From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Daniel and Camille met each other as students at MIT Media Lab. They are both mechanical engineers, and they love building things. In Boston, they used to built controlled environment agriculture systems, but apparently, it wasn’t enough. Their passion for making products that surprise and inspire people brought them to San Francisco to build HAMAMA (@hamama_greens).
People love the idea of growing their own food, but when you get down to actually doing it, it can be tough. There are a lot of constraints (like space, weather, knowledge, or just bandwidth) that prevent people from starting and maintaining their own garden. “We felt that enabling more people to grow their own healthy food was an interesting and impactful challenge for two makers to address,” said Camille. “When we started off, we were researchers in automated farming – growing food using sensing software to do all the maintenance. People who hadn’t been able to garden successfully before were really interested.”
Microgreens are the seedling versions of vegetables and herbs. For example, the first flavors are Daikon Radish, Red Cabbage, and Salad Mix (a combination of broccoli, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi, arugula, and cabbage). Even though these veggies are just grown to seedlings, they have all the flavor of the adult vegetable. And USDA research has shown that the seedling versions of these veggies are actually up to forty times more nutritiously dense than their mature version!
Camille and Dan did a lot of prototyping to get to the simplest possible solution for an automated microgreens growing kit. They figured out which parameters were important at which phase of plant growth. Once they learned how to grow microgreens to perfection on their own, they started to automate. At first, they tried controlling important parameters with timers or feedback from environmental sensors. Then, they thought to get away from the sensors by designing a solution where the plants themselves control their access to different light and humidity levels. A bold idea! So they build Seed Quilts.
The seeds are packaged between a layer of grow media and a cover layer. The cover layer blocks out light to create a nice, dark environment for germination. The sprouting seeds then push the cover of the Seed Quilt up into a little humidity dome. Then, they rip through the cover when they are ready for more light. Meanwhile, the roots are growing down into the grow media and drinking up from the water reservoir below. The system is designed to let the plants do the talking.
The MicroGrow Kit takes up very little space (12” x 7” x 2 ½”) and gets a customer up to 2 oz of these superfoods every 7-10 days. All they have to do is add water to the tray, lay down a Seed Quilt, and watch it grow. Seed Quilts combine the seeds, grow media, and humidity and light control into one no-mess package. With the MicroGrow Kit and Seed Quilts, you grow microgreens indoors, year-round, no matter the weather or season! The best part: anyone can do it regardless of their gardening skills, space or time constraints, or geographic location. They don’t even have to remember to water it!