This ASU Startup Is DEMOCRATIZING Sustainable Agriculture
Many aspire to grow beautiful, lush gardens but few actually have the elusive green thumb. Building and maintaining a healthy garden requires lots of time, knowledge, water, and sunlight. This can make outdoor gardening challenging, particularly for those interested in sustainable food growth and agriculture. Aquaponics has emerged as a viable alternative, however, assembling successful systems can be incredibly challenging for new gardeners.
Born at Arizona State University, Tempe-based Aquaponos helps those interested in sustainable agriculture build aquaponics systems from affordable, pre-assembled kits. The startup was founded in 2015 by three ASU engineering students and continues to educate people all over the country on the value and utility of aquaponics in our world today.
Gardening Of The Future?
As highlighted by Aquaponos, traditional agricultural methods consume 80% of the country’s water supply and take up 30% of available land. Aquaponics is a sustainable solution to this high level of consumption that combines aquaculture with hydroponics to create self-cleaning ecosystems in which fish waste is used to fuel the growth of underwater plants. In turn, the plants clean the water for the fish, closing a self-sustaining loop. Once an ecosystem has been properly assembled, owners simply have to feed the fish in order to keep everything running smoothly. Overall, aquaponics systems use 90-95% less water and take up 20% less total space than traditional gardening.
Building effective aquaponics systems can be very intimidating, especially for those completely new to gardening. Aquaponos makes the overall experience much easier by distributing its AquaGardens product – pre-assembled kits that come with all of the materials and instructions necessary with the exception of water, fish, and seeds. AquaGardens can be placed indoors or outdoors and can be used the entire year. Owners are able to grow a meaningful amount of vegetables, herbs, and leafy greens in their systems without using much water or space. Aquaponos sells its AquaGardens for $150 and seed variety packs for $10.
The “IKEA” Of Home Gardening
Aquaponos is the brainchild of three ASU engineering students – Veronica Head, Nick Kandas, and Chandler Petrovich. The three came together for ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service program and decided to focus on solutions in the sustainable agriculture field. The team recognized that there were existing barriers to entry preventing the widespread adoption of aquaponics systems. Building a DIY system requires deep knowledge and experience, and other pre-assembled kits on the market don’t actually produce much food.
As a result, the Aquaponos founders developed a prototype, the AquaGarden, which solved the shortcomings that existed in status quo models. Since then, the team has participated in several entrepreneurship accelerator programs, including eSeed, the Edson Entrepreneurial Initiative, New Venture Challenge, and Venture Devils. With the AquaGarden, Aquaponos has successfully created a well-designed solution that is accessible to the masses, much like what IKEA does in the home furnishing space. Outside of distributing AquaGardens, the founding team is also deeply committed to educating the public on the benefits of sustainable agriculture, the primary motive behind the company’s existence.
Creating Accessibility For The Masses
This Untold Spotlight teaches us to think of “accessibility” as a product or service that can be sold. Rather than creating something completely new, find a way to improve upon existing options. If you can take a niche offering and create a mainstream distribution channel, you will quickly grow market share faster than incumbents in the space!
Although there were in-home aquaponics systems available for consumers prior to Aquaponos’ founding, they didn’t actually create widespread access for the masses. Aquaponos was able to create a pre-assembled kit that both novice and experienced gardeners could use to produce meaningful amounts of food. By lowering the barriers to entry, the team is spreading education and awareness about sustainable agriculture and giving people a chance to participate in low-water, low-space gardening. If you are interested in learning more, visit Aquaponos’ website here.