Edible Innovations: Compact Planter Boxes Bring Greenery to Urban Life

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Edible Innovations: Compact Planter Boxes Bring Greenery to Urban Life

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.

The convenience of living in close proximity to work is a difficult rival for nature’s beautiful greenery to beat. So most urban dwellers make the sacrifice when they choose to move from a rural community to a bustling city. It is sad that these city slickers often give up the gorgeous fauna that suburban and rural folks enjoy every day. For James Hunt, a Maker Pro operating out of Oakland, living in an urban or industrial city should not mean being devoid of nature. So he set about creating an artistic, yet simple, solution to fostering plants.

Hunt’s inspiration for urban improvement comes from his childhood. He started inventing at a young age, inspired to design and build ramps to fulfill his love of BMX and skateboarding. He reused objects and wood to create his own personal playground. He also got to see and live in places like Dubai, Vietnam, and Poland and experience those country’s love of reinventing space. This passion for reinventing space is what led him to found Florae & Co. He wanted to create beautiful planter boxes to line the streets of his home city. For him, Oakland represents a place to design and build new and imaginative things for the very real, cultured human existence.

Using his experience from each country for his inspirations for urban improvement, Hunt designed a little box that embraced two essential aspects: sustainability and the joy of planting. The box demonstrated different farming techniques from different cultures, like square foot gardening, to ensure excellent quality soil and plant growth in a small space. Hunt named this little box GreenCube, and marketed it towards people who do not have the space for a proper farm or garden, but are in need of some green.

Customers receive their very own raised garden bed that comes in a few different shapes and sizes (standard is about 10” deep and 3 x 3 x 3’ around), as well as different aesthetics to suit individual needs. The bed itself is something to marvel at. Hunt understood two things about urban life: people are extremely busy and want to be green. Thus, the GreenCube does not require constant care and thrives on clean energy and resources. The garden bed is made out of organic material, with its own draining system that then cycles back into the box and creates a fluid self-regulating irrigation system. The whole box is solar powered for irrigation, and the plants arrive already healthy and strong.

The point of the box is to give a customer flowers to smell and plants to engage with, without disrupting the flow and hum of their busy life. Hunt hopes this will lead to healthier mentalities for those who live in hectic cities. Numerous psychology studies have delved into the health benefits of having a garden and being amongst nature. Those who go out to experience nature have less anxiety and less depression, as the simple act of incorporating nature into our everyday lives has positive effects on each of us. Plants can not only raise our spirits; they can raise our energy levels. Since someone in the middle of a city cannot just go out into nature, the GreenCube brings nature to you.

It is not just about adding flowers outside either, GreenCube has the ability to produce up to 25 grams of produce a day! That is enough to sustain and supplement an individual’s meal every day. The ability to grow your own food, even if customers do not have to put much effort into the process themselves, feels like a small victory in and of itself. Hunt wants to share this victory with all of his customers and raise awareness in how easy it is to incorporate growing food and plants in cities.

GreenCube is a pop of color and nature that Hunt has brought to urban city life. Both easy to access and maintain, the GreenCube is an adaptable planter box that is wonderfully designed to both stand out and enhance your city stroll. It embraces both traditional farming and new ways of city dwelling all in one little painted cube. By creating a self-sustaining garden, James has brought the healing aspects of gardening right to your door, regardless of where you live.

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Chiara is fascinated by food as a means to impact bodies, minds, and environment. She has studied international business in three different countries, and is an alumni of the Food Innovation Program and US Director at the Future Food Institute.

Based in California, she is also a Research Scholar at Food Science and Technology at UC Davis, working on building the first comprehensive Internet of Food to enable food care through food systems semantics. She is a selected member of Barilla Center Food Nutrition Foundation, a Research Affiliate at Institute For The Future, Board Member at Maker Faire and selected member of the Global Shapers, a young global network of innovators promoted by the World Economic Forum.

She is passionate about social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and aims to leave her mark on society.

View more articles by Chiara Cecchini


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