Discover the Future of Farming with Gaurav Saraf and Greenhood's Innovative Urban Agriculture
“There is no substitute for hard work.” – Thomas Edison
Have you ever heard of hydroponic farming? It's a method of growing plants without soil. Instead, nutrient-rich water provides plants with the necessary minerals and vitamins for growth. This innovative farming technique has been gaining popularity in recent years due to its numerous benefits, including reduced water usage and increased crop yields.
Last year, I had the opportunity to visit a hydroponic farm near my neighborhood and meet Gaurav Saraf, the founder of Greenhood. As a volunteer, I was eager to learn more about this unique farming system and see it in action. Initially, I was lost in finding his farm site until I met Gaurav in the parking lot. He welcomed me with open arms and guided me through his farm site. We spent several hours working together, and I left feeling inspired by his passion and knowledge of hydroponic farming.
Since that initial meeting, I've been keeping tabs on Gaurav's progress and the growth of Greenhood. Many volunteers come to his farm every week, where he teaches them about hydroponic farming and his innovative system. His dedication to sustainability and innovative farming practices has been impressive. I'm excited to see where his journey takes him next. In this blog post, we'll explore Gaurav's story and why his passion deserves to be in the spotlight. Join me as we dive deeper into hydroponic farming and its environmental and community impact.
What inspired you to start Greenhood, and how did you become interested in urban farming? Or what personal experiences or interests inspired you to pursue a career in urban farming, and how have they shaped your journey with Greenhood?
As someone who spent over a decade in the world of investment banking, I never imagined that my path would lead me to urban agritech. However, a few years ago, I stumbled upon some videos on Youtube that completely captivated me. I was amazed to learn how science and technology can be leveraged to grow crops without soil, right in the heart of urban areas, all while remaining environmentally sustainable.
Around the same time, Singapore launched its 30x30 initiative, with a goal to produce 30% of its food locally. This initiative sparked my interest, and I was intrigued by the idea of utilizing unused rooftop spaces to achieve this goal. My team and I decided to bid for Singapore's first HDB rooftop urban farming tender, and we won! It has been a privilege to contribute towards UN sustainability goals and Singapore's food security goal through our work.
As I began experimenting with growing my own greens and designing the perfect urban farming system (after several prototypes), I became convinced that I could use my tech and business skills to create a sustainable, future-proof model for urban agriculture. I envisioned a world where communities could come together to grow their own food, visit farmers' markets for fresh, locally-grown produce, and enjoy the crunchiest and most nutritious fruits and vegetables imaginable. This is the inspiration behind Greenhood!
Starting a company can be challenging, what motivated you to pursue this venture despite the risks and uncertainties that come with entrepreneurship?
As a pioneer in any field, there are bound to be challenges especially as a new startup. We looked to convert these challenges into opportunities for us to make an impact. High tech urban farming is still a sunrise industry and there's a lot of exciting innovation that is happening in this area. For instance - Greenhood is Singapore's first vertical farming greenhouse on a rooftop in Singapore! We custom designed our unique 5.3m tall greenhouse on the HDB MSCP rooftop to make the best use of our scarce land and be able to ensure that our produce is of high quality and can be grown pesticide free! Our journey has been fueled by an incredible source of motivation – the unwavering support of our community members. Every step of the way, they have generously volunteered their ideas, suggestions, and time, all driven by their shared commitment to our collective mission: building a healthier and greener world. Their passion and dedication inspire us to overcome every challenge and continuously push the boundaries of sustainable urban agriculture. Together, we are forging a path towards a brighter future, one where innovation and community unite to create lasting change.
Can you describe some of the innovative technologies or techniques that Greenhood uses to optimize its urban farming operations?
At Greenhood, our vision is clear: to create a sustainable food system that feeds local communities while preserving our precious land, water, and energy resources. In addition, we are driven to bring technology into the farming industry, which has traditionally been less integrated with technological advancements until recent years.
We have developed innovative technologies pioneering sustainable farming practices in Singapore to turn our vision into reality. Our custom-designed IoT-controlled greenhouse and patent-pending vertical MAC grow systems are at the forefront of this transformation. The greenhouse, equipped with advanced technology, ensures a Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) system that optimizes crop productivity. Additionally, our precision farming model incorporates cutting-edge AI controllers, enabling automated crop management and precise monitoring of environmental factors. This fusion of technology and agriculture allows us to create an optimal environment for our crops, resulting in healthier plants and higher yields.
By embracing these innovations, we are reshaping the future of farming and paving the way for a more sustainable and efficient food system.
What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you've had since starting Greenhood, and what impact do you hope to have on the community?
The most rewarding part of our journey so far has been the unequivocal excitement from the community as they look forward to fresher leafy greens, interactive farm events and tours and most of all an avenue for residents to gather and mingle over a shared interest. At Greenhood, we believe that everyone can enjoy the benefits of healthy eating and a sustainable lifestyle. We want to bring families, communities and like-minded organisations together so we can collaborate and make a better future for everyone. Through our ongoing 'Greenhood Champions' volunteering programme, which currently runs on weekends, we have already started to see a connected community develop over a common theme of food and urban farming. It has also been great to see the increasing levels of interest in urban farming as a career path from both new graduates and experienced professionals, with an aim to make a positive impact towards something green. Greenhood has conducted farm tours for various Singaporean universities and continues to run an internship programme for students/professionals who are keen in exploring urban farming as a career opportunity. We are hopeful that with these efforts we can continue to spread our passion for urban farming and encourage all of our community members to get involved to play their parts towards the Singapore Green Plan!
How do you prioritize self-care and mental health as an entrepreneur, and what activities or practices do you find most helpful for managing stress?
Launching a new startup in a competitive and ever-evolving industry can indeed be a stressful endeavour. However, I have learned the importance of maintaining a balance between my work and personal life to ensure my well-being and sustain my entrepreneurial journey. While the lines between work and personal time can sometimes blur, I make a conscious effort to draw clear boundaries and prioritize self-care.
For me, carving out at least two hours each day dedicated to activities unrelated to Greenhood is essential. It's during these precious moments that I can indulge in my passions outside of work. Whether I don my chef hat and experiment with new recipes in the kitchen, cherish quality time playing with my adorable five-month-old daughter, or simply embark on an evening stroll with my family, these activities rejuvenate me and provide a much-needed respite from the demands of entrepreneurship.
Engaging in these non-work-related pursuits serves as a means to recharge my batteries and replenish my energy reserves. It allows me to step away momentarily from the fast-paced world of startups, fostering a renewed sense of creativity, inspiration, and perspective. Armed with a refreshed mindset and renewed vigor, I am then ready to tackle the challenges and embrace the excitement of another promising day at Greenhood.
In the intricate dance between entrepreneurship and personal well-being, I have come to realize that nurturing my passions and spending quality time with loved ones is not a luxury but a vital investment in my overall success and happiness. By embracing these moments of self-care, I am better equipped to navigate the ever-changing landscape of entrepreneurship with resilience, enthusiasm, and a greater sense of fulfillment.
Gaurav Saraf is a visionary leader and the driving force behind Greenhood (www.greenhood.sg), a pioneering urban farming venture. With a background in investment banking, Gaurav's journey took an unexpected turn when he discovered the potential of hydroponics and sustainable agriculture. Inspired by Singapore's 30x30 initiative and the opportunity to utilize unused rooftop spaces for farming, Gaurav embarked on a mission to create a future-proof model for urban agriculture. Through Greenhood, he combines his tech and business acumen to leverage innovative technologies like IoT-controlled greenhouses and AI controllers, optimizing crop productivity and creating a sustainable food system. Gaurav's dedication to sustainability, community engagement, and reshaping the future of farming has made him a leader in the field of urban farming.
When you find yourself at the supermarket, keep an eye out for Greenwood's produce in the vegetable aisle. By choosing their locally sourced products, you can actively support farm-to-table practices and the growth of local produce.