The Next New Venture: A Fresh Way to Farm

The HomeGrown Farms team pose with founding sponsor Ann Scott and competition director Lex McCusker. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
The HomeGrown Farms team pose with founding sponsor Ann Scott and competition director Lex McCusker. (Logan Werlinger/GW Today)
Entrepreneurship competition top winners receive more than $60,000 for environmentally friendly local produce.
April 21, 2016
HomeGrown Farms may provide a glimpse of the future of farming. And while it is certainly green, it is not the rolling acres that the word “farm” usually connotes.
 
Rather than the wide sky and ranging fields of the bucolic imagination, HomeGrown exists—like a leafy, high-tech Narnia—inside a 320-square-foot shipping container in New Jersey. Kale, spinach, arugula, fresh herbs and other greens grow year-round under LED lights in baths of nutrient-rich water.
 
The farmers are more likely to wear lab coats than muddy overalls.
 
All this results in a farming model that uses 90 percent less water and 80 percent less fertilizer than traditional farms, said Parth Chauhan, founder and CEO of HomeGrown, which won big at the George Washington University’s New Venture Competition finals Tuesday night.
 
Since it is a closed system safe from insects and contaminants, HomeGrown uses no herbicides or pesticides and produces no environmentally dangerous runoff, said Mr. Chauhan, who graduated from the Elliott School of International Affairs in 2013. He grew up in the New Jersey community where HomeGrown now is based and has known teammates and fellow farmers Raghav Garg and Zeel Patel since middle school. Pranav Kaul, the fourth founder and a senior at ESIA, met Mr. Chauhan on a dance team at GW.
 
In operation since April, HomeGrown provides job opportunities in the community and access to fresh produce in areas where fresh, healthy food may not be easily available.