In recent years, the indoor farming business has begun to expand. Farms that grow produce using hydroponics (growing produce without soil, usually in big warehouses) and regular greenhouses have become essential components of our food supply chain, primarily for leafy greens such as lettuce and spinach.
Vertical hydroponic farming is frequently viewed as a more environmentally friendly option than conventional farming. It uses 95 percent less water, has a lower impact on soil, and urban farms can be located in food deserts or near grocers to reduce transportation expenses. However, the high energy use for lighting indoor farms has frequently foiled efforts to reduce agricultural carbon emissions.
Aerofarms, an industry leader, has announced that it will go public this year. Plenty, a San Francisco-based vertical farm startup, expanded into 17 northern California safeways. Gotham Greens, an urban farming company on the east coast, is establishing indoor farms in states such as Colorado and California despite the COVID-19 slump. The global market for vertical farming is anticipated to be worth $5.8 billion by 2026, expanding at a CAGR of 14%.
However, a Canadian startup, Just Vertical is aiming to bring home gardeners into the indoor growing industry as well. Its two products, the Aeva and the Eve, are promoted as exquisite pieces of furniture that use hydroponic technology to grow between eight and ten pounds of food every month.
The base of the products is a wooden cabinet, and the growing mechanism goes up about five feet. Both the Aeva and the Eve can grow leafy greens, zucchini, herbs, strawberries, peppers, and cucumbers. The business is now growing into flowers, and it has even grown hops for small breweries. Just Vertical sells seeds and peat moss pods through a subscription service in addition to selling the hardware.
A co-founder of the company, Kevin Jakiela, said, “It’s intended for everyone who can’t grow either throughout the year, or doesn’t have a garden or balcony.” Because “we didn’t just want to be another counter top replica,”
Click and Grow and Aerogardens, which are primarily used for herbs, are two of the countertop industry rivals. However, there are more established rivals, such as Tower Garden and Zipgrow. Just vertical, on the other hand, is attempting to be both décor and garden in a manner that the other variations are not.
Condos and residences are the company’s largest markets, according to Jakiela, followed by eateries, schools, cafes, and bars. Instead of focusing solely on food, the brand is becoming interested in workplace space as décor.
“I want to be an essential feature of condos or houses that are being built. “We want to be the next microwave equal,” Jakiela said. It’s kind of like how you can select your dishwasher and washing machine. “Also work with big retailers such as Ikea.”
The company has sold 1,500 units and got a start-up loan from a fund run by Arlene Dickinson, who is a “Shark” on Dragon’s Den, Canada’s version of “Shark Tank.” The company wants to have a series A this September.
Because of its high price tag (between $600 and $1,000), Just Vertical is unlikely to have much of an influence on food insecurity or environmental concerns for low-income families.
Jakiela confirmed that at the moment, the ideal customer is ‘someone who shops for whole foods’, but the website showcases data listing the environmental advantages of the product, such as saving over 112,000,000 miles of food transport and more than 2,000,000 litres of water, because people now cultivate their own food. Jakiela is optimistic that the company would begin to create a real societal and economic impact, as it grows and expands.
“I want to be able to move away from the hobbyist and strive for a larger impact,” he stated. For example, “we want to be more front-facing in grocery shops or a restaurant where they can really reduce some of their expenses by using an Aeva, establish retail and distribution channels while focusing on the “social” component of our business.”
Just Vertical decided that starting with high-end consumers would help them demonstrate that they were a good fit for the market and give them the proof they needed to go to grocery stores and make a big difference.
“It’s hard to go to any grocery store and say, ‘Hey, we have an idea for you,'” he said, especially as a new business. “They say, ‘Get out of here, make some sales, and come back with proof,’ or you’ll be stuck in a loop for eight to twelve months with no guarantees. a lot of hoops need to be passed through. Grocers don’t want to be the first ones there. but at the same time, they don’t want to be last.”