M: “So Claudio, what’s Orthoponics?
Orthoponics is the first fully automated zero-acreage farming (Zfarming) solution. Zfarming is a new branch of agriculture involving production in or on urban structures. We focalized our work to create a scalable and easily implementable solution to grow leafy vegetables (such as salad, lettuce, chicory, chard, cabbage, spinach, aromatic herbs) on building surfaces, in order to transform wider vertical urban surfaces in food production sites. Our system is made up of panels attachable to the wall where vegetables can grow. The growth of the plants is completely automated thanks to an integrated wireless sensor connected to an automation system. The Sensors monitor the health of the plants and our patent-pending automation technology automates the harvesting and the sowing. Thanks to our technology, vegetables can simply grow on vertical surfaces without the need of human maintenance. Our vision is to finally disrupt the urban farming and to make our cities greener and more sustainable.
M: “Claudio, how did you come up with this idea?”
Orthoponics was born in August 2016 during a one-week-workshop about the future of food production at RuralHub. During that event scientists and designers merged their competences to find a solution that could overcome the limits of urban farming. We created an interdisciplinary team and we came up with an idea that could have changed the food production in urban areas. We started our journey in August 2016, we won different prizes and we were selected in different accelerator/incubator program such as SpeedMiUp, the startup incubator of the Bocconi University, and Climate-KIC accelerator program. Thanks to these programs and to daily feedback about our startup from entrepreneurs and professionals, we modified our product and our business model several times, in order to understand how to find the best market fitting for our business idea. If I had to think to one of the hardest problem during the development of our business, I’d say it was working remotely because three of us were in Bologna and two were in Rome. Damiano, Fabio and I worked in Bologna on the business development while, Valerio e Thomas worked in Rome to build and to optimize the prototype. Moreover, in the early stages of a startup, things change fast and it’s important to constantly adapt to changes to maximize the time and the results.
M: “Claudio, What’s Startupbootcamp for you and your team?”
Being selected for the Startubootcamp FoodTech acceleration program was one of the greatest successes for us. We knew this incredible accelerator program and we fight with all our forces to be selected. In these 3 months of acceleration, we improved our business model and we built two prototypes (come to the demo day to see our second prototype). But most of all, during the program, we understood how a startup must work. Nobody teaches you how to be an entrepreneur and how to build your startup, thus the best way to avoid errors is to interact with people who did your same journey. In this sense, Startupbootcamp FoodTech helped us a lot because they have a network of entrepreneurs, investors and professionals who know where the world is going and how to build a successful company. Also, Startupbootcamp changed our mind about how to think strategically. We learned that it’s more important to focus on customers and not only on your product or your idea. To be successful you must put yourself in the shoes of your customers (and your investors!). You have to understand what they want and what it’s really important for them. Only satisfying their real needs they’ll fall in love with your product.
M: “Claudio, what do you plan for the future?”
In February we’ll install our first pilot in Milan and we’re negotiating for two other pilots to install in Bologna and Rome. We want to run this pilot to optimize all the features of our product and to be ready for the industrialization. In parallel, we’re working to obtain a number of pre-orders of about 100 square meters. But the first important goal in the next months is to reach a seed round by May 2018 to faster complete the testing phase and to develop our technology. We plan to start the production at the end of the next year. If you want to know our startup and our next steps more deeply, please join us for the Demo Day! It’ll be a pleasure for us to talk with you about us and about our dream that could change the future of food production!
Interested in Orthoponics? Request an invitation to our Demo Day now!