Chicago-based startup Rise Gardens has raised $2.6 million in seed funding for its indoor grow system, according to TechCrunch. The round was led by True Ventures.
Rise is one of a growing number of companies making self-contained indoor farms designed not for mass production of leafy greens, but for the average person’s home or apartment. The hardware-software system looks like a piece of furniture, requires minimal setup by the user, and is controlled via a smartphone app. In theory, at least, that means you don’t need a degree in agricultural studies or even a good track record with gardening to grow herbs and lettuces for your own personal meals.
That’s where the Rise Gardens app comes into play. When we spoke in January of this year, Rise’s Head of Product and Strategy, Diego Blondet, explained how the app automates tasks in the growing process a farmer would normally do, such as calculating the temperature of the farm, determining nutrition and pH levels, and figuring out when to water. Rise’s app works with a sensor that automates those calculations and notifies users when it’s time to water or feed their plants.
Blondet also said he believes automated indoor farming will make its way into the design of most kitchens at some point in the future. In fact, that’s already happening, with 2020 so far being a year when startups and large appliance-makers alike have unveiled indoor farming devices designed for the average home. Seedo, Verdeat, the Planty Cube, LG, and GE are all on that list.
As The Spoon’s Publisher Michael Wolf pointed out not long ago, the COVID-19 pandemic could accelerate average folks’ adoption of indoor farming. The recent panic buying spree reminded us that grocery store supplies aren’t infinite, and that there are glaring issues with our current food supply chain. As Mike said:
“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.”
Rise Gardens’ founder Hank Adams told TechCrunch that since shelter-in-place orders landed in the U.S., the company has seen a 750 percent increase in sales.
Heads of lettuce won’t feed a family of four, of course, but according to Adams, Rise looks at itself as more of a supplement to your weekly groceries, rather than a replacement. Which is, frankly, one of the more honest takes on indoor vertical farming, an industry that’s often been praised as being the future of agriculture but still can’t grow a root vegetable.
Since leafy greens are difficult to ship because of their delicate nature, they’re an obvious area for vertical farming to target. Few at-home systems currently allow for the volume of greens the average family, or even the average person, would need in a given week. Since Rise’s system is a little bigger as well as modular (you can add shelves to it over time), it could provide a good blueprint for what at-home vertical farms should look like when they start to become the norm in kitchen design.