As we move into more automated lives, from cars driving themselves, to the possibility of robots doing every day chores, the glimpse of humanity is still ripe with gardening. We chat with Eric Sloan, President of Urban Cultivator, about how the cultivator came to be and challenges along the path of innovation. The Urban Cultivator is manufactured, innovative design allowing you to have your very own indoor gardens allowing you to grow vegetables, herbs, and microgreens anywhere, anytime.
Hello Eric, firstly let me offer you our congratulations on the success of the Urban Cultivator.
Thank you very much, we are very proud of it and what we have achieved thus far. Suffice to say we are far from finished in our endeavors.
Let us start with your personal story and how you came on board with the Urban Cultivator?
I was running my own marketing consultancy business back then, I met Tarran Wolfe (CEO & founder of the Urban Cultivator) in 2010. He has been involved in industrial hydroponics since 2001. Our respective backgrounds and skill sets complemented each other, and I was taken in by his concept; and it all snowballed from there.
I believe Tarren’s interest in the Urban Cultivator came through personal reasons?
Yes – Tarren thought of Urban Cultivator as a solution to his wife’s severe food allergies; in order to help her. As he developed his idea he realized he could help a wider audience at the same time.
I am aware with your affiliation with Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation and other well known branded companies/public profiles. When did you realize that things were really going places – your eureka moment shall we say?
Our first major breakthrough came on Dragons Den in Canada (where entrepreneurs pitch ideas for investment from successful business people.) Thankfully a few of the dragons wanted to invest. We had the unexpected luxury of being able to choose which investor we wanted. Arlene Dickinson was the most natural fit for us. Her business acumen and contacts, combined with the public exposure from the show really was a launch pad for the company. Soon after we were breaking into the Mongolian, Australian and European markets.
Sounds almost too good to be true! Were there any major teething problems or unexpected obstacles when rolling out your product?
Supply and demand was and can still be an issue. Not a bad problem to have I must say. Consumers and customers want more units, different crops all the time. We are continually working on this as we speak and we can only see it as a compliment that people are asking for more.
I agree, but supply and demand is usually classed as a foreseeable problem and attributed to unexpected success. How about unexpected obstacles?
I think one of our major challenges was addressing and adapting to water quality in different areas. Of course in Canada, and shall we say more regulated countries – it was fine. But expanding our horizons further afield we encountered different levels of water quality and fluctuating water temperatures. We overcame these obstacles through certain methods. Our ambition to be a worldwide distributor will require us to tackle these and upcoming issues head on.
What about the electricity consumption though? To me or the common consumer, it looks like it will hike up the home energy bills having one (or more) units in the home?
This can be a common misconception and I am glad you asked that question. The unit/s are very well lit and come across as vibrant. This of course, can lead to people assuming that it consumes a lot of electricity. Put simply it doesn’t. In Canada, a unit operating year round will consume about $15 worth of electricity. It can & will of course vary country to country, but it is a small blip on the energy radar. It is overshadowed by almost all other household appliances on the energy consumption scale.
That really is surprising and very encouraging. This can only bode well for sales and the continued success of the Urban Cultivator?
We certainly hope so. Our units are now sold in over 10 countries worldwide and that number is growing every quarter. We have many North American showrooms where consumers can see an Urban Cultivator in person and they are listed here www.urbancultivator.net/where-to-buy/.
It looks very technical, is that the case? How easy is it for a complete beginner to pick up, or does one need some gardening & or cultivating experience?
Not at all. It is a very intuitive concept. So easy to pick up. As simple as a quick look at the induction pack that comes with the unit, opening the seeds and turning the lights on. We aim to make this accessible to all, making it very user friendly.
Do you have a figure, say a percentage of how quicker it grows in the cultivator?
The pre-programmed cultivator sets the perfect environment in terms of water, temperature and light. Compared to a garden or allotment where the variables are not always in perfect sync. Well, trying to avoid exact figures – as the difference of herbs and vegetables will grow at different rates. As an estimated figure, we are confident that the Urban Cultivator on average, produces 25% faster than its garden counterparts.
My dad has an allotment and is a keen gardener – both produce and aesthetics. What would you Say to him and others to convince them to give the Urban Cultivator a try?
Yes, well we don’t exactly discourage people from continuing in their harvesting or hobbies even. What we offer is the ability to grow crops 365 days of the year. The added bonus of cultivating produce out of season, enabling consumers to forgo paying premium prices at the supermarket for imported goods.
Also, the crops can be pregrown in the cultivator and then transferred to the allotment or garden if they so wish. Both freeing up more space in the cultivator and giving gardens a green, aesthetic look as some people require.
That is a substantial increase on time saved. In addition to introducing more seeds and increasing the range of produce – what’s next for you and the company? Anything in the pipeline?
Our mission as a company is to make fresh, healthy and flavorful food available to anyone. In addition to our home and professional appliances, we are launching a retail franchise aimed at selling our fresh greens and herbs in small quantities and in the form of healthy organic smoothies. The first retail store will be opening in January of 2015 in Vancouver, Canada. We hope to open multiple new retail stores in the 2015 year across North America and in Europe.
The largest misconception about our products is the disbelief that real food can be grown in any kitchen. Many consumers are not familiar with indoor growing and are skeptical about the ability of our products to produce food on a regular basis. We’re working very hard to educate consumers about the environmental and health merits of growing their own foods, and also that it can be fun and very rewarding to do so. I encourage anyone to head down to a showroom and see for themselves how the machine works; it’s really a great experience.
What do you think of this concept of having your indoor gardening experience automated? Share your thoughts!
YGL will share our one on one experience with the Urban Cultivator in the coming weeks.