How Agrotonomy Tower Farms Is Bringing Fresh Produce to Paradise
Miles of golden coastline, the mesmerizing ebb of white-capped waves, an endless supply of soul-enriching sunshine — islands have a lot of good things to offer. But fresh, local produce usually isn’t one of them.
And that’s because farming on an island is hard.
After all, when you’re surrounded by ocean, essential resources like land and fresh water are often in short supply. Plus, waterlogging and high salinity (caused by seawater intrusion) can render soil virtually useless for growing food.
As a result, most islanders must settle for imports.
Take Puerto Rico, for example, which receives 85% of its food by plane or ship. Before it makes it to a plate, that food must often travel thousands of miles. And such a journey diminishes produce freshness and quality while hiking up its price, putting strain on the environment, and weakening the island’s food security.
But there’s a better way. And Agrotonomy has proven it.
Introducing Vertical Aeroponics to the Island of Ibiza
In 2008, Mathias Levarek met his now-wife, Iris Kam, while visiting the Netherlands on a business trip. And that chance encounter turned out to be a life-changing event.
“It was love at first sight. Five months later, I traded the rainbows of Maui for the gray skies of northern Europe by moving from Hawaii to Amsterdam so that we could live together,” Mathias said.
After settling into his home on the canal, Mathias noticed that something was missing. Back in Hawaii, he’d had a full vegetable garden and several fruit trees that provided and abundance of homegrown produce for his plate. But his new city life didn’t afford him that same luxury. So, he explored alternative solutions.
“I became passionate about urban farming and researched all options available.” Mathias said.
That’s when Mathias discovered Tower Garden. Immediately fascinated by the growing technology, he decided to visit the U.S. to meet with Tower Garden Developer Tim Blank. And then the two of them toured a Tower Farm.
“I was blown away! Everything grew bigger, faster, effortlessly, and gave the best crop imaginable. Everything was so real, so natural, so vibrant, so flavorful: I had found my new career,” Mathias said.
Six months later, Mathias and Iris started their own Tower Farm — the very first in Europe — on the Spanish island of Ibiza.
“We decided to start a business together, something that would be meaningful for the human race and for the planet. We wanted a business activity involving cooking, nutrition, and gardening,” Mathias said.
The Smarter Solution for Island Agriculture
Agrotonomy overcomes — or sidesteps completely — the aforementioned challenges of growing food on an island because it:
- Doesn’t use soil – therefore, soil quality is a non-issue.
- Uses 98% less water – which is important, considering Ibiza’s government has expressed concerns about water supply shortages.
- Uses 90% less land – despite being able to grow more than 10,000 plants at once, Ibiza Farm doesn’t take up much space.
How are Mathias and Iris able to achieve all this? By growing differently with vertical, aeroponic Tower Garden technology. Which, by the way, also makes farming easier — even for a self-proclaimed city mouse like Iris.
“She did not have any gardening background. But with these Towers, no previous gardening experience was necessary. With this fully automated gardening system, everyone has a green thumb! Overnight, my wife could grow tomatoes, beans, courgettes, all kind of leafy greens, herbs, strawberries, melons, etc.,” Mathias said.
In addition to experimenting with more than 150 different types of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, Agrotonomy now hosts gardening workshops and offers seedlings for aeroponic gardeners throughout Europe. If you’re planning on visiting Ibiza (lucky you!), the farm also doubles as a Bed and Breakfast.
In keeping with their goal of helping humanity, Mathias and Iris donate more than 90 percent of their farm’s produce to local low-income individuals and families. And they happily enjoy the remaining 10 percent.
“Almost immediately, Agrotonomy became much more than a just business: it turned out into a full lifestyle. The constant availability of foods growing on Agrotonomy’s Towers completely changed our eating habits by giving us immediate access to the freshest produce without having to drive to the grocery store.” Mathias said.
What’s next for Agrotonomy? Mathias and Iris hope to inspire the next generation of urban farmers.
“Our next step is to set up a nonprofit organization aiming at creating aeroponic farms for educational purposes. We want to influence children to grow their own food using eco-friendly technologies. All fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers produced in our educational farms will be donated to local schools,” Mathias said.
Making Real, Healthy Food Available to All
As Mathias and Iris have shown with Agrotonomy, Tower Garden technology makes it possible to grow fresh, nutritious food in the most challenging — though sometimes beautiful — places.
Want to see where else forward-thinking farmers are growing?
*Blog post updated to reflect new farm name, Agrotonomy. The farm was previously branded as Ibiza Farm.
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