This interview details Hexagro, an indoor farming company based in Italy. The interview is with Felipe Hernández, CEO & Lead design of Hexagro.
What is the origin story of Hexagro?
In 2012, I started to study how traditional farming systems are failing to provide healthy food for all and decided to develop my Bachelor's thesis to address this issue.
The food we eat and the way it’s grown, processed, and delivered to consumers has direct implications for the nutrition and health of people and for the long-term sustainability of the planet. Moreover, Urbanization is on the rise. 50% of the global population lives in urban areas. Today, 75% of the worldwide population in developed countries lives in urban areas, and is expected to increase to 86% by 2050.
Urban farming can provide nutritious, organic, and sustainable food right where people live and work, improving food security for all. I noticed that soilless farming systems at the time were not adaptable to the everyday urban lifestyle and decided to develop a design that would address this issue. After the presentation of the thesis, I was granted the first mention of honor for a thesis in the university’s career and got a scholarship to study at Politecnico di Milano in Italy. I fell “in love” with the problem and decided to continue working on the idea when I was studying in Italy.
While participating in an international contest for startups called Thought For Food Challenge in 2016 I met Alessandro Grampa. He was very interested in this issue and the idea I presented in the contest and agreed to collaborate on the project, 6 months later we were working together as co-founders and managers of the startup which we continue to do today.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Hexagro in the future?
Hexagro develops hardware, software, and services. One main challenge has been to find resources to finance their development and their marketing to be able to reach our target audience. We have created a low-tech and a high-tech product line to serve individual consumers and companies respectively, and it was a challenge to define the right value proposition to enter the market. Related to this, finding investments is difficult, and we need cash flow to finance prototypes, tooling, and hardware manufacturing. Thanks to our industrial partners and investors, we have been able to overcome this challenge
What is unique about Hexagro compared to competitors?
Brands in this sector do not take an approach like Hexagro's. There are companies, mostly in the US, offering similar products in the market that have some similarities to ours. For example, Lettuce Grow’s Farmstand, Juice Plus’s Tower Garden, and Farmshelf already have good initial traction in the market and are showing that there is interest from consumers. Although these products are scaling in the US market, they are not as easy to adapt for a European consumer, given the footprint that they occupy.
Hexagro is the first platform for urban agriculture that offers a complete ecosystem of solutions for vertical farming, both outdoor and indoor. Our products, differentiate from competitors through its strong digital, providing users with a growing assistant and the ability to monitor and control their plants remotely. In addition, we enable the cultivation of a wide range of plants in a limited space, thanks to our services provided through local partners. We also feature a stylized design that adds value to any urban space by decorating the environment with shapes, materials, and plants.
How do you measure the impact of Hexagro so far? (Revenue, Employees, Customer Quantity, Production Volume) etc?
We envision that the urban community will have a more important role in the production of local food, to decentralize food production and tackle a series of urbanization problems with a holistic solution. We are promoting urban farming because it is good for health, good for the environment, and good for society as a whole. Furthermore, we would like to see the new through the lenses of the “old” and see people sharing what they grow in their gardens once more, only this time in urban contexts and with advanced technology.
We specifically aim to measure and target these goals:
We are mainly addressing young European families who are aware of the benefits of healthy eating and want to integrate a healthy lifestyle and sustainability into their families. They are directly benefited because of the increase in awareness of healthy eating, the increase in interactions within the family, and also the environmental impact provoked by the family itself. As some of our clients have shown to be more aware of food waste and resource use, we can see this on a bigger scale.
We are building hardware that is meant to be circled back to the industry, some of its materials already are in their second or third recycle, and we are providing every instruction on how to dispose properly of the materials. We also use organic resources, such as coconut and organic nutrients, to avoid anything that might cause harm to the environment in case the resources are spilled in nature.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you joined or started the company?
I wish I would have all the experience to manage people that I have today, in the early days I was not aware of the best ways to communicate and lead a team. I also wish I had known more about fundraising because we struggled a lot in the beginning to find funding. Furthermore, I also wish I would have a better knowledge of how to develop products effectively and all the contacts in the industry that I have today. But of course, all of this time and process has been a long learning process I had to go through.
How can people connect with you or learn more about Hexagro?
People can connect with us by:
Following our social media platforms Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and LinkedIn, to get real-time updates, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and special content about Hexagro.
To dive deeper into our offerings and stay informed about our blog posts, news, and events, we invite people to visit our website https://www.hexagro.io
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