We know that, just like us, there are hundreds of other projects wanting to do more for the planet. We went to find out more about what drives them and what we can expect from their project. Once a week, one startup, one interview, five questions.
We met Emiliano Gutiérrez and Lucia Salas, founders of Raiz Vertical, aPortuguese company that aims to transform the way vegetables are grown, using vertical farming, taking advantage of natural sunlight, complemented with artificial light in a controlled environment.
Raiz Vertical gardens not only take up less space, but allow for 50% less fertilizer use, 12 times less water, 95% less land use, and 100% less pesticides.
What problem is your startup solving?
There is an urgent need for climate action all over the world.
We need consequential changes in the way we produce, consume, and lead life in general. We have chosen to make our mark by focusing on the transformation of the food industry.
The main unsolved problem is a highly inefficient and contaminating food system.
- Intensifying food insecurity around the world, caused by climate change and exacerbated by population growth
- Environmental contamination associated with traditional agriculture.
- Long and inefficient production and supply chains that contribute to more than one-third of global GHG emissions
- The population’s disconnection from nature and the city’s heavy dependence on external food production.
In which countries are you present?
We are in the middle of building our first vegetable garden, which will be installed at the end of the month at Arroz Estúdios, in the Beato neighborhood (Lisbon).
The goal is to develop RAIZ in southern Europe and in countries with large amounts of sunlight, as our gardens make the most of this resource.
In the future, vegetable gardens will be almost self-contained, which means that we will be able to set them up in inhospitable places such as deserts or very cold regions.
Why start a business on the sustainability front?
The paradigm shift toward a preference for more sustainable products has accelerated in the last decade. There is also an increasing adoption of plant-based diets and a growing demand for products that are not only “sustainable” but also “healthy”
In other words, we are at a turning point in the global mentality, which must be accompanied by the integration of sustainable and lower impact practices throughout the value chains, something critical to our survival.
Specifically, if we are to be able to produce food in sufficient quantity and quality in the future, we will have to make the food system more sustainable in all its aspects.
The conscious consumer demands from producers a guarantee of responsible practices, and is increasingly looking for personalized experiences with quantified impact. This type of offer is not yet widespread.
It is in this context that RAIZ emerges. We seek to produce food in a transparent way and with quantified sustainability measures, or impact, always cultivating a close consumer experience.
What are the biggest obstacles of working in this area?
Scalability: because it is an activity with a strong component of equipment (hardware), growth implies an increase in fixed costs, and a high initial investment.
Investment: We are a physical company that operates in the area of sustainability. In this context, we cannot maximize “at all costs” the economic benefit. The challenge is then to quantify and value our environmental and social impact, in order to attract investors focused on impact projects.
Spaces: finding obsolete spaces in urban environments to install the gardens is always a challenge.
Unawareness of the public: the general public still lacks in-depth knowledge about the impacts of current forms of agricultural production. A great deal of education is needed to raise the awareness of a population that has traditionally paid more attention to price when choosing a product, of course.
What achievement are you most proud of as the leader of this startup?
I am proud to put together an amazing and talented team that counts with specialists in computer engineering, architecture, restoration, sustainability, biology, business and marketing; capable of developing a strong narrative around Raizgiving rise to a growing community and generating global interest around our potential to create a positive impact.
What is the next step?
. Launching the prototype garden at Arroz Estúdios on June 25th in the afternoon. Add the date to your calendar, you are all invited!
. Raising funds with the first funding round (preseed) in the month of June
. Standardization of processes and protocolsThis will be completed by the end of 2022, with software refinement and commercial expansion in other cities.
. Integrate Near’s blockchain technology (the first Climate Neutral blockchain protocol)with the tokenization of our gardens.