Farmshelf, the vertical farming company best known for outfitting restaurants with its high-tech indoor farms, today unveiled its first-ever consumer-facing product, according to a company press release.
Dubbed Farmshelf Home, the new product is similar to the company’s commercial model championed by high-profile chefs like José Andrés. It’s roughly the size of a bookcase and uses a combination of sensors, cameras, software, and custom LEDs to automatically deliver the correct levels of water, light, and nutrients to each plant growing in the farm.
For the average consumer, that means once the farm arrives, it’s a matter of plugging it into a wall, connecting it to wifi, setting seeds in pods, then remotely monitoring the hydroponic system from a corresponding smartphone app.
Farmshelf Home is available to pre-order through the company’s website. Though it ain’t cheap: the company lists the “exclusive pre-order price” at $4,950, while the standard retail price will be set at $6,450. There is a $100 deposit (applied to the price and also refundable) as well as a monthly $35 fee that covers seed pods, nutrients, and access to the Farmshelf software for monitoring plants. At the moment, those interested only need to hand over the deposit to sign up for a pre-order. According to the fine print, there is no firm delivery date yet.
Three months ago, I would have called the high price point a deterrent for most people. Certainly, the average American family won’t be purchasing a Farmshelf anytime soon.
But those in higher income brackets may. A global pandemic has revealed just how out of whack our food supply chain is and what happens when people panic shop in droves and grocery stores can’t keep up, factors that might justify the price point for some folks. The Spoon’s Publisher Michael Wolf pointed out recently that “As the coronavirus has forced all of us to think more about our food supply, some consumers have gone beyond just buying a little extra food to store away. Now they are thinking about how we could ensure access to food independent of breakdowns in the system.”
Now we have to see whether consumers will pay thousands of dollars to ensure that independence. More at-home vertical farming companies were coming to market even before the pandemic, with large appliance makers like Samsung, LG, and Miele announcing high-tech gardens meant for your kitchen or living room. They range in price from the hundreds to the thousands, though not quite as high as Farmshelf.
Currently, Farmshelf is in a number of restaurants and hotels, including NYC chain Tender Greens, Marriott Marquis Times Square, and the Condé Nast offices. Angel network she1K syndicated an early-stage investment in the company at the end of last year.