Column by Alex Tyink
The power of Flex Farm and Farmative in communities across Wisconsin
In the time of “Shark Tank” and an abundance of celebrity entrepreneurs, new products are introduced to the world at an unimaginable pace. While many of these products and services fall short in the market, the pace of innovation creates incredible opportunities. As the very real effects of climate change continue to impact the world, more companies are developing products that help us live more sustainably and use technology to build communities. Our product, the Flex Farm, is a great example of that.
The Flex Farm is the most efficient, scalable, and transformative indoor, vertical hydroponic technology. On average, the Flex Farm helps farmers grow upwards of 400 pounds of fresh food a year using hydroponic technology. The Flex Farm uses 98% less water and land than traditional farming and operates with just a standard outlet in only about 9 square feet of space. This makes growing volumes of fresh food highly energy efficient, affordable, and accessible to anyone.
Wisconsin is full of agriculture enthusiasts, making it the perfect location to start Fork Farms. It allowed us to create a tight-knit community of farmers from the start. We wanted to expand our community through technology so no matter where growers are across the nation, they feel connected.
In addition to the physical product, we created Farmative, a digital platform that connects growers digitally to help build an online farming community. The Farmative platform features grow guides, a variety of lesson plans and activities for new and existing Flex Farm users. Farmative connects partners worldwide. Growers answer each other’s questions, share their personal experiences, and help others imagine new possibilities with their hydroponic farms. And when users share their real-life experiences such as roadblocks or what features they love most about the product, it helps us with product innovation and determining the best ways we can support our partners in the future.
Having a fantastic physical product is a great way to start a relationship with a customer, but it can’t end there. By creating a community, Flex Farm deepens the connection users have with their farms and with the other growers. This leads to real business growth that reinforces the value of the product and helps customers visualize new ways hydroponic farming can transform their environment.
We’ve seen the power of Flex Farm and Farmative in communities across Wisconsin and beyond. More than 500 K-12 schools and nearly 200 hunger relief organizations in the state are growing fresh produce and distributing it to people who may not otherwise have access to nutritious food because of the cost or distance they must travel to get it. Much of our growth has come from our network of partners sharing how their hydroponics farms have helped feed and educate their kids. Above all else, the community inspires the real impact of growing fresh food sustainably to make nutritious produce available to all people.