As the first installment on our New Tech Profile feature we will be sharing some developments in the field of Home Based Indoor Agriculture. While not the focus of Indoor Ag-Con, this is a field that some consider to be the ultimate frontier for the idea of fresh local produce as there is nothing more local than your own kitchen. The new technologies that have made this explosion possible have come in part from a miniaturization of the same technologies used to make commercial-scale Indoor Agriculture such a booming industry.
A great example of one of the early innovators in this field is a company called Urban Cultivator which has already produced a series of refrigerated indoor micro greenhouse products. The top of the line product, a large scale commercial unit designed for restaurants and hotels is a good example of the kind of innovation we can expect in the future.
This and others like it in development from many other companies that we will feature in upcoming articles, can provide restaurants, delis and serious growing enthusiasts with the ability to produce fresh micro greens year round at a savings of up to 90% compared with purchasing fresh grown local produce at the local farmer’s market. It also gives businesses in environmentally conscious communities a legitimate marketing argument that they are directly contributing to the reduction in food transportation costs and emissions.
The units allow the flexibility to grow produce is desired when it is needed and finally be free of the costs and inconvenience of sourcing out of season leafy greens and herbs. Many early adopters have expressed their enthusiasm including Martha Stewart who has confirmed using the Urban Cultivator to grow fresh microgreens for her product test kitchens. With so many benefits, we expect to see these units showing up in US restaurants and shops in years to come, much as they have already become commonplace in Japan.
The other version of this kind of product that has people excited is the in home version. With dimensions and appearance similar to a high end wine cooler or mini fridge, it will easily fit into the kitchen of any single family home. For some health conscious home cooks, the benefits of having fresh grown home produced veggies is more than worth the cost and the unit can be leased for less than most family’s spend on fresh greens monthly.
While a luxury at present, the expectation that cost will come down as the popularity of these devices grows only serves to confirm the opportunity in this field.
Another company that has a similar, if somewhat more aggressive, vision of in home agriculture is Grove Labs. This Boston-based VC-backed company looks to provide home chefs with the ability to fully satisfy their vegetable needs with a large, modular walk in closet sized unit that has many enthusiasts highly excited for the possibilities in the future.
The modular design of the Grove home appliance unit will allow for much more variety than just the small micro greens of some other units. The company is integrating mobile technology to allow customers to monitor their in house crops, schedule care and watering of the plants and even schedule regular seed deliveries using their mobile phones. This ability to combine multiple aspects of modern technology to improve and accelerate the capabilities of indoor agriculture is one of the reasons that the industry is gaining momentum.
While it is currently only a boutique industry serving high end restaurants and dedicated health and food enthusiasts, the benefits of scale combined with the positive effects such units can have on the lives of their owners can only lead to further growth and experimentation in the home based sector.
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