By Renee Moore, staff writer.
Farmers markets are popping up in every community. Walmart sells organic produce because consumers are demanding a purer form of food. One health conscious mother of four recently commented that, “if I could grow it all myself, I would.” There’s no question that “garden grown” is better, but gardening is time consuming, and weather and space dependent. Hummingbird Technologies co-founders Danny Verghese, Tejesh Patel and Marin Assaliyski are changing the way gardens are grown with their innovative product called the Nectar — an automated home gardening system that’s small enough to fit on a kitchen counter top.
The Nectar is a smart greenhouse that utilizes a multi-colored lighting system, a hydroponic system and multiple sensors that monitor and regulate temperature, humidity and pH to create optimal growing conditions for any plant. All that’s required of Nectar users is simply dropping seeds into the system.
“Our goal is to simplify plant growth for the basic user,” states Patel, who has an Applied Mathematics degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and brings experience as a design engineer to his position as CTO of Hummingbird Technologies. “Anyone, in any location, any time of the year can achieve an optimal harvest with any seed,” says Patel, who makes it clear that one of the differentiating factors between Nectar and other brands on the market is Nectar’s ability to grow complicated plants, not just herbs and lettuce.
The Nectar mobile app comes loaded with a robust database that will excite even the most experienced gardener. Not only will the app alert the user when the water is low and assess the best time to harvest, but it will also mimic temperature, lighting and climate conditions of plant yields from previous years from locations all around the world. Patel claims that, “If customers would like to grow the same strawberries that were harvested in Japan last year, we can replicate that exact environment to achieve an equivalent strawberry.”
Verghese points out the other key difference between the Nectar and competitors. “Our app will connect users to each other. We’ll create a growing community of indoor farmers and organic gardening moms.” Verghese defined the Nectar’s target market, moms and organic farmers, while taking an MBA class called Hatchery at Washington Universityin St. Louis. The objective of the class was to develop a business plan around a product. Verghese decided to use the class to his advantage and created his business plan around the greenhouse product that Patel and Assaliyski were developing. That exact business plan won the team a $50,000 Arch Grant in November, 2015.
Verghese is excited to enter into the relatively new market of indoor gardening systems. “The number one selling product on the market today doesn’t have the product features or the multiple sizes that the Nectar offers. And our price point is extremely competitive.” Verghese expects the product to be available on Amazon by the end of 2016.
The Hummingbird Technologies team has a busy year ahead. They plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in February with a goal of raising $50,000. Patel intends to manufacture the product in the United States and will spend the first half this year sourcing partnerships and pilot testing the Nectar.
While the lives of these entrepreneurs is fast paced and frantic, Verghese, Patel and Assaliyski are embracing the start-up culture. “We all came from corporate jobs where we were bored,” notes Patel. “Engineers get stuck in one job. As an entrepreneur, I’m part of the big picture. As part of a team, we get to determine our future. We’re happy to develop a product that changes people’s lives.”