Could Grow-Your-Own Circumvent Traditional Growers?
A Canadian-based company, Urban Cultivator, is helping homeowners and restaurants take growing their own fresh produce to the next level, with a unit that grows up to 50 types of microgreens and vegetables on-site. The company says its units could be as common in home kitchens within five years as a dishwasher. Just three years after developing the Urban Cultivator, which offers models for residential and commercial use, the company has buy-in from some of the largest hotel chains (Four Seasons, Fairmont) and food corporations (Aramark, Cisco) in North America. Residential developers are using the units as green marketing to set the value of their condos and homes apart in the rough economy.
“Fresh cut greens have double the nutritional value of precut within 24 hours,” says Tarren Wolfe, the co-founder of Urban Cultivator. “So this is a way for everyone to be self sufficient, while cutting down on the food-travel carbon footprint in a big way. You’re connecting people to their food, educating them, allowing them to deliver a healthier, better product to themselves or their consumer. Look at how much money we spend policing the term ‘organic.’ If everyone is able to grow produce and be self-sufficient, think about how much money we would save. Same with healthcare costs, especially in the U.S. It’s a reciprocal product. Whomever buys these — whatever homeowner, whatever restaurant — they want to tell everybody about it.”
The cost for a residential unit is $2,200. Wolfe says some people have sticker shock initially but when you break down the cost, it ends up being a two-year return on investment, based on the average consumer spending over $100/month in greens. “This way you can do it year-round, and you know it’s clean because you grew it,” he says.
Commercial units cost $8,000 total, but restaurants can lease a commercial unit for $250 per month on a five-year lease-to-own program, Wolfe says. “That’s very cost-effective for high-end restaurants like Four Seasons, which can spend thousands per month buying microgreens from greenhouses.”