BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Leo Kim, Co-Founder and CEO of n.thing
BUSINESS - INTERVIEW
by Mehmet Kaplan
Whether you grow your own herbs in your home or operate indoor farms to make commercial income, you are eco-friendly in both ways. Because, you use less water, avoid pesticides and save energy. n.thing is a Seoul based company that develops indoor farming solutions for both commercial and individual purposes. They focus on developing solutions for both today and the future. I talked with Leo Kim, Co-Founder and CEO of n.thing, about the future of the indoor farming and the features of their innovative indoor farming solutions Planty Square and Planty Cube.
Leo, before talking about n.thing and Planty Square, I would like to learn more about you, could you tell us about yourself? Who is Leo Kim?
I am curious and always like to challenge new fields. I have been interested in IT since high school, so I earned allowance for running a school homepage, and creating a homepage for a neighborhood store. Since college, I experienced more various fields by working as an entertainer manager, working at a London shopping mall, working in an agricultural company, establishing a joint venture in Uzbekistan, and building a farm.
And now it is happy to do things that change the world with good people.
When did you first get interested in Indoor Farming?
In 2010, I built a greenhouse and did a project for growing tomato while I was working in an agriculture company. Then I learned about ‘indoor farming’ while researching related industries. Since then I have become interested.
How did you come up with Planty Square idea? What inspired you?
I learned a lot in the process of developing and launching the first product, a IoT smart pot ‘Planty’. Users can check real-time information of plant from private sensors inside of Planty, and automatically water the plant through a connected mobile application.
With feedback from users, I found that people rather want to grow up plants easily and simply. So I thought it would be better to be expanded and connected with each other like a Lego block. That idea has resulted in ‘Planty Square’, a simple hydroponics modular farm.
Like this, my people and my past experiences are inspiring me.
Could you tell us about n.thing and the team behind?
n.thing is not just an indoor farming company or agriculture company. We are a company creating media/contents, for now, food is the contents and the farm is a tool (like a studio) to create that contents. We are doing things like that.
So, our team is comprised of very creative geniuses.
What do you think about the future of indoor farming?
I think the future of Indoor farming is Beyond Organic.
All technologies and industries, including agriculture, are going toward the way of overcoming nature. Agriculture is one of the fastest and broadest industries of being influenced by climate and environment.
Today's Indoor farming focuses on efficiency and profitability, but in the end, I think cleaner, safer, fresher, and diverse crops should be raised in a way that is less burdensome to the environment.
So we think that farmers in the future should be Food Contents Creators that will grow more diverse crops in a safer, cleaner and more delicious way, and Indoor Farm will be Creating Studio for those Contents Creators.
Your solution is Planty Square. Could you tell us about Planty Square and its features?
It’s a hydroponic modular kit that connects each module and shares water. Growing and managing houseplants can sometimes seem burdensome and difficult. Plants often dry out or die due to several common reasons including improper watering, nutrient deficiency, and disease.
Planty Square and Pickcell
So we make home farming easier. No bugs, no pesticide with a hydroponic system. And there is a smart capsule called ‘Pickcell’. It contains seeds and special nutrient plug helping germination and growing. Users just can connect the Square as many as they want, put Pickcell into the body, and create their own farm.
Where we can use Planty Square? What kind of plants we can grow in Planty Square?
Everywhere, with sunlight and wind. Or if you set special LED for plant growth, you can put Planty Square in your kitchen, room, desk, or anywhere.
Every kind of plants except root vegetables. We hope all our users can grow and eat by themselves. So we constitute 9 set of the edible category. Leafy greens and herbs. (Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Arugula, Catnip Romaine, Vitamin, Red Lettuce, Green Lettuce). Also, we launched ‘Plain’ set, it’s a capsule without seed. So users can put the seed into the plug, as they want.
What are the main advantages of using Planty Square?
It’s super easy. Everyone can be a farmer by following simple and easy steps to grow, then cultivate, and enjoy fresh home greens.
Each module is developed and optimized for germination and growth. The special plugs and seed are already there for uses. So even you don’t know anything about home farming, you can succeed in getting your farm-to-table kit.
Could you tell us about Planty Cube? What kind of users should prefer Planty Cube?
Planty Cube is an automated indoor container farm unit. With special LED for plant growth, and internet connected sensors, Planty Cube allows year-round farming under a controlled environment. With constant quality and without price fluctuation.
Especially, we provide our Operating System together. It monitors and controls the Planty Cube and maintains optimal growth conditions for the plant. Here, the point is data. The system collects all farming logs into our database, and it can provide the optimal growing set point for each crop. Also with Planty Cube, everyone can be a farmer even they don’t know anything about farming.
Hotel, restaurant, school, and others who need constant food supply for their own customers are interested in Planty Cube, and the fresh foods from Planty Cube. Individuals who want to start farming for the first time, or want to change their parents' old farm are also interested in this new solution.
And since we are in total control of the environmental and nutrient system, we can also produce special leafy greens. For example, we produce greens with low nitrate and low potassium for those who suffer from kidney disease or heart disease. We have a relevant patent for this. So hospital, pregnant woman, elderly, and others are preferred our system as a new solution to produce food.
Planty Square and Pickcell
Are Pickcell compatible with both Planty Square and Planty Cube?
Absolutely. We develop every module in-house, and they are all compatible with all our products. That’s why we could cut the price almost half than other products.
Could you inform us about the processes of Freshable?
It’s an On-Demand platform service for the fresh food market. Based on contract cultivation. The platform connects farm owners and restaurant owners. For farm owners, they can secure a place to sell their crops. For restaurant owners, they can maintain food supply with even quality and price.
It’s possible cause Planty Cube can produce foods evenly, year-round, regardless of weather and season.
Planty Square and Pickcell
How will indoor farming affect our daily life in the near future?
Currently, most of the world's markets, including the United States, have no brands in fresh foods. The lack of a brand means lack of choice to consumers. For example, in the United States, CDC said not to eat romaine lettuce, because of E.Coli OutBreak.
As the market for Indoor Farming grows, it is possible to brand fresh vegetables according to each grower and cultivation system in the field of the fresh food market. That is, consumers can choose the quality of fresh vegetables.
In addition, it is possible to cultivate customized vegetables to fit people's preferences. For example, people with diabetes/kidney disease cannot eat fresh vegetables because of the high level of nitrate, potassium, and other nutrients. But with n.thing's functional cultivation method allows those patients to enjoy fresh vegetables.
Even in ordinary households, they can grow and enjoy various vegetables by themselves with Planty Square.
How can our readers follow n.thing?
How can our readers buy n.thing products?
We don’t have any e-shop for abroad users now. If you really wanna get our products, please ask us through e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Welcome!
Planty Cube Mars
What is next for you?
Our next step is to enter the global market. So we are currently in discussions with partners about establishing a farm in the Middle East, Singapore, and the United States. And ultimately, when Elon Musk shoots a man to Mars, we are gonna shoot our farms to Mars.
Thank you Leo.