eijing-based startup Alesca Life is democratizing access to fresh food by creating solutions that enable anyone anywhere to grow the safest, healthiest, and freshest produce in the most efficient way possible. Their automated indoor food production system is currently growing nutrient-dense produce using no pesticides, no soil, no sunlight, 20-25 times less water, fertilizer, and land compared to traditional farming practices.
CEO Stuart Oda shares his thoughts on the necessity of evolving the modern agriculture framework to feed the globe’s ever-growing population.
What experiences inspired you to start this company?
I’ve traveled to over 40 countries and one of the most common challenges faced by emerging market countries was the access to highly nutritious, safe, fresh foods. The unpredictability of weather due to climate change and lack of access to critical resources and education makes food production and distribution and the stable supply of nutrition through fresh foods an enormous challenge.
Also, fresh food logistics is essentially the movement of water and nutrition in a perishable, damageable form: incredibly energy intense and wasteful with both food and packaging. Many of the problems of the agricultural supply chain can be overcome by removing the key variables of present day agriculture: weather, logistics, and land.
Finally, the environmental degradation associated with agriculture is quite alarming. When I was an investment banker in Tokyo, someone I greatly respected always reused printouts until the white on the paper was almost gone. Her explanation was simple, “I don’t want my grandchildren to have to visit a museum to see what a tree looks like.”
Agriculture must become a more environmentally friendly practice to ensure that future generations do not inherit a heavily polluted planet. Alesca Life was born out of the frustration of an archaic method of food production to create a more sustainable alternative to feed our current and future population.
Why solve the issues you’re trying to solve?
The world will face a number of significant challenges in the coming decades, including rapid population growth and urbanization, higher food distribution inequality and waste, environmental degradation, and natural resource depletion. In developing countries, there is the additional problem of poor food quality and safety.
Also, as the sharing economy and automation grows, the most basic of urban infrastructure and human capital will become idle or underutilized. A solution to these challenges will be critical for global social, economic, and environmental development.
Why is your solution unique?
Alesca Life designs and builds turn-key farming solutions that enable anyone in any environment to produce safe and healthy produce locally. We have several hardware form factors that enable pesticide-free food production at any scale, and we coupled it with a cloud-based operational management system that enables complete production data transparency and supply chain traceability.
The agricultural industry has traditionally been additive: more chemicals, more water, more logistics, more land. Alesca Life’s philosophy is the exact opposite: food production utilizing minimal inputs on virtually no land.
Also, our solution is looking to integrate an IT infrastructure that allows for supply chain transparency to end the production of “anonymous food” and by growing in a more consistent environment we want to end the concept of “ugly vegetables” which are some of the biggest contributors to poor food quality and high food waste.
What has been your company’s proudest moment been to date?
For the founders, completing our hand-built shipping container farm and commencing fresh vegetable production was a moment of incredible pride.
For the team, installing our first indoor food production system into Swire Hotels for the onsite production of fresh wheatgrass was one of our collective highlights.
My personal proudest moment was when, following a visit to our urban container farm, a young child told us that he wanted to be an urban farmer when he grew up.
What do you hope the world will look like as a result of your work?
Our team hopes that the integration of food production as one of the core functions of urban environments will help to create more resilient, sustainable, and beautiful cities for urban citizens. Also, if the extension of our technology can impact food production in space (outer space), it would be an incredibly exciting future.
This company participated in Unreasonable Impact created with Barclays, the world’s first multi-year partnership focused on scaling up entrepreneurial solutions that will help employ thousands while solving some of our most pressing societal challenges.