Mike Straight, Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO of FarmPod
What is the FarmPod?
Farmpod is the aquaponic food production system that empowers you to grow your own organic, pesticide-free food in your backyard. The product comes fully assembled and requires absolutely no previous knowledge or skill set to reap the benefits of pod-to-table freshness. We achieve this by using shipping containers to host pod Farms.
How does this compare to traditional farming practices?
The pod allows anyone to produce food using only a fraction of water and 1 percent of the land conventional farming requires. The energy to run a farmpod at Its peak uses less than most toaster ovens. Many people are unfamiliar with aquaponics, having heard of hydroponics and aquaculture separately but never combined. That's when it hit me; needed an automated system that could be installed in places where unskilled workers could watch a two-hour video and be successful farmers.
What are some of the challenges you've faced with FarmPod, and how did you overcome them?
We faced several challenges, from the largest hurricane in 26 years to technology issues.
Half of our walls blew down, and we had no electricity for four and a half months. Despite this, we kept building. Just as we got ready to go into production, the chip company we worked with stopped supporting the technology.
We reengineered, found another partner, and then COVID-19 was suddenly announced. Our company grows food, so we were considered critical workers. We lived in a bubble and continued to develop. We regrouped after each setback and never gave up; this eventually paid off.
What Is your vision for the future of food production?
We've got a million food deserts. A lot of cities have no access to fresh produce. So our goal is to change all that. Hyper-localizing food production eliminates the geographic and social barriers that often prevent the public from accessing healthy foods. I want my kids and grandkids to be able to have food that's grown locally. Imagine fresh produce grown in your community and delivered to where it's needed. Imagine fresh food full of nutrients, not empty calorles because it was shipped from thousands of miles away. I want It so that we don't destroy the earth by spraying pesticides on the crops and cutting up more of the Amazon for grazing.
What were the early influences on your life?
Born in the United States to Lebanese Immigrant parents, my grandfather grew up tinkering. He started out driving a gas truck before buying a gas station and later building a gear factory where he invented the first torque wrenches. He gave everyone a chance to succeed, and I soaked up lessons from him while hanging out in his factory.