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Start Garden invests in cigarette counter and greenhouse microcomputer

August 19, 2013
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Start Garden invests in cigarette counter and greenhouse microcomputer
PAKCheck is an automated inventory system for convenience stores to efficiently track cigarette packs and reduce theft. Photo via

Start Garden went back to its regular practice of funding two weekly startup ideas.

Although Start Garden’s team and the Start Garden community picked the same idea earlier this month, Rick DeVos’ $15 million seed fund split $10,000 in funding between two ideas last week.

Pi Garden

The Start Garden team put $5,000 into Pi Garden, an idea to incorporate microcomputers into hydroponics, allowing for a “plug-‘n’-play” environmental control unit for greenhouses.

“Custom and commercial applications are of interest as well. This could be used for many things, including tissue/cell culture, mycology, brewing, HVAC or even pets. When you can control the environment, you control what you decide to do with it,” writes idea creator Drew Mellema on his Start Garden page.

“Phase two includes a dosage system for hydroponics,” Mellema writes. “The goal is to have a nice user interface or perhaps more power/customization for those who choose. Data may be stored and the system controlled remotely via the web from multiple devices.”


The Start Garden community voted to give $5,000 to PAKCheck, an idea for an automated inventory system for detecting cigarette pack theft.

PAKCheck automatically counts every pack as it is physically removed from its spot in the rack. The system could reduce the cost of losing packs to shoplifters, as well as cut back on labor costs, because it can be used by one employee who oversees several stores.

“Approximately 40 percent of (convenience) stores pay employees to hand count cigarette packs every shift and will continue to do so, because it has reduced theft. PAKCheck removes the need for labor intensive hand counting by automatically counting each pack as it’s pulled from a rack,” writes idea creator Patrick Kapenga on his Start Garden page.

“We can retrofit our hardware to current cigarette dispensing systems, which means our hardware could be licensed to the companies that manufacture those systems,” Kapenga writes. “And since most convenience stores use a POS system made by Veriphone, we could license our software as an add on to their system.”

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