Perspectives

180° Shift: When Local Means Your Kitchen

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  • Gabe Blanchet

    Gabe Blanchet

Speaker

Gabe Blanchet
Co-founder and CEO, Grove Labs


Blanchet: My name’s Gabe Blanchet, I’m co-founder and CEO at Grove Labs. It’s a pleasure to be here. To start this off I’d like to see a show of hands, how many people in here have grown a plant? A windowsill basil plant all the way to a full-fledged farm? Awesome. So I’m kind of preaching to the choir here. But two years ago when I was a junior at MIT, I’d never grown anything and I’d never even really thought that was something I wanted to do. My roommate, my best friend, came in one day totally distraught and said, “I don’t want to go to a grocery store again.” He’s been to a few grocery stores since, but that day he started hacking together a windowsill garden where he started growing in our room a significant amount of food. Enough that in snowy March in Boston we were harvesting about a salad a day right from our windowsill. We were totally inspired by this. We figured if we can do this in our home or in our room, why couldn’t everybody grow a significant amount of fresh fruits and vegetables right inside where they lived? So we started developing this vision for taking what Jamie had built in our room and turning it into something that was beautiful and used technology to make it a little bit easier and more engaging to grow your own food.

We’ve raised a few million dollars, we’ve got a team of 14 in Somerville, Massachusetts and we’re about to unveil sort of the real product, which is a bookshelf sized unit where you can grow a significant amount of fruits and vegetables right in your kitchen, living room or dining room. You’ve got efficient LEDs, which actually mimic the sun in spectrum and intensity. You’ve got two plot sizes—on the left you’ve got a larger plot where you can grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, large kale plants. On the right you’ve got smaller plots where you can grow your quick-turn leafy greens and herbs. That’s where the real sort of salad production comes from. We offer four woods: birch, cherry, mahogany and bamboo. Bamboo’s definitely the coolest looking and it’s also the most sustainably harvested. And the whole sort of the bio motor that keeps this system running and running well and stably is actually the fish tank in the bottom left. So you feed the fish once every few days and we send you a notification to do that. The fish waste is converted by natural occurring bacteria, just like outdoors, from ammonia to nitrate. Nitrate is plant food, so the plants take that up the roots, they clean the water and the clean water goes back to the fish tank so there’s no algae growth. It’s a pretty awesome system.

Audience: That’s amazing.

Blanchet: Thanks. I didn’t invent that, but we’re the first to take it and make it beautiful and accessible. Since we’re in San Francisco I’ll mention, it’s Web-connected and there’s an app for that, the app’s integral because it makes it really engaging to use this system.

So where we’re at right now, we’re really happy with our prototypes and we’re starting small-scale manufacturing. We’re going to deliver 100 of our early adopter units to Boston area locals in February.  What we’re doing, taking natural ecosystems and shrinking them, has applications in the home and we believe that these appliances will become as ubiquitous as refrigerators are today. There’s also applications in restaurants, in offices and then if we can keep shrinking ecosystems down, you can imagine these in submarines, military bases, space travel, and eventually this same methodology will be used to terraform Mars. So that’s where I want to go.

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