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Seed Startup Seeks Seed Round

by Kristyn Back

We got the first scoop on Alex Weiss and Ruwan Subasinghe’s startup, replantable, back in May. It’s been nothing but summer lovin’ for the duo, signing on with Sevananda Natural Foods Market and picking up individual customers all the way from Philly. This fall is also proving to be plentiful with the launch of their kickstarter fast approaching (join their mailing list and be the first to eat from a nanofarm), or be a beta tester for a small modular nanofarm. It’s an exciting time for the team, so we sat down with Weiss to get an update on their growth.

Major updates?
Since graduation we’ve been working more than full time and it’s been great. We’ve come a long way from live shipping in these few months too. The point of live shipping was to get the produce grown at farms into the hands of consumers who are thousands of miles away while the plant is still alive (roots on and capable of still growing) so the end user has the freshest food possible. After talking with many foodies we found an even more direct method to get this value of fresh food to consumers. By bypassing the entire complicated cold chain (The refrigerated distribution network food travels through to get to the markets and consumers) we can give consumers the absolute freshest food imaginable by bringing the farm into their kitchen.

We designed our nanofarm to give our users the freshest food without any of the work of gardening. The nanofarm is for people who like food, not gardening. The way it works is the consumer picks out what they want to eat on our website and we ship them a seedling pod that fits into the nanofarm. Everything the plant needs to grow is provided automatically by the nanofarm. All the user has to do is fill the reservoir when the indication light turns on. The nanofarm can grow about 5 lbs of food every week. This is important because this allows consumers to replace most of their produce purchases with the nanofarm. We are also designing a smaller, modular nanofarm which is just as easy to use but gives the user more flexibility when it comes to how many plants they want to grow.

We’re also getting started with seedling distribution by selling seedling caps. These are seedlings that we’ve grown under optimal conditions for one to two weeks that are then put into threaded caps that can fit onto a gallon jug. The benefits of us growing the seeds are we can ensure that the seedlings we’re sending to our customers are the healthiest they can be and it also minimizes the growing time with the customer. The way these seedling caps work is the user fills a typical water or milk gallon jug you find at the grocery store with water and the nutrient pack that comes with the seedling cap all the way up to the top. Then the user screws on the seedling cap and puts the jug in direct sunlight, either inside or outside, the more sunlight the better. After that, there’s nothing more to be done until the user wants to eat the food.

Right now, we offer a wide variety of seedlings, but it’s very easy for us to add new seedlings if there is a demand for them. There are hundreds of varieties of pretty much anything you can find in the store that are even more flavorful, but the way the farms choose what they grow is based on what ships the best. This means that the consumer is losing in terms of variety and flavor. Because we’re shipping the live seedling to our users and growing it at their house, we aren’t limited by this.

How has Startup Summer helped to propel you forward?
Startup Summer has been great. The mentorship we get from the program is priceless. They teach evidence based entrepreneurship and make sure we do our research by actually going out and talking to people to find out who our customers really are and what problems they have. They’ve been a huge help with getting a product made too. By building a minimal viable product and getting it out to customers as soon as possible we can do very quick design iterations.

Who have you landed as first customers?
We’re working with Sevananda Natural Foods Market to distribute seedling caps. Sevananda is great place to do this because they’re very focused on providing their customers with the healthiest and freshest foods. The people that shop there get very excited when they have a chance to see their food grow right in front of them, so they now exactly what went into it, without having to put any effort into actually growing it. We have also sold individual seedling caps to numerous people. We even shipped basil and kale seedling caps to Philly and they’re doing great.

Why the initial focus on seedling distribution?
The reason we’re focusing so much on seedling distribution is because seedling distribution is the base of replantable. Getting the freshest food imaginable to our customers easily and at a fair price is how this will work. By working out all of the logistics of growing seedlings and then shipping them to our customers early on we get a jump start on our business. At its core what replantable does is provide its customers with the freshest food imaginable and it all starts with the best seedlings.

Are you looking for funding, mentorship, more team members?
Right now we’re looking to start raising a seed round of $100,000. This is to invest in the equipment we will need to manufacture the nanofarms, such as tooling. This will also go towards building up our germination system to increase the variety and quantity of seedlings we offer.

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