Have you dreamt of growing your own vegetable garden in your apartment but space is an issue?
Do you crave for seasonal fruits when it’s out of season? Are you health-conscious and want to grow your own greens but lack the confidence to do so?
If your answer is yes to these questions, then Aerospring Gardens can help change your dream into reality.
Aerospring Gardens is a vertical aeroponic gardening system that is created for urban home gardeners who wish to grow their own vegetables, herbs or leafy greens in a limited space.
Instead of soil, the garden uses water to nurture and grow a wide range of vegetables and fruits. If that is not all, the Aerospring is also designed to allow upward growing instead of outwards, solving the issue of limited space in apartments in Singapore.
Founded by husband-and-wife duo – Thorben Linneberg and Nadine Keller – in 2016, the couple first introduced their outdoor gardening systems that has sold more than 1,500 kits to date. The vertical gardening system allows users to grow up to 36 different edible vegetable and fruits, ranging from tomatoes and kale to fragrant herbs, within a tight space. Moreover, the system also self-waters, requires little maintenance, can be easily set up and every pole has little plant seedlings in it.
When you purchase the Aerosprings, you will receive everything that is needed to assemble your own vertical aeroponic gardening system, and you will be able to put it together in just 15 minutes, with no tools required.
After successfully launching the outdoor system three years ago, the couple has now introduced a brand-new indoor system early this year. In developing the Aerospring Indoor, the company chose to improve upon the design and functionality of its original gardening system and take it indoors, allowing consumers to garden year-round. In addition, the indoor kit also eliminates the threat of pests and offers a more controlled growing environment, given that it’s designed to be completely weather independent.
I had a chat with Nadine to find out more about this vertical gardening system, as well as her thoughts on sustainable living in Singapore.
How did the idea to start Aerospring Gardens come about?
We started gardening as a hobby in 2013, partly because we needed an activity to combat stress but mostly because we were upset about the cost and quality of fresh produce in Singapore. We only had a small apartment balcony and we failed quite spectacularly with soil, especially when we forgot to water or were a little too enthusiastic with watering some of the plants. This is when Thorben decided that there had to be a better way and decided to DIY a vertical hydroponic structure that would automatically water the plants intermittently. A neighbour and good friend had a large terrace he wasn’t using, so we made 6 of these systems and pretty soon, we had an urban farm growing tomatoes, kale, herbs, lettuce, eggplants and so much more.
With the encouragement of friends and family, Thorben decided to spend more time perfecting the system into a consumer friendly pack-into-a box product. In late 2015, both of us gave up our corporate jobs and decided to dedicate ourselves to starting Aerospring Gardens in earnest. After a year of 3D prototyping and testing, we committed to creating 7 individual plastic injection tools to create the Aerospring Garden and delivered the first gardens to customers in early 2016.
What made you both develop the Aerospring Indoor now?
We realised that there were many who lived in apartments without balconies and that there were also plenty who had balconies with little or no sunshine. Buildings in Singapore are often constructed to face away from the sun, thus making apartments cooler but wholly unsuitable to growing edible plants. We also have customers that were quite challenged with issues like pests or even too much sunshine. Furthermore, once we started exporting the gardens into temperate climates like Europe, we had to take into account that their growing season was shorter, limited to spring/summer so we decided that there had to be a way to make our system into an all-year garden, either by choice or by design.
What is unique about Aerosping Gardens that will entice people into buying it?
The Aerospring system is incredibly versatile – you can use it outdoors or indoors and you can grow 3-36 plants with it because of its modular design. It has a large 75 litre tank allowing you to go away on an extended holiday without having to worry about watering your plants, and best of all, it’s incredibly productive.
The outdoor system can grow very large plants – melons, cucumbers, habanero chilies and passion fruit and the indoor system is more suitable for leafy greens and herbs. Surprisingly, the Aerospring Indoor is becoming quite popular amongst our outdoor gardeners because with the climate getting hotter and wetter of late, it’s becoming more tedious to ensure consistent harvests. In addition, pests have become quite aggressive as well – caterpillars have been able to wipe out all their kale in just a few days. We’ve also seen an uptick of corporate customers – instead of having ornamental plants in the office, a few companies have decided to install the Aerospring Indoor which has not only become a conversation piece and activity but is also providing fresh mint, basil and kale to employees.
Share with us some of the challenges you both have faced in developing the products.
When we designed the product, we had to ensure that it was easy to pack in one box for shipping and that the user would be able to put the system together themselves, otherwise our business would never be scalable. So when we developed the Aerospring Indoor system, we also had to ensure that the whole kit packed into the very same box. A major challenge is that we still get a lot of requests to install the gardens, as well as maintain them for customers, but that’s not a service we can or want to provide. We designed the system so that our customers would be able to become independent gardeners themselves, to empower them to be grow their own food, right at home.
Your thoughts on urban gardening and sustainable living in Singapore?
Urban gardening is growing year on year in Singapore, and growing your own food is definitely a life skill that parents want to be passing onto the next generation. More people are becoming aware about the great distances our food has to travel as well as how it’s grown, no thanks to food contamination scares like E.coli or excessive use of pesticides. So naturally, many are trying to cultivate their own little herb or veggie garden at home.
Sustainability is very much a buzzword right now but it’s such a broad term and difficult to define precisely. Growing your own at home with an Aerospring however very much contributes to sustainable living – you use less water, there’s less packaging waste, you only use what you need so there’s no food waste and if you’re composting any scraps, that circle loop closes without contributing to the immense wastage we see now. It’s still much more convenient to buy most of your produce in the supermarket, but it’s also getting more expensive to do this every year. So we’re banking on this fact that many will be driven to consider growing a little of their own just to save some money. Once you start digging deeper into how our food is produced, the more inclined you will be to seek solutions that will benefit your household, the planet and your health.
Do you think the government is doing much to advocate sustainable living in Singapore?
Singapore imports food from over 170 countries, and the fact that we currently bring in 90% was obviously a matter that needed addressing. The ‘30 by 30’ strategy is a step in the right direction and the creation of the Singapore Food Agency that is specifically tasked to improve our food security are definite positives. We feel that the government and ministries like MEWR are spending more time and effort to educate and inform the public about how we can and must live more sustainably. Campaigns about recycling, waste management, water treatment and waste reduction are to be applauded and should remain consistent. There’s a generous fund that’s been made available to boost high tech agriculture, and there’s finally a push to develop local talent within university or polytechnics so that we will have skilled labour to achieve all of this.
We’re not really part of the exercise because we’re not farmers and our product isn’t really meant for large scale commercial farming, but we feel that we are contributing to the effort by providing an easy to use consumer product that enables the user to become an urban farmer in their own home. We’re promoting de-centralised farming and we’re a homegrown, made in Singapore product so I hope the government will come knocking on our door one day!
What are your future plans?
Our focus moving forward will be to sell our system to the biggest hydroponic market in the world. We’re always looking to improve on our products, so Thorben is already sourcing and testing better and more efficient lights. We’re hoping to take our little garden out to the big wide world and make a tremendous success of it, outside of Singapore.