Meeting Nature Halfway

“The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.”

— Michael Pollan

Chefs can only dream of growing their own fresh ingredients, all year round. I know this because I cooked in various fine-dining kitchens for 7 years. During that time, I found that every restaurant I worked in would order their fresh ingredients by the boxes that travel many miles to get to the kitchen. In fact, food travels almost 2,500 kilometers on average to get from farm to plate. That’s a distance just shy of a round trip flight from Toronto, Ontario to Winnipeg, Manitoba!

By the time food arrives to the kitchen, it has already lost that incredible off-the-vine taste, freshness, and nutritional value. A few days later, I found myself throwing out unused herbs by the boxes. I asked my chefs why we couldn’t just grow our own, and the same argument usually arose: “We already have our hands full with cooking, we definitely don’t have the space or time to learn how to become professional gardeners.”

Eventually, I left my culinary career behind. I was determined to embark on a path that would leave the world a better place. I realized that what I wanted to spend my time doing was to design meaningful solutions to big world problems. I submitted a portfolio to apply to the industrial design program at Emily Carr University, a renowned design school in Vancouver, British Columbia. Luck was on my side, and that Fall, I was accepted into their program.

Product Design for the Environment was one of the first classes I took. It immediately reminded me of the food waste problem. That’s when it occurred to me — what if I could design a product to solve it? After sketching out some ideas with a friend, we came up with a smart, sustainable garden that could even grow indoors. We pitched this idea at Startup Weekend Vancouver 2015, and won the “Most Impact Award.”

Fast forward 2 years later, I have co-founded and grown into the role of Lead Imagineer at AVA Technologies. Now a 10-person company, AVA (Automated Vertical Agriculture) is a startup with a mission to feed the world’s transition to sustainable food. We created a sleek, smart indoor garden called AVA Byte that enables anyone to easily grow their own ingredients, anywhere — even if they don’t have the space, time or experience. Using the design principles I learned, we designed a truly sustainable garden that saves up to 90% water, using 80% less space, while growing three times faster than a soil garden. Our plant pods contain everything that a plant needs to thrive, and are completely compostable — safe for both people and the planet. Imagine having herbs, leafy greens, fruits, veggies, microgreens and even mushrooms, grown right out of your own kitchen! This is where we meet nature halfway.

We all have a responsibility to Earth and our next generations to know and grow our own food. To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.

Check out AVA Byte Smart Garden in action: