It was the 2008 financial crisis that first got Mickaël Gandecki thinking about food security. Workers were at the mercy of the economy for all their needs, and he began to wonder about providing individuals with more security in a time of uncertainty.
With the rise of the gig economy, an increasing number of people have to manage an unstable income. An initial investment in something like a smart greenhouse could lead to more stability down the line, as you near food independence.
“Then, of course, there are some environmental issues regarding centralized food production, about the CO2 pollution, the water consumption of the agriculture and the impact of the extensive agriculture on the soil,” he said. “So we just realized that something more decentralized and locally produced can make a lot of sense today.”
The launch of myfood
With that in mind, Gandecki and co-founders Matthieu Urban and Johan Nazaraly started myfood. Their path eventually led them to the 2015 POC21 accelerator program outside of Paris.
“It really helped us to meet people who shared the same vision as us and start increasing the momentum regarding the media,” Gandecki said.
The final result of the experience was a greenhouse that uses hanging aquaponics and self-fertilizing permaculture beds. The open-source monitoring system, which uses Raspberry Pi, Win10 IOT, Atlas Scientific sensors and Sigfox, helps to simplify maintenance and monitoring.
The team wanted to make the process of growing your own food as easy as possible, which is why they integrated the monitoring system and used farming techniques that involve self-contained ecosystems. The greenhouses can also be self-powered thanks to semi-transparent solar panels.
Within a year, the team had installed 20 greenhouses through their Pioneer Citizen program. They used the information and feedback from these locations to make constant improvements to the system, and users are now reporting an average daily harvest of 1-1.5kg.
Currently they have about 30 greenhouses across several countries — all of which have been installed personally by the myfood team — with more being added regularly. Installations have largely been focused on mainland Europe, but the myfood team is scheduled to install a greenhouse in Tunisia, and has recently had interest from Central and South America.
Myfood currently has three models: a small unit for balcony and rooftop use, the family 14 (14 m2), and the family 22 (22m2). Gandecki said they also plan to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) into the system to optimize the greenhouse management.
Myfood aims to add more installations to their portfolio before taking the product public, and are open to accepting new Pioneer Citizens from Ireland. “It’s really important to keep this momentum for us and let people get involved with myfood,” Gandecki said.
Using a technology like Sigfox, which currently has a presence in 29 countries, has helped myfood develop their Pioneer Citizen network across borders. Members of the program cover the cost of the unit, which is installed by the myfood team, and can then contribute through the open source program, blog posts and more.
Thanks to the mild Irish winters and strategies developed to keep temperatures up inside the greenhouses, Gandecki believes Irish units would be able to produce all year.
“There are several techniques to adapt us in that specific area, for example, we’ve integrated a pellet stove within our greenhouse, and it helps to keep the temperature above zero degrees in winter. Hopefully you need something like 10 degrees to start growing with some kind of good condition,” he said. Thermal insulation helps limit heat loss, and heat waste from nearby buildings can also affect the condition of the greenhouse. “So there’s a lot of techniques to adapt, especially if the climate is not that cold, there’s a way to grow food all year.”
For more information about myfood or the Pioneer Citizen program, visit myfood.eu.