As more consumers adopt plant-based diets and sustainable food practices, Rise Garden is giving anyone the ability to have a green thumb from the comfort of their own home.
The Chicago-based indoor, smart hydroponic company raised $9 million in an oversubscribed Series A round led by Telus Ventures, with existing investors True Ventures and Amazon Alexa joining the fund and new investor Suno Ventures. The company has a net worth of $13 million. The venture-backed investment since founding Rise in 2017, founder and CEO Hank Adams told ClearTips.
Although he started in 2017, Adams, who has a background in games technology, said he spent a few years working on prototypes before launching the first product in 2019. Rise’s IoT-connected systems are designed to grow vegetables, herbs and microgreens year-round. .
Customers can choose between three system levels and get started with their first garden for about $300.
Adams said that there is a “kind of joy” in being able to develop something, but people seek help because they don’t want to fall into a hobby that becomes demanding or stressful. As a result, Rise’s accompanying mobile app monitors water levels and plant progress, then alerts users when it’s time to water, fertilize or care for their plants.
“People are paying attention to the food, and they care about what they eat,” he said. “Then the global pandemic played a part in this, with people leaning into growing their own food.”
In fact, customers leaned so much into growing food that Rise Gardens eclipsed its sales by seven figures in 2020, and the gardens sold out three times during the year. Customers bought about 100,000 saplings and harvested 50,000.
The company estimates it helped save more than 2,000 pounds of food from wasted and 250,000 gallons of water since its launch in 2019.
The concept of indoor farm is not new. Incumbents include AeroGarden, AeroGrow, which was acquired by Scotts-Miracle Grow last November, and Click & Grow. Rise is one of a new crop of startups that have raised money, including Gardin.
However, Rise Garden is distinguishing itself from those competitors by creating its gardens made of powder-coated metals and glass and designed to be the focal point in the room. It is also giving people ways to experiment with their gardens.
“We wanted something that was flexible because once you master a hobby, you’ll get bored,” he said. “You can start at one level and swap out the tray lid to make them grow more densely. We have a microgreens kit that you can add, or add plant supports for tomatoes and peppers. You can also make a net for the pea vine.”
Adams will focus Series A dollars in product development, inventory, manufacturing, expansion into new markets, and team building, particularly in the areas of customer service and marketing. RISE has around 25 employees and plans to bring in eight more this year.
Plus, Rise Garden products will soon be available on Amazon — its first channel outside of its website. The company is also expanding into what it calls “Version 2.0” of Adams School Garden.
When Rich Osborne, president and managing partner of Telus Ventures, rated the indoor garden space, he told ClearTips that Adams and his team topped the list because of their background, data experience, and syndication with Amazon.
Not only was there consumer demand for such products, but the sustainability and social impact created by such investments could not be overemphasized, he said.
Nishan Mazarian, co-founder and CEO of Tellus Agriculture, said he sees a future where there is a spectrum of food development, and crop management will happen at the plant level.
“Ever since Climate Corp was acquired by Monsanto, there has been a massive influx into agriculture for the next billion-dollar exit,” Mazarian said. “Agrifood is the ultimate fragmented supply chain. Every crop is different, every market is different. This creates local, complex and fertile soil for startups that receive capital to solve those issues and scale.