Plantaform

This interview details Plantaform, an indoor farming company based in Canada. The interview is with Alberto Aguilar, CEO of Plantaform.

Source: Plantaform

What is the origin story of Plantaform?

In October 13 of 2019, I received a 4 am call from my lifelong friend Kiwa Lang, whom I lost contact in 2015. We both attended high school in Dubai, where we experienced the harsh realities of depending heavily on imported produce and the critical need for water conservation in the arid MENA region. 

Kiwa's pursuit of knowledge took him to Australia, where he poured his passion into creating the first version of Rejuvenate as his final thesis for his industrial design bachelor.  He stumbled upon a groundbreaking article by NASA, detailing the potential of Fogponics for growing plants in space stations. This inspired Kiwa to question why such a water-efficient and high-yielding technology wasn't being harnessed for Earth's agriculture. Meanwhile, I was in Canada, where I pursued international business at Carleton University, and simultaneously co-founded three startups one after the other, spanning software, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. Kiwa's unexpected call, presenting the "Rejuvenate" indoor garden idea, struck a chord. Canada is not much different from Dubai, due to the country’s dependency on imported produce from the US and Mexico. We were suddenly back in sync, our shared mission crystal clear: to empower people to grow their own food effortlessly. 

We started humbly, with a few 3D printers, our savings, and some supportive friends and family. Adventure took me to Jakarta, Indonesia where I learned the intricacies of manufacturing at a local factory. But 2020 threw a curveball: the pandemic struck, and my then-startup faced a crisis. In a bold move, I divested from it, redirecting my energies entirely to Plantaform. The world was in chaos, and food security was top of mind. In Canada, over half the population began exploring home gardening. This was our sign.

Source: Plantaform

What are some of the biggest challenges facing Plantaform in the future?

A paramount challenge for Plantaform was manufacturing. Committing to a "Made in Canada" ethos meant embracing higher costs. Our pre-seed and Seed rounds yielded $2M, fueling the creation and multiple reiterations of the first indoor garden using fogponics. After three years of intensive research and development, we had a prototype ready to be manufactured. The journey to manufacture this required 29 steel molds and an investment of over half a million dollars, not to mention nearly a year's time. By July 2023, we commenced manufacturing, having pre-sold units worth over $200,000 organically.

Now, our focus is on scaling across North America. While we've established a presence on Amazon, in retail chains, and even begun exports to Dubai, our primary target remains the expansive US and Canadian markets. Our growing presence attracted new partners, such as Formula 1 driver Yuki Tsunoda, who resonated with our mission and passion for sustainability and innovation.

Looking ahead, our ambition extends to the vertical farming sector. With operational costs and water scarcity posing significant challenges in this industry, we aim to revolutionize irrigation. Our technology could potentially cut water usage by 40-60% compared to conventional hydroponic systems. To manifest this vision, we're initiating a pioneering project: the Plantafarm, a vertical farm leveraging fogponics, located in Gatineau, Quebec.

Source: Plantaform

What is unique about Plantaform compared to competitors?

The Rejuvenate seamlessly blends elegance and innovation, standing as a testament to our dedication to fogponics technology. Designed with Kiwa's industrial expertise, its distinctive egg-shaped silhouette sets it apart from the rectangular monotony of competitors. Beyond aesthetics, the periodic release of fog creates an engaging visual, offering a dynamic interaction unlike traditional hydroponic setups.

Our journey with Rejuvenate has been deeply collaborative. Through extensive interviews with our pre-order customers and insights from competitor reviews, we've sculpted a product tailored to real desires and feedback. This hands-on approach led to multiple iterations, each refined by invaluable consumer insights.

Rejuvenate's water efficiency sets a benchmark, ensuring prolonged intervals between refills, thereby simplifying maintenance. Its compact design accommodates up to 15 plants within a mere 2 sq ft, matching space-savviness with productivity.

Source: Plantaform

Our custom-developed app is a game-changer. It empowers users with real-time data, growth insights, and timely reminders. The true magic unfolds for gardening enthusiasts: the app provides an unprecedented level of control. From adjusting light wavelengths to fine-tuning temperature and humidity, it's all at the user's fingertips. Furthermore, our unique QR-coded pod packs are a testament to intuitive design. A simple scan and the system configures the optimal environment tailored to the specific cultivars, a feature unparalleled in the market.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons for customers to choose Rejuvenate is that we’re proudly local. Every component of the Rejuvenate from the plastics to intricate LED electronics, is proudly manufactured and assembled in Canada.

Source: Plantaform

What is the current size of your growing area?

Each Rejuvenate can grow the equivalent of a 15 sq ft garden, only taking 2 sq ft of space. 

Do you use CO2 in your operation today -- if so, how much and what do you pay for it? What are your thoughts in CO2 usage in indoor farms?

We do not use CO2 in our smart indoor garden. We do have an integrated fan that circulates air within the system, pulling in air from the room, and delivering it to the plant leaf’s.

Source: Plantaform

Energy is a big topic in indoor farming right now. How much do you pay for electricity (kWh)? Is it mainly from the grid or renewables?

Each Rejuvenate consumes 60 Watts, which is the equivalent of an incandescent lightbulb. In Quebec, this translates to around $3 a month of electricity. 

How can people connect with you or learn more about Plantaform?

Our website and Instagram are the best way to connect with us. You can visit Plantaform at www.plantaform.com or https://www.instagram.com/plantaform/. You’ll find more information about the Rejuvenate, our Plant Pods, and company, or you can email us directly at info@plantaform.com

Source: Plantaform

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