Home farming in a box: Central Texas brothers help locals grow food with business

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — An idea grew from the simplest of mistakes and failure.

“I’d go out to his farm and get really excited about growing food, so I came back home a few years ago. I made this raised bed garden [in my backyard] and I spent about $600 on it, a couple weekends of hauling soil, put some plants in there, and low and behold I didn’t really grow any food,” Cultivate co-founder Luke Heath said.

So he called up his brother Nathan, who is a master farmer, and asked him, “‘Hey, why’s this happening?'”

“It was some simple mistakes. Number one, I didn’t have the right soil, number two, the plants weren’t seasonal. Number three, I watered it way too much,” Luke said.

Common problems many have, especially if they’re new to growing their own food. That’s a trend both Heath brothers saw when developing their idea for their FarmBox home farming system.

“We thought, man it’d be a shame if all this excitement went to waste if people made the same mistakes I made,” Luke said.

The brothers want to feed Central Texans through their backyards. Luke handles the technology and Nathan handles the farming. They have a simple goal in mind.

“The concept is to bring together thoughtful technology and expertise in farming to help people grow the most food as possible at home,” Luke said. “We measure our success as a company by how much food we help people grow. We’re not looking to just install boxes, we’re looking to help people grow food.”

The FarmBox technology includes:

  • Online dashboard to manage your FarmBox
  • Hardware sensors that can measure soil moisture and automatically turn on and off the drip watering system

“We really want people to have that feeling that they’re having a continual harvest. And there’s a system to it. It’s not just we’re casually growing things,” Nathan said.

They’re already making headway.

“We actually just installed our first customer earlier this week and they were really excited. And we’re excited to get out in Austin, and start spreading the word and planting the seeds,” Luke said.

For brother Nathan, he hopes it harvests new farmers in the making.

“As someone who has spent my lifetime gathering this knowledge, I don’t want it to just to die when I do,” Nathan said.

He personally wants to cultivate the next generations of farmers.

“That would be a dream and it is something I’m excited about,” Nathan said.

But he tries to be “cautiously pessimistic” because he considers it a hard business and job.

“The average age of farmers now is 60 plus and there’s a lot of knowledge that’s just disappearing,” Nathan said. “Owning any small business is hard but then when you’re making it all, growing it outside, where you can lose it all. During Harvey, I lost $50,000 in a week just from rain. And that’s part of farming. And a lot of people don’t necessarily want to do that.”

However, that pessimism and hardship has an underlining of hope through his experience and FarmBox business.

“To me, sharing my passion is pretty important to me. I kind of got hooked on gardening when I was a little kid. My first job was selling tomatoes at the farmer’s market when I was nine. And I’ve pretty much been kind of hooked since,” Nathan said. “No matter how many times I plant a seed it still amazes me when it sprouts and then you get to pull it and eat it. And I want to share that with other people.”

A greater appreciation both he and his brother hope to grow within their customers and community one box at a time.

You can schedule a call to discuss growing vegetables and learn more on their website.

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