By Felipe Hernandez – CEO and Co-founder of Hexagro

Felipe Hernandez begins his speech introducing a problem: the scarcity of food for the inhabitants of the planet. In fact, a population of 9 billion, is expected to be reached by 2050, which will require a 70% increase in food production. Some companies have tried to solve this problem by developing the cultivation of food through “Indoor Farming” or “Vertical Farming“, but these techniques still have very high costs, both for development and maintenance.

Hexagro is an international startup based in Milan, born to reconnect people to nature: its vision is to bring nature to the workplace, using existing technology. People spend an average of 90% of their time inside buildings, where pollution is 5 times greater than outside, causing a direct impact on people’s health, food habits and perceived happiness.

These considerations have given birth to a new idea: create office plants that are also useful for the health of those who work. The plants, which Hexagro offers, grow within some modules whose design and structure take inspiration from beehives and trees, with the aim of maximizing the use of space. These do not include pesticides and require a limited use of water since the high oxygenation of the plants, deriving from the use of aeroponics as a cultivation technique, reduces water consumption between 90 and 98%, in addition to tripling the speed of plant growth. The modules on which the plants grow are configurable on the basis of the available space and can be chosen among three different configurations, having different dimensions, and being capable of growing different types of plants.

For example, an “indoor garden” has developed, located in the Novotel Ca’ Granda building in Milan, containing a cultivation of different types of herbs. The product was developed thanks to the use of different technologies such as 3D printers, LED lights for plant growth and an automated system for monitoring plants which is based on an IoT technology. The project participated in the U.S. to the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge competition, arriving among the finalists. These systems are usually offered for rent to customers, with the agreement that Hexagro periodically controls the crops, as well as intervening in case of problems.

Open platform for Urban Farming Development

These creations are designed to make people feel good, even from a physical point of view, increasing the quality of the air breathed: Hexagro continuously checks the data provided by the forms and the crop management app, also to understand the feedback of the people who work alongside the plants and the data regarding the working environment. The collaboration between the startup and the workers in contact with the platforms is fundamental: it is possible to decide which plants to fill in the forms, also on suggestion of the app, according to the requests in terms of health and / or work productivity.

Business Model

Another benefit is that of bringing workers to perceive professional experience not as a stress or a duty, but as a pleasure linked to taking care of these plants with which a bond is established, increasing the engagement of people. The worker can also request through the app suggestions on the types of herbs to eat or with which to make a herbal tea based on their status (for example “high stress”), or on the basis of what the desired status would be (for example increase productivity).

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