Vertical farms for every family home

Lettuce Grow, a startup that creates self-watering, self-fertilizing machines, was designed to help families grow a fifth of their produce at home.  And the compact, six-foot-tall device is beautiful to boot, standing like a sculptural plant wall in a corner of the kitchen.

Zooey Deschanel and her business partner Jacob Pechenik founded Lettuce Grow in 2018 in an effort to simplify growing fresh nutritious food at home. The machine, called the Farmstand, allows you to grow between 12 and 36 plants and starts at $348. Since it is modular, you can start with a smaller version and add new levels over time. 

Lettuce Grow is a pricey investment, but Pechenik says that it will pay for itself within the year since you’ll save money buying fresh produce from the grocery store. Given how much I’ve grown over the past two months, this checks out. But it also depends on how much you typically spend on veggies: The Farmstand is likely to appeal to health-conscious consumers who shop at Whole Foods and farmer’s markets and have disposable income to spare. But Lettuce Grow is committed to making the device available to other communities as well. For every 10 Farm Stands the company sells, it donates one to a school, nonprofit, or other community groups. So far it has donated several hundred devices, along with a million dollars to support these organizations.

The Farmstand ships to your door and takes about an hour to set up. Once it’s up and running, it only requires about five minutes a week to maintain. Every week, you need to top up the water in the base, add a few spoonfuls of fertilizer, and test the pH of the liquid. Lettuce Grow sells seedlings that go into the machine for $2 a plant; you’ll need to buy new ones once you’ve fully harvested a vegetable, which can take a few months. 

Pechenik believes that one solution to the food-mile problem is “distributed farming”—that is, having families grow a proportion of food themselves. 

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