In the shift to local agriculture, the next frontier is as local as it gets: your kitchen. Some time in the future, we may all be growing greens at home using automated appliances. Turning out some Brussels sprouts may be as easy as switching on a dishwasher.
In fact, the future is already here–albeit at a price. The Urban Cultivator, which comes in two versions–residential and commercial–lets you grow a wide range of herbs and micro-greens in a kitchen. Just place a tray of seeds and growing media inside the fridge-like unit, set the buttons and wait. A few days later, you’ll have fresh greens.
The growing boxes come from an Vancouver entrepreneur named Tarren Wolfe, who started developing them five years ago. He appeared on Canada’s version of Shark Tank (Dragons Den) in 2012, and he’s since won the endorsement of many chefs, including Martha Stewart.
The Urban Cultivator is installed like a washing machine, and the residential units come with wooden tops designed for chopping.
The drawback is the price. The commercial units cost $8,799, and the residential product is $2,499.
Wolfe justifies the expense by pointing to the unrivaled freshness and nutritional benefits and by amortizing costs month to month. He believes that a restaurant leasing-to-buy the commercial unit for about $200 a month could save up to $1500 if they’re already buying fresh greens. Residential customers can lease for $40 to $50 a month, which is less than what some households spend on greens. That, however, doesn’t include the cost of the seeds. Urban Cultivator offers the first three months free, then each flat’s worth of greens costs about $5. (You can use your own seeds, but they may not work as well).
It’s just unfortunate that the Urban Cultivator is more like an expensive wine cooler at the moment than a mid-market fridge.