Enactus Memorial has launched a mini-hydroponics unit targeted at small families and individuals interested in growing their own produce.
The undergraduate student group, which includes students from the faculties of business, science, engineering and applied science, and humanities and social sciences, now has four-pod units available for purchase through its website.
‘Gap in the market’
“We were doing a little bit of market research with our big unit and decided there was a need for individuals in smaller spaces and smaller families that don’t need quite the volume of product that a big unit can produce,” said Taylor Young, a fifth-year commerce student and president of Enactus Memorial. “We decided that there was a gap in the market that we could fill with the mini-unit.”
The original unit that launched Project Sucseed has 12 pods and is capable of producing an average of 355 lbs. of produce per year (measured using the benchmark of 24 heads of lettuce in five weeks or 120 tomatoes in nine weeks).
The new unit, known as the mini-unit, has the same volume per pod but with fewer pods.
Since winning the 2016 Enactus World Cup and the 2016 and 2017 Canadian National Expositions with Project Sucseed, Enactus Memorial has been working to refine the hydroponics program that aims to address food insecurity in Canada’s northern and remote areas.
The end goal is to make the project fully sustainable in the long-term.
“We really wanted to shift from being one product on the market to be a real, full-scale business with product lines and a range of different things we can offer,” said Ms. Young.
“It helps with the project’s longevity in that we can reach more than a couple of different markets. With our original system, it was families, schools and retirement homes for the most part. With this mini-system, we can reach students, we can reach single individuals and smaller households that don’t need that much product. It really diversifies our customers.”
Enactus Memorial has been working to improve the many processes that go into a successful business.
The website is in the process of being redesigned, for example, and a back end e-commerce system has been adopted that eliminates the need for manual processing of payments.
“We changed some of the sourcing of materials in our unit so we could get things really reliably and at a lower cost.”
With the help of Memorial University’s Botanical Garden, they’ve researched different dripper systems, which deliver nutrients to the plants, to determine whether one option is more effective than another. They’ve improved relationships with wholesalers and have better processes for obtaining materials and supplies.
“We used to drive around to different stores in the city and try and get the materials we needed at a moment’s notice,” said Ms. Young.
“Now we have great relationships with actual producers and wholesalers. We schedule our demand so we never run out of materials anymore. We changed some of the sourcing of materials in our unit so we could get things really reliably and at a lower cost so it would be more sustainable to operate.”
The mini-hydroponic units are now available for $129.99 plus applicable taxes. The original unit costs $349.99 plus applicable taxes.
The 2017 Enactus World Cup will take place from Sept. 26-28 in London, U.K. Enactus Memorial is the defending world champion and the only Canadian team to ever win the world title, an honour they also won in 2008.