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Posted on by Nichole Kladder, filed under Press Releases

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., August 15, 2013 -- Start Garden, the $15,000,000 seed fund that selects individual ideas each week for investments, announced this week’s round of $5,000 investments from submissions to These include PAKCheck, an automated inventory system designed to deter theft that attaches to cigarette racks, and Pi Garden, computerized environmental controls for hydroponic garden systems.

Public Selection
The idea selected by the most endorsements from visitors to is PAKCheck (, an automated cigarette inventory system that automatically counts each pack as its pulled from a rack, removing the need for convenience stores to hand-count cigarettes during every shift.

“Currently 40 percent of convenience stores pay their employees to hand-count cigarettes during every shift. This process is fraught with error and does not limit theft,” said Patrick Kapenga, creator of PAKCheck. “Automating and centralizing the cigarette inventory process will help convenience stores reduce labor costs, tighten control and monitor multiple locations at once.”

The $5,000 from Start Garden will allow the team to install PAKCheck in two convenience stores to test and prove the product design.

Start Garden Selection
The idea selected this week by the Start Garden team for funding is Pi Garden (, an affordable, plug-and-play, environmental controlling system for hydroponic and greenhouse systems.

“When you can control the environment you control what you decide to do with it, but often these commercial technologies are expensive for gardeners and small farmers,” said Drew Mellema. “Pi Garden and potentially Pi Pro would be a powerful, but affordable system that is useful for commercial growers and hobbyists.”

The $5,000 Start Garden investment will allow Mellema to create a low-cost prototype and test in a community hydroponics garden.

Each idea receives a $5,000 investment, pending the completion of the investment agreement, which can be found on

The fund’s management team takes submissions through Ideas with potential to become businesses can be submitted. Each week the Start Garden team selects an idea and the broader community on the website endorses another idea to receive $5,000. Start Garden can continue to invest up to $500,000 in a single idea. Learn more about submission criteria at

The next round of $5,000 investments will be announced Thursday, August 22, after the noon deadline. The next Update Night is Thursday, August 22. Learn more about Start Garden events at

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