“We’ve seen a 300% increase in demand in comparison to last year,” says Kevin Jakiela, Co-founder and President at Just Vertical. “Overall, with the pandemic, people have more spare time and at home to grow their own food. It’s a fun way to keep kids busy, as well as the educational aspect of growing your own food is important. It’s great to see that people are more cautious of where their food is coming from. Food prices have increased, so this is a great way to access cheaper and fresher produce all year round.”
Lack of fresh products
Given Kevin had been teaching in indigenous youth communities in Northern Canada, he’d experienced the lack of fresh food available. “Living in -40 Celsius we didn’t even have fresh produce available on demand. Whereas frozen pizzas would be sold at $40 each.”
Founders Conner and Kevin
During his masters, he did research on growing different crops indoors, in an affordable way, using different types of technologies, in the Canadian north. That’s how Just Vertical got started, together with his Co-founder Conner Tidd. Once the business model was set, they worked on the R&D side of things and launched their first pilot product.
It’s a scalable technology, as low as 12cm off the ground, and can be scaled to over 600cm vertically.
AEVE and EVE
Amongst one of the products, is the AEVA, an indoor garden that doubles as furniture, that allows for growing crops year-round, anywhere indoors. With the AEVA, users can grow about 8 pounds (3.6kg) of greens per month.
The dimensions resemble a refrigerator, from 177cm high, 91cm wide and 20cm deep. With the AEVA, users can grow 16 plants at the same time, which takes 4-6 weeks from seeding to harvest.
The EVE is a smaller version of the AEVA indoor garden. The dimensions are: 145cm high, 46cm wide and 21cm deep. The EVE can grow 12 plants at the same time, which is about 6 pounds (2.7kg) of greens per month.
There’s a lot of competition in the space, so Just Vertical positioned themselves and their product line to double as furniture. “We wanted to create a bigger impact on communities by offering a solution that easily fits inside any space, kitchens, living rooms, schools, restaurants, etc. so, people can grow their own food, anytime, no matter where they choose to place the garden.”
“We’re scaling our product line to be more efficient, and IoT enabled, as well as expanding to new geographic locations globally, in 2022.” Currently, Just Vertical sells to the US and Canada only. However, they can deliver to Europe, South America and Asia for special orders.
The team has grown over 200 plant varieties to date, says Kevin. Currently, they offer 30 different varieties online, as well as seasonality products that are gaining popularity. Besides that, the garden allows for growing leafy greens, flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs year round for an entire household. “We can even grow pumpkins, petunias and marigolds as well,” he adds.
Once the garden arrives pre-assembled, which allows users a plug-and-play experience. The garden has highly efficient, dimmable LED lights are typically on for 16–18 hours a day, and watering occurs automatically every half hour. Given it’s an open growing cabinet, lights can be dimmed if it’s too bright.
Just Vertical sources its raw materials with a triple bottom line, sustainability approach in mind, using only FSC certified wood and recycled plastics in its manufacturing processes.