As someone who always prided myself on being able to tackle almost any challenge, I was baffled by my inability to grow plants. It didn't matter how many gardening books I read or how diligently I followed advice; my home in the city, with its limited indoor and outdoor space, seemed like a plant's worst nightmare. This problem turned into a concern when I started worrying about food insecurity and its impact on my young family.
With my background in engineering and automation, I decided not to be defeated by my lack of a green thumb. Instead, I turned to technology. My mission? To create a system that could grow food efficiently and beautifully in any space, using any water source. This wasn't just about solving my problem – it was about offering a solution to a world facing increasing food supply challenges.
Armed with sensors, Arduino boards, Raspberry Pis, and a 3D printer, my kitchen counter transformed into a mini-lab (here is a list of other resources). After months of experimentation and overcoming countless challenges, I had a working prototype. It was more than a personal victory; it was a step towards tackling a global issue.
The beginning of the system
However, our initial market research took us in an unexpected direction. While interviewing potential users, we discovered a strong interest in growing cannabis at home. This pivot wasn't just about tapping into a new market; it was about understanding and addressing the complexities of urban agriculture.
Cannabis, with its specific growing requirements and high market value, became our benchmark. If we could successfully grow cannabis, we could grow almost anything. Our device had to be more than functional; it needed to blend into the modern urban home aesthetic. It was about creating a product that didn't just work wonders but looked amazing doing so.
Participating in the BU/GLP cannabis tech pitch competition in Boston was a pivotal moment. Although we didn’t win, the experience was invaluable. It opened doors to a network of industry experts and provided us with crucial insights. This was more than a competition; it was a stepping stone into a burgeoning industry.
With a working prototype, encouraging market research, and a growing network, I made the leap to pursue this venture full-time. The journey from a plant-challenged individual to being the founder of a startup at the cutting edge of home gardening technology has been incredible. It's a story of transformation, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to solving real-world problems.
My goal for this phase was to figure out whether this could be done and if people would buy it. We built three prototypes, spending $5,000 on the prototypes and equipment needed - definitely worth the investment and a good budget to start.
So, now to the lessons learned and what I would have done differently:
- We have access to so many things that getting started is not hard. Just do it!
- You should love the problem you are trying to solve enough to be miserable. More to come on this, but make sure you love what you are doing.
- Talk to people about your work. Make sure it’s a problem that others have and are willing to pay for a solution.
- I should have started sooner. I knew I wanted to do a startup and hesitated because I didn’t think I was ready. Not only was I ready, but I wish I could combine the lessons I had learned after working in industry for 15 years and have the energy I had after graduating from college. I could have started 3-5 years earlier.