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South Africa’s urban population is growing rapidly. At the same time, a variety of factors have seen the price of fresh produce shoot up dramatically over the past few years. An obvious solution is to grow your own food, but many city dwellers don’t have gardens, or even balconies where they can grow that produce.
It’s a difficult problem to be sure, but one UK-based startup may have an answer.
The Bristol-based startup, called LettUs Grow, produces soil free urban gardens for growing salad vegetables within the home.
The gardens are lit using LED lighting and use automated, soilless, hydroponic techniques, inspired by NASA, that allow anyone to grow fresh salad inside their home or school. It was launched by students and graduates of the University of Bristol seeking to make it simple to grow affordable, fresh salad in as many homes as possible.
According to a press release sent to Ventureburn, the motivation behind the startup is to reduce the huge amount of food wasted in the UK every year, which includes 45% of salad products, and according to Tesco, 68% of bagged salad. The first products include a kitchen-top “Herb Garden” with capacity for four basil-sized plants, and a larger “Salad Bar” that can grow up-to 16 salad plants at any one time.
Both products are focused on making growing food as simple as possible. Via a web application, named the E-cosystem, you get reminders on when to water your plants and can automate the whole growing process.
While its very clear that the problem LettUs Grow is a predominantly middle class one, it’s an issue that affects everyone. In 2013, it was estimated that food wastage cost the South African economy upwards of R61.5-billion a year.
In a country where a large portion of the population is affected by food scarcity, those are resources which could be much better directed elsewhere.
It’s also worth mentioning that as the cost of LEDs come down in the country, LettUs Grow could provide the inspiration for something aimed at at South Africans in low-income areas. The automated nature of the system could also make it appealing to people who work long hours and have to travel long distances to work.