I am a fan of sustainable living. I try to incorporate many of the principles in my life, but I have a far distance to cover.
As one of the many things that we try to do as a family is to grow our own vegetables in a small garden. When I say “we” – it is mostly my team in the family. I take immense satisfaction by being a critique.
One of my personal objectives has been to get this to be successful, but that is easier said than done in the small urban space we call home.
So, I was pleasantly surprised to see a recent start-up going exclusively in this direction. Grove Labs is trying to bring the vegetables to your kitchen.
What Grove essentially does is to harvest the symbiotic relationship between plants and fish, but kick it up a notch by making it compact and look good :).
Aquaponics is not really a new field. You have fish (edible / decorative) on one hand, and plants on the other. You start the cycle by supplying nutrients to the fish, the “by products” from the fish are rich in ammonia, and go to the plants. Plants get these nutrients and grow healthy. And, you sit pretty at the top of this food chain.
Aquaponics enhances on the process of growing plants just using water (hydroponics), coupled with artificial nutrients. The end product is supposedly better as well.
The problems as I saw them were space, time and complexity.
Though there are more than few vendors with their Aquaponics kits, it is a market that is yet to mature. You typically need to get your hands dirty to get it going, and maintain the system in a healthy condition.
There is also a question of space – the plants still need sun light. Unavailability of space is often quoted as an issue with gardening even though there are enough people growing gardens on their terrace, or even window sills.
Even after the assembly, as is the case with many things from nature, you never know whether the system is set up correctly without the first couple of failures.
And, those initial failures are enough to make a person disinterested in moving forward.
At the same time, the problem of food does not go away. One of the major problems with burgeoning population is to create food enough to support all those people.
Moving food around is a catastrophic waste of time and resources. According to UNEP one third of the food produced for human consumption gets wasted – that is 1.3 billion tonnes of food. A good percentage of that wastage is attributed to technical reasons – inefficient storage and transportation facilities.
Leverage the Opportunity
You solve two problems by encouraging people to grow their own food –
- Be efficient
Reduce food wastage, avoid transportation costs, and grow fresh and healthy food locally.
- Be one with nature
Experience nature yourself.
This space provides the right opportunity for smart people to do something. Grove is doing just that.
They took something that humankind has known for sometime now, and transforming it into a product that people like to use.
There is enough money making opportunities in there – not only in the making of device itself, but in the ongoing upkeep, supply of nutrients to plants and fish, maintenance services, upgrades and so forth.
I am excited to see what their final product will look like.