The challenge of how we’ll feed the exploding world population in the future—in a sustainable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way—is seeding an agricultural revolution in Europe.
In 2012, INFARM founders Erez, Guy Galonska, and Osnat Michaeli found that vertical farms could be a solution to urban self-sufficiency. These farms could allow people to grow vegetables and herbs in small spaces, with no soil and far less water.
If every city on earth were to grow 10 percent of its produce indoors, it would allow us to take 340,000 square miles of farmland back to forest.
Dickson Despommier, Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Microbiology at Columbia University, and father of vertical farming
An approach that’s captured the imagination of futurists for decades, vertical farming involves growing vegetables and herbs in stacked units or inclined surfaces, within which moisture, light, temperature, and nutrients are monitored, and controlled.
After creating their first vertical farming experiment in their apartment in Berlin, the founders brought together plant scientists and industrial designers to explore and develop vertical farming’s potential.
Since then, the startup has created custom growing systems for clients including Airbnb, Mercedes-Benz, and Weber. Most recently, INFARM installed a vertical farm growing herbs and vegetables at the Berlin branch of German supermarket chain Metro, the fourth-largest retail chain in the world, to sell to the public. It’s been profiled in Wired Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung, The Guardian, and Zeit.
The vertical farm is designed to be modular, allowing consumers to purchase according to their needs.
INFARM collaborated with IDEO to further explore their B2B offer, including concepts for the industrial design of the stackable, modular, climate-controlled units; the interaction design of an accompanying app to monitor and control the units, and its business model.
Urban farmers will sign up for “farming as a service,” comprising the units themselves, as well as a monthly subscription for seeds, cartridges filled with nutrients, and a pH regulator. Because they’re stackable, the modules can be scaled to suit anyone from a home grower to a restaurant chef or supermarket owner. And Erez claims a 1 square meter growing tray can yield four to six mature plants every day, 365 days a year, doubling that of state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouses.
The consumer app allows farmers to choose a set of herbs designed around specific recipes.
As well as remotely regulating each unit’s climate, the app will educate growers about new vegetables and herbs, selling packs of complementary seeds, with suggested recipes for them, and cooking instructions. Aiming to promote biodiversity, the firm will sell rare-breed and heirloom seeds too.
The startup has funding from the EU’s European Pioneers fund, and is now looking to secure investment to accelerate software development and ramp up their hardware production capabilities. Quite literally, it's growing its business.