The backyard garden is coming indoors.
Michael Morgan, a biochemist and nanotechnology specialist, has spent years working for both the federal government and a cohort of defense contractors, including Northrop Grumman and The Tauri Group, constructing innovative and complex products like “DNA-based gold nanowires.” Now, Morgan, a resident of Pentagon City who is also a repeat entrepreneur, has turned his sights to an entirely different industry: hydroponics.
In some of the most populated cities across the U.S., access to gardening space is becomingly increasingly difficult to find and coming at a premium. While a grassroots movement that supports sustainable food growing practices has sprouted up in recent years, wide public participation is far from a reality.
D.C.-based everblume, a recently launched startup developing a high-end hydroponics system, wants to change how people approach gardening regardless of the plants they grow—from marijuana to tomatoes—and where they live.
Co-founded by Morgan and friend Aja Atwood, a mechanical engineer and software developer, Everblume’s first internet-connected grow box, which looks similar to a beautifully designed stainless steel refrigerator, will retail for somewhere between $3,500 and $4000. Morgan plans to employ a monthly subscription model for their product, similar to D.C.-based electric bicycle maker Riide, to cut back on the upfront price.
Official orders will open early next year while beta testing will begin this summer for 10 pilot customers. Applications to become everblume testers in Boston and D.C. are now open.
This large piece of hardware, measuring in at 6ft tall by 2.5ft wide and 3ft deep, will be paired with a smartphone app that enables owners to track the growth of their plants and the nutrients those plants are consuming. Airtight, lockable doors come standard, and water-based (non-soil) nutrients, specialized for specific species of vegetables and fruits, are sold directly via the company. The maximum height for plants to fit inside the incubator is 4ft.
Other adjustable factors like lighting, oxygen level and temperature can also be directly controlled with everbloom’s mobile software. The result is a supremely customizable gardening experience that seems fit for a 21st century city setting where almost everything is already dictated by an app.
At the moment, everblume’s 15-person team is spread out across the U.S. Everyone is working part-time on everblume as they approach an official release. Morgan is hopeful that the team can raise a round of private venture capital and also launch a successful Kickstarter in the coming months, which would allow the fledgling company to open both an office and manufacturing facility in D.C.
Morgan tells DC Inno that the Kickstarter campaign, designed by Boston-based Arora Project, will be launched at the beginning of September. “We hope [it] will generate a lot of interest from passionate enthusiasts. Our initial marketing plan is to target consumers living in major urban cities/metropolitan areas, where we believe our product will have the greatest benefit to our customers.”
The plan is to establish a headquarters in either Boston, where Atwood is based, or the District, though a decision has yet to be made. Morgan says he plans to eventually employ military veterans and youth from underserved D.C. neighborhoods to help run the manufacturing portion of this proposed facility.
“In a previous venture I co-led, we were working with the Government of Botswana to develop a renewable energy based farm on the outskirts of Gaborone, the capital city. Unfortunately the deal fell through in the final stages when the lead U.S. investor pulled out for reasons unbeknownst to us. A few years passed, but things have come around full circle,” Morgan wrote in an email.
“I haven’t seen any products like everblume out there on the market. Giving people the opportunity to have access to fresh produce, plants and herbs with medicinal properties, hard-to-find superfoods, flowers and many more from the comfort of their own home, with the touch of a call phone is like something out of The Jetsons.”