Over 45% of salad products, worth £690 million, are wasted in the UK every year. LettUs Grow is a biotechnology company on a mission to reduce the colossal wastage and provide easy access to fresh, tasty greens for every home. Greenhouse recently spoke to Jack Farmer, Founder and CEO of the Bristol start up.
Can you explain a little about the project?
The LettUs Grow solution is to build products that grow convenient, fully automated food for the smartphone generation. Providing watering reminders and growing fresh, healthy produce. We make use of the hydroponic technologies (growing plants without soil) and energy-efficient LED lighting. We have integrated the technology into a single product making it more attractive, compact, and simple, to bring it to a new market, the home. The vision is for everyone to be growing some of their own fresh food from seed at home. After all seeds travel much better than salad! We are building a web application to support our products, named the E-cosystem, that will allow users to track energy usage and set reminders of when to water & feed their plants.
Where did the innovative idea come from?
The idea came about in Autumn 2014 as a result of a student competition on social enterprise. We were looking into using hydroponics in order to produce sustainable food and hit upon the idea of a hydroponic salad bar. So far we’ve received 60 pre-orders and overfunding our crowdfunder to 150%.
Have you always been passionate about food waste?
I have always been passionate about sustainability and reducing human impact on the environment. Over the past few years though I’ve begun to focus on food, and food waste, as a sector that generates a huge amount of unnecessary waste and emissions. Reducing food waste has a much wider impact on reducing water and packaging waste – so intervention here can have a really large impact!
What do you see as the main challenges in reducing food waste?
Changing a whole supply chain is tricky! Basically there is food wastage throughout the food supply chain – but this is particularly prevalent with salad. Fundamentally the idea that leaves should be cut from the plant, disinfected, and shipped for long distances doesn’t make sense from a taste, nutrition, or environmental angle. It’s far easier to send the seed and grow nearer to source!
Simplicity and space are currently holding back conventional growing in gardens or allotments. By using space efficient hydroponic set ups we can produce much more in a given space, the LettUs Grow challenge is to crack the simplicity! Making it easy and hassle-free to grow your own.
Who is your eco hero?
That’s hard to answer when there are so many great social enterprises out there! I would suggest Elon Musk (as would many tech orientated people) but I also would definitely suggest FareShare, who do a brilliant job diverting food waste from landfill.
What do you envisage in the future sustainable kitchen?
There’s a lot of talk about 3D food printers, which sound pretty cool. But people might start eating insects. Personally think designs like these for insects could be a winner!
Interested in who our other Greenhouse Pioneers are?
Greenhouse often works alongside brands who are campaigning against food waste. To see more view our case studies.