As more consumers embrace plant-based diets and sustainable eating practices, Rise Gardens is empowering everyone to have a green thumb from the comfort of their own home.
The Chicago-based smart indoor hydroponics company raised $ 9 million in an oversubscribed Series A led by TELUS Ventures with existing investors True Ventures and Amazon Alexa Fund and new investor Listen Ventures. The company has a total of $ 13 million in venture capital-backed investments since Rise’s inception in 2017, founder and CEO Hank Adams told TechCrunch.
Although he started in 2017, Adams, who has a background in sports technology, said he spent a few years working on prototypes before launching the first products in 2019. Rise’s IoT-connected systems are designed for growing vegetables, herbs and microgreens all year round. .
Customers can choose from three system levels and start their first garden for around $ 300.
There is a âkind of joyâ in being able to grow something, but people seek help because they don’t want to engage in a hobby that will become demanding or stressful, Adams said. As a result, Rise’s companion mobile app monitors water levels and plant progress, then alerts users when it’s time to water, fertilize, or care for their plants.
âPeople pay attention to food and care about what they eat,â he added. âThen the global pandemic played a role in that, with people bending down to grow their own food. “
In fact, customers got so into food growing that Rise Gardens saw its sales eclipse seven figures in 2020, and the gardens sold three times during the year. Customers bought almost 100,000 plants and harvested 50,000.
The company estimates that it has helped prevent the waste of more than 2,000 pounds of food and save 250,000 gallons of water since its launch in 2019.
The concept of a covered farm is not new. The incumbents include AeroGarden, AeroGrow, which was acquired by Scotts-Miracle Gro last November, and Click & Grow. Rise is one of a new generation of fundraising startups, including Gardyn.
However, Rise Gardens differentiates itself from these competitors by crafting its gardens from powder coated metals and glass and is designed to be a focal point in the room. It also provides ways for people to experiment with their gardens.
âWe wanted something flexible, because once you master a hobby, you’ll be bored,â he added. âYou can start at one level and they swap the lids of the trays to grow more densely. We have a microgreens kit that you can add or add plant carriers for tomatoes and peppers. You can also build a trellis to grow snow peas.
Adams will focus the Series A dollars on product development, inventory, manufacturing, expansion into new markets and team building, particularly in the areas of customer service and marketing. Rise has about 25 employees and plans to hire eight more this year.
Additionally, Rise Gardens’ products will soon be available on Amazon, its first channel outside of its website. The business is also expanding into schools in what Adams calls “version 2.0” of the school garden.
When Rich Osborn, president and managing partner of TELUS Ventures, evaluated the indoor garden space, he told TechCrunch that Adams and his team rose to the top of the list because of their background, their experience of data and their syndication with Amazon.
Not only was there a consumer demand for these kinds of products, but the sustainability and social impact created by these kinds of investments could not be overstated, he said.
Nishan Majarian, co-founder and CEO of TELUS Agriculture, said he envisions a future where there is a spectrum of food growth and where crop management will be at the plant level.
âSince Climate Corp. was acquired by Monsanto, there has been a massive influx into agriculture to reach the next billion dollar exit,â added Majarian. âAgribusiness is the last segmented supply chain. Every culture is different, every market is different. This makes it a local, complex, and fertile soil – pun intended – for startups that raise capital to tackle these issues and scale.