Hong Kong-based Aspara, which makes high-tech, tabletop-sized farming units for homes, is now shipping devices across the U.S. through retailers like Home Depot, Wayfair, and via its own website.
The Spoon flagged Aspara back in January as a company to watch in the up-and-coming at-home farming space because of the device’s small size, lowish price point, and approach to hydroponics. At the time, the company was selling its system, which can fit easily on a countertop, to customers in Hong Kong and in very, very limited quantities via Amazon to other parts of the world.
This official U.S. launch makes the device available to all U.S. consumers. Speaking on the phone today, Rob Alexander, the Owner of Conducted Sales, the sales agent for Aspara in North American markets, said that Aspara has another eight retailers in the works, though he couldn’t at this point use specific names.
High-tech, hydroponic farms have historically been the territory of industrial-scale indoor farming companies — the AeroFarms and Plentys of the world. But following this past January’s CES show, both major appliance makers like LG and Miele along with smaller startups began to heavily publicize a new kind of indoor farm, one created for the at-home consumer. These devices are typically quite small and meant to feed a single household, rather than supply a grocery retailer.
Alexander said Aspara’s homegrown system differs from others on the market in the way it tackles the hydroponic element of the farming. It uses what he calls an “ebb and flow” design, where water for the plant roots is constantly replenished from the side unit (see image above), making the water supply easier to refill than many at-home farms. Aspara’s also has sensors that determine nutrient levels in the water, the current level of humidity in the air, and whether a plant is getting too much light. An accompanying app notifies the user when any of these elements need attention.
“It’s trying to give you feedback to create the optimum growing environment,” Alexander said.
Another differentiation: the device is repairable. While that might first sound like a weird selling point (no one wants to buy tech that might break), it actually speaks to how seriously Aspara is pursuing the idea of making its high-tech grow system the kind of kitchen appliance that’s on par with a dishwasher or refrigerator. You don’t throw out a dishwater the second something goes wrong. In the same way, Aspara users can replace parts like sensors and light canopies, rather than having to go out and buy a whole new farm.
The company’s approach recently won them the Green Product Audience Award.
Price-wise, Aspara is on the lower end of the at-home farming spectrum. The device goes for $349 right now at Home Depot online.
Of course these days you can’t have a conversation about at-home food production without brining COVID-19 up. Since Apsara wasn’t available to North Americans at the height of shelter-in-place mandates, the company wasn’t measuring demand for its product in that region. However, Alexander told me they did see a spike in Hong Kong, where the device has been available for some time.
My guess is that with the product available Stateside, that demand will surface quickly. Other at-home farming systems have seen huge jumps in demand recently as the pandemic, panic-buying sprees, and other factors have made many consumers question their total reliance on the traditional food supply chain.
Next up, Aspara wants to do a widespread launch in Canada, and also broaden the types of plants its system can grow to include other types of plants, including fruits and vegetables.