From Peloton Interactive Inc. to Netflix, Inc., companies offering at-home technologies to keep people busy, healthy and entertained during the lockdown have thrived. The latest high-tech offering: a fully-automated indoor farm for greens and herbs, all housed within a sleek case the size of a bookshelf.
Farmshelf, which currently sells a professional device popular with celebrity chefs like José Andrés, has launched Farmshelf Home, a slightly smaller version designed specifically for home use. Farmshelf Home, which is available for pre-order, features a remotely-controlled hydroponic system and an app that monitors the miniature crop with cameras and sensors. Everything from hydration to airflow to nutrients are controlled by the machine, with owners simply needing to occasionally refill water and harvest plants.
“Our mission has always been to make it easy for people to grow their own food where they live, work and eat. We started where they work and eat at restaurants and corporate cafes, now we are coming to the home,” said Andrew Shearer, founder and CEO of Farmshelf. “Giving people the opportunity to harvest food as it’s needed will not only elevate the idea of ‘farm to table, but help reduce the ongoing cycle of food waste.”
Farmshelf Home is truly the first of its kind. While other contraptions exist such as a tabletop system from The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, they are relatively small. Farmshelf Home produces enough to cover a meaningful part of a weekly shopping list: a sample harvest includes 8 heads of lettuce, 8 bunches of herbs, and 8 bunches of greens.
“The food we eat was not designed to ship 1500 miles,” Mr. Shearer said. “We are going from shipping food miles to shipping food a few feet. It really changes the equation.”
Users can choose from a diverse menu of over 40 different herbs, leafy greens, and edible flowers. Choices include staples like romaine lettuce along with more exotic plants such as shiso and viola flowers.
The system also reduces food waste because users simply trim whatever ingredients they need for a meal. Farmshelf estimates the system, which sells for $4,950 on pre-order and has a $35 monthly fee for seeds and other essentials, can save users up to $2,500 a year in grocery bills.
The system also has advantages over normal gardening. Thanks to the controlled atmosphere and technology, plants grow three times as fast and need 90% less water. There’s also no need for pesticides or herbicides, meaning users technically can eat greens without washing them.
While away from home, users can keep an eye on their plants through the mobile app. It features live camera views and sends alerts for needs such as a water refill.
The success of the professional model suggests Farmshelf Home will be a hit. Farmshelf is very popular with superstar chefs like Mr. Andrés, who actually has a professional version in his own home. He recently tweeted a video of one of his Farmshelf units, raving about romaine lettuce.
Farmshelf also serves large groups of diners at schools and corporate cafeterias. American Express Company, for instance, uses multiple Farmshelf systems to serve 3,000 people per day.
To date, Farmshelf has raised over $8 million privately. Mr. Shearer said the company may seek more capital in the future as it continues to grow.