Now, grow vegetables in your living room with this self-watering modular farm
A modular farm that you can assemble with ease lets you grow vegetable without the need for a kitchen garden. It even comes with automated watering and takes care of photosynthesis in the absence of sunlight.
Name of Founder (s): Arun Raj
Investors Details & Amount raised: Bootstrapped and Crowdfunded
We have all been warned about the dubious methods sellers employ to make their produce look healthy. If harmful pesticides used excessively were not enough to turn you off, these days you get spray-painted shiny vegetables.
Most of us, if possible, would prefer to produce our own vegetables, yet time and space constraints usually put these dreams to rest. These are the same constraints which inspired 31-year old Arun Raj to put his industrial design abilities to use and produce a solution. After three and a half years of hustling it at the design table, the solution now comes in the shape of a compact, modular farm which is delivered to you in a box.
"Our goal is to make families around the world self-reliant with respect to food and Altifarm is our first product. All our learning from multiple projects at my industrial design studio over the last eight years has been distilled into development of Altifarm," shares Raj.
Farm in a tray
Ergonomically-designed, Altifarm comes across as a one-stop solution for all constraints related to urban farming - space, time, and erratic lifestyle. Consisting of 3 or 4 tiers (depending on your preference), Altifarm provides 1sqm of space to farm while utilising only as much of footprint as a chair does. The shelves are height-adjustable, giving you the freedom to choose a variety of saplings. The farm is designed with a wall hugging rear and is fitted with wheels to provide mobility.
"We started off in 2014 from paper sketches and made a proof-of-concept with acrylic sheets and held them on basic frame made from hardware pipes. This gave us an idea of real world scale. This was followed by extensive CAD based design, followed by 3D printing for trials and moved on to mold making. We had the first product ready by late 2014. The perfectionist within us saw scope for improvising the same. We took feedback from the market, went back to drawing board and started from scratch. The product you see is Altifarm 2.0 and we believe this is our best yet," shares Raj.
The farm comes to you in a compact box in a DIY format. "There are no molds, no fittings - it is as easy to fix as a Lego set. It takes all of 15 minutes to fix the entire thing," explains Raj.
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No sun, no worry
The product had to be disruptive to match the lifestyle of the on-the-go working population. To provide that much-needed flexibility, the lack of which has resulted in many of our plants drying up, Altifarm comes equipped with self-sustaining features which keep human supervision to minimal. The entire process of photosynthesis is self-sustaining.
"The customer just needs to fill up the water tank once a week and the self-watering system takes care of itself," explains Raj. In case of shortage of sun-filled spaces, the founders have provided the Altifarm with a Grow Light pack for indoors and a Green House pack for winters.
Fitted with wheels, the farm can be easily moved to wherever you want to place it.
"The self-watering system works with the help of capillary action and gravity. There is no electricity or motor/pump involved. It also helps with oxygenation of roots leading to healthier plants. The LEDs are chosen to impart certain specific wavelengths, which promotes vegetative growth, flowering and germination. By providing only the exact wavelength to plants, the system is highly power-efficient with minimal operating costs," explains Raj.
Although functionality has been the key objective, yet the founders have taken care to create a design which only adds to your decor.
Priced at Rs 12000 (4-tier) and Rs 8000 (3-tier), the company has already sold over 400 units of Altifarm - the orders coming from the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo with most of the backers belonging to the US and Canada. However, Raj says while the product has received good reviews from its customers; the funding has been hard to come by. The financial constraints have consequently choked the supply line which, in turn, has prevented the company from scaling up.
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The company raised $115000 through crowdfunding and is looking at $140000 for the ongoing year.
"During development, most of our challenges have been technical in nature and we have tackled those. Being self-funded and bootstrapped put a lot of stress on us financially and emotionally, but we pulled through. As of now our challenges are in logistics and scaling up the manufacturing. We are confident of solving these as well," says Raj.
The aim is now to streamline manufacturing as demand, claims Raj, is on a rise. "We are confident of resolving manufacturing constraints within the next three months," signs off Raj.
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