Tired of complaining about the lack of reliably fresh ingredients in retail outlets, two undergrads (and erstwhile home chefs) at Georgia Institute of Technology, one of the world’s top research institutes, decided to develop a device that would enable gardenless city folk like themselves to grow fresh herbs and greens, speedily, simply and from scratch, in their own kitchens.
For engineering students Alex Weiss and Ruwan Subasinghe, what began as a homespun project became a serious quest. In 2015, shortly after graduating, the duo co-founded start-up Replantable to devise, design, test, trial, manufacture and market what they hoped would be the world’s most user-friendly in-home farm.
Their goal was to create a benchtop ‘nanofarm’ that would:
- be as simple to use as any 21st-century kitchen device;
- require minimal set-up, maintenance and cleaning – comparable to the effort involved in, say, defrosting a ‘ready meal’ or using an espresso maker;
- be able to grow microgreens, herbs and the like;
- be capable of growing nutritious plants under artificial light;
- be capable of doing so in the shortest possible time frame; and
- be able to do so with minimal inputs and power use.