This Somerville Startup Is Using Aquaponics to Grow Food Indoors
Two years ago, Jamie Byron built an aquaponic greenhouse in his MIT dorm room. Today, Grove, the Somerville-based company he cofounded using similar technology, launched a Kickstarter campaign in preparation for its national launch.
“The Grove Ecosystem is an intelligent indoor gardening system that helps people grow their own fresh, healthy food and inspire and educate their family, year-round, right in their home,” explains Byron’s cofounder, Gabe Blanchet. “Grove is part of a movement toward a sustainable and diversified agricultural system on earth.”
Half art installation, half food production hub, the Grove Ecosystem is comprised of an aquarium connected to two gardening beds that can hold crops like leafy greens, herbs, and cherry tomatoes. As in all aquaponic systems, the fish waste—which contains nitrates and other nutrients—helps the plants grow, while the plants keep the aquarium tank clean. Unlike other aquaponic set-ups, however, Grove’s product is synced with the internet and an accompanying mobile app.
“If, through the mobile app, you ordered tomato seeds, we can optimize the settings in the whole ecosystem to grow [them],” Blanchet says, adding that Grove may someday be able to alter nutrients and flavor profiles as well. “It’s not just like a refrigerator that you just buy and put there.”
Grove doesn’t come cheap—the predicted retail price is $4,500 and the first tier of Kickstarter supporters can get one for $2,700, though Blanchet says a lower-priced model is on the docket—but Blanchet says the Ecosystem is about more than just growing fresh herbs; it’s an investment in the future of the food system.
“I think the number one benefit is bringing people closer to their food,” he says. “Having food growing, and nature living, in and around where people live, I think, will inspire and educate thousands and millions of kids and adults.”
To that end, Blanchet says Grove is part of a new wave of companies that are using food not just to improve individuals’ health, but as an agent of systemic change.
“I think for the future of humanity and the planet, we have to think differently than the industrial food system,” Blanchet says. “One of the great things about being alive today is that we can collectively join forces and push the future, and Grove is part of that.”