RiseGardens is contributing to several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. RiseGardens is supporting Goal 3: Good Health and Wellbeing by making fresh and healthy food more accessible to its customers year-round. By encouraging families to grow their own food, they are accessing a deeper understanding of food systems and nutrition. RiseGardens is also supporting Goal 4: Quality Education by promoting more interactions between humans and their food and environment. The company is contributing to Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities by developing systems that support locally-sourced foods and limit food mileage. Finally, RiseGardens is contributing to Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production by reinforcing the importance of fresh and nutritious food.
Loyola University Chicago
RiseGardens is a start-up located in Chicago focused on creating stronger connections between humans and nature through food. The idea started with Hank Adams in 2017. I had the pleasure of meeting with Diego Blondet, Head of Product Strategy, and Angelo Kelvakis, Director of Research and Development, of the RiseGardens team. They spoke with me about RiseGardens' business model and the reasoning behind the whole project.
“Hydroponics is one of those things that works really well in a controlled environment. Most people’s houses are controlled environments,” Angelo explained to me. Produce grown hydroponically grows bigger and tastier than produce grown by conventional gardening practices. In a hydroponics system, plants don’t have to work as hard to obtain nutrients because they do not require an extensive root system.
By creating and monitoring in-home hydroponics systems, RiseGardens is making fresh and nutritious food more accessible to families living in seasonal regions who would otherwise be unable to grow food outside the traditional growing season. In producing and consuming locally grown food from the comfort of the consumer’s own home, this business is helping reduce food mileage and the food industry’s carbon footprint.
RiseGardens was founded by Hank Adams (CEO) in 2017. As a successful businessman and entrepreneur in sports technology, he decided to turn his concentration to something he felt more passionate about, gardening, and food. Hank had some experience gardening outside, but he didn’t like the limits that the seasons placed on gardening in Chicago. He wanted farming to be independent of weather and climate. Diego described it best, “as he (Diego) was looking into this food space, he stumbled upon a gardening hurdle. When looking for alternatives for outdoor gardening, he found none. Being the tech-person that he is, he realized that he could create something to solve this issue.” Now, RiseGardens is focused on hydroponics and providing bigger and tastier produce to people around the country.
While being better for our bodies, hydroponics systems also grow better food for the planet. Less water has to be allocated for irrigation because the plant roots are submerged in a liquid nutrient solution, saving drinking water. Not to mention, growing locally-sourced produce diminishes the need to transport for thousands of miles across the country, emitting greenhouse gases and depreciating the level of nutrition along the way. Instead, RiseGardens ships its customers their produce in the seed form, where it can sprout and grow in the hydroponics garden. As Diego thoughtfully explained to me, “nature decided that the way that you store and transport plants is in the form of a seed. Our current supply chain does the opposite.” Take a head of lettuce, for example. In nature, lettuce travels in the form of a seed until it reaches its final destination, at which point the plant grows roots and food is grown. When farms and food companies transport produce in its fully mature state, the food loses freshness and nutrients and it costs more financially and environmentally. RiseGardens is minimizing its carbon footprint by shipping its customers' food most simply and efficiently possible.
People really like fresh food. If a hydroponics system is truly the next household appliance that could be found in every home, then there is (potentially) a different level of productivity that the whole world could achieve. If our nation’s economy can stop shipping produce and instead source produce locally, we can start shipping other types of food instead. This innovation will make food consumption and meal planning simpler – less time at the grocery store means that less money is being spent. It is not simply a matter of people enjoying fresh food, as it is a reorganization of the approach to meal prep and consumption entirely.
As RiseGardens grew, the company developed a two-part mission. Diego explained, “we started to notice more and more uses for this same [hydroponics] technology. One of the things that Angelo and I are working together on is educational outreach.” Unfortunately, school year periods in the U.S. do not match well with traditional gardening and agricultural seasons. RiseGardens is using hydroponics to teach students (through experience) about plant literacy. Not a lot of people know where their food comes from. If students can learn what good food should look like, they can learn to grow it.
Getting people more accustomed to growing their own food is a cultural and socioeconomic change. Right now, RiseGardens is aiming to demonstrate to its customers that hydroponics systems are attractive and popular; that growing your own food is good for your body and good for our planet. Using this technology as a vessel, RiseGardens is working to re-teach knowledge of plants and nutrition.
Diego Blondet, Head of Product Strategy
Angelo Kelvakis, Director of Research and Development
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Chicago, Illinois, US
Business Website: https://risegardens.com
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
RiseGardens builds and distributes in-home hydroponics systems. By redesigning technology that enables families to grow their own food, they are helping American society rethink what it means to transport and deliver safe nutrition. Their business model is focused on producing the most efficient and beautiful gardens to teach individuals and families the importance of nutrition and locally-sourced food that benefits human health and the environment.