared to lettuce greens flourishing in just 8 weeks.

Growth & Yield Rating: :star::star::star::star:

Ongoing Operating Costs

Alright, let’s talk dollars and cents. Automation and technology rarely come free of charge, so what exactly are you paying for the convenience here?

  • Base hardware unit: $999
  • Quarterly consumables subscription: $75

Obviously that base price tag just for the hardware is significant, especially compared to cobbling together your own starter hydroponics system.

However, the all-in price tag becomes a lot more friendly when financing through Abby‘s payment plans that allow breaking it down to $41-something per month.

Operating Cost Rating: :star::star::star:

Alternatives: How Abby Compares to DIY & AeroGarden Setups

Before wrapping up with my verdict, it‘s worth comparing notes on how Abby stacks up cost and feature-wise to other options like building your own setup or choosing an AeroGarden.

Abby vs Building Your Own Hydroponic System

If investing time instead of money, you can piece together a custom hydroponic rig for likely $300-600+ less than the Abby box. Of course this means assuming responsibility for individually:

  • Sourcing growing trays, pumps, tubing, ventilation
  • Selecting and hanging grow lights
  • Tuning lighting cycles for each stage
  • Testing and adjusting nutrient mixes
  • Maintaining ideal temperature and humidity
  • Dealing with equipment corrosion, leaks and replacements

When you stack up those efforts against Abby‘s plug-and-play functionality and automation, the price difference balances out somewhat depending on how you value your time.

You retain more lighting and nutrient customization freedom with a DIY build. But convenience suffers big time – your system won‘t auto correct issues while you‘re out of town!

Abby vs AeroGarden

Leading countertop hydroponic company AeroGarden offers promise plug-and-play functionality too, albeit for smaller harvests than Abby. Their Sprout LG model runs just $189.95 for example.

However, the lighting power on these units maxes out around 30 watts, meaning Plants often don‘t fruit as prolifically or rapidly as what I achieved with Abby. Limited headroom also restricts the quantity and variety you can grow.

There are far fewer automatic features as well – most Aerogarden units simply operate on timers for their grow lights, pumps and nutrient reminders. You don‘t get the integrated sensors and climate adjustments that add to Abby‘s set-and-forget simplicity.

So while cheaper, you trade off scale and some convenience. Great for an ultra compact setup though!

Final Verdict: Does This Smart Garden Justify the Investment?

Alright – drumroll please!…

After nearly 3 months relying on my Abby Grow Box for fresh produce, I have zero regrets about the purchase. For my goals of having a modest but steady supply of greens and herbs with negligible effort, it churns out the goods wonderfully.

I‘ll reiterate the sticker shock is very real – be prepared to pay a premium or take advantage of financing plans. But in my opinion the sheer convenience justifies the price tag. Budding green thumbs will benefit immensely from letting Abby work its technology magic behind the scenes.

Just ensure your WiFi reliability and bandwidth can support consistent app connectivity. And brace for minor firmware hiccups still common in emerging "smart" appliances. Outside of the occasional app timeout though, Abby delivers on the promise of automated, simplified growing with impressive results.

I‘m officially a convert to these brilliant hydroponic appliances! My next adventure will be maxing out all 3 garden levels to scale up output. But even at a third capacity, this thing cranks out herbs and greens with so little work I finally feel like I‘m actually a decent gardener.

The Bottom Line:

Convenience Level: :star::star::star::star::star:
Growth & Yield: :star::star::star::star:
Operating Costs: :star::star::star:

My Overall Rating: :star::star::star::star:

So there‘s my genuine take as a serial plant killer newly transformed into a proud urban farmer thanks to the Abby Grow Box! Let me know if you have any other questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do grow lights run each day?

The Abby Grow Box automatically adjusts lighting schedules based on selected plant profiles and growth stage. But lighting typically runs 16-18 hours per day.

Where is the Abby Grow Box manufactured?

Abby units are manufactured in China like most consumer electronics, with final assembly and testing in the US before shipment.

Can I grow marijuana in it?

Yes, Abby is cannabis-friendly for home growers where legal! It offers a specific cultivation profile.

What is Abby‘s warranty?

All Abby Grow Box purchases come with a one year warranty covering defects and malfunctions. Consumables and accessories have a 30 day coverage window.

Do I need to keep the mobile app to use it?

The app allows remote monitoring and customization, but isn‘t essential for core functionality. However you‘ll lose access to sensor logs and notifications without the app.

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