Jennifer Broutin Farah

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Finalist 2015 for North America

Jennifer Broutin Farah

SproutsIO, UNITED STATES
Smartphone-controlled indoor micro-farming device to grow food.
During her studies at the MIT Media Lab, Jennifer Broutin Farah conducted most of the research that led to the creation of an indoor micro-gardening technology. In 2013, she co-founded SproutsIO – IO standing for “input” and “output” – with the aim of encouraging consumers to be fully involved in the agricultural production of their food.
Food waste issue
The current global food industry provides customers with nourishment that often travels hundreds or thousands of miles from the field to the plate. Each day, tons of food are wasted because of supply chain inefficiencies. “For every tomato we end up eating, another tomato actually gets thrown away”, says Jennifer. “The way we designed the agriculture industry is to produce food to live for travel rather than for taste and the result of this is that people aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.” Our food system also has a far-reaching impact on the environment since 70% of global fresh water goes to industrial agriculture.
Micro-farming technology SproutsIO developed an indoor micro-gardening appliance for growing food year-round. The system is based on hydroculture technology – thus being completely soil-free – and has an automated growth management. “You can grow anything from strawberries to bok choi and it’s really easy to use and simple to maintain. You can control the whole thing from your mobile phone.” The device allows users to grow more efficiently within a small space. The process also requires much less water than it does in conventional agriculture. “With the SproutsIO system we only use 2% of the water that is needed to grow produces as you would grow outside.”
“It’s an incredible time for us to be leading the cutting-edge of this new wave of really caring about where your produces are coming from.”
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“We can also grow around 2 to 2 ½ times as fast in our system because the plants are getting direct access to the water and the nutrients that they need.”
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Offering choice to people
Prior to developing the micro-growing station, Jennifer worked on a programme with the New York City Department of Parks to create a vegetable wall on the facade of their main headquarters building. “I’m initially trained as an architect so I was thinking much more on a large scale.” Because of administrative slowness, she then decided to take this prototype down to a much smaller scale in order to be more impactful. “The idea was to take this technology and spread it to as many people as possible so that we could all grow fresh products”, says Jennifer. “We provide options for people to be able to grow food the way they want at different times of the year and be in control.”
“With industrial agriculture, we haven’t been close to our food and our produces for years. We envision a future where people are participating in that process, where they are the centre of their own food cycle.”