Urban Leaf was founded to pursue the development of a healthier and more sustainable food system. We believe that the most powerful and effective way to do this is by sharing the joys of growing food with people like you. We’re a team of plant scientists, engineers and food enthusiasts that specialize in creative solutions for growing food in small spaces – such as the New York City apartments in which we live. Founders Rob and Nate met at Columbia University in early 2016, and immediately bonded over their shared vision for the future.
Nate left the finance industry in 2015, determined to build something that his grandchildren would one day be proud of. The first dish he learned how to cook was spaghetti bolognese, and since a young age has been obsessed with food. He has taken cooking classes all over the world, including a Certificate of Culinary Arts in Toronto. Thai and Vietnamese are his favorites, and he once spent a month exploring the Central Highlands of Vietnam by motorbike in search of the perfect bowl of Banh Hoi (it’s all about the fresh herbs!!)
(Dr) Rob was raised on a wood farm in southeastern Massachusetts, and since moving to NYC has made it his mission to make the place a bit greener! His Ph.D. dissertation focused on Vegetated Infrastructure, and after meeting Nate in early 2016 began to use his plant knowledge to design food growing systems. As well as running R&D, manufacturing, and dispatch at Urban Leaf, he has also become famous for his “Upper Westo Pesto” (fortunately he has a very good supply of fresh basil).
The impact that our food choices have on both the health of the planet and our own bodies is a subject that fascinates us – and is something we strive to improve. We believe that growing food in urban environments solves a huge number of food industry problems, including shorter supply chains, with fewer food miles, less wastage, less packaging and higher nutritional density. That said, growing food in urban environments also brings with it a number of unique challenges – most commonly a lack of time, space and know-how. We’re developing products that help overcome these obstacles – and make growing food at home fun, easy and accessible. As New Yorkers living in 600 sqft apartments ourselves, we understand these challenges better than most.
Our first product is an eco-friendly beginner hydroponic unit called The World’s Smallest Garden. It’s possibly also the World’s Easiest To Use! The World’s Smallest Garden lets plants water themselves – using patented hydroponic technology. There are no more excuses for “I tried to grow a plant once, but it died” 🙂
Business As A Force For Good
We believe in using business as a force for good. To us that means that in every element of our business, we look for ways to tread lightly on the planet, improve the health and wellness of our customers and those around us, and drive positive social change where we can.
Our products are entirely US made, and most is in fact done in New York State (including the plastic injection molding) which means we can keep transport related carbon emissions low. Our products are assembled a couple of hours north of Manhattan by an amazing organization that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities. You can read more about them here.
We use a biodegradable PLA plastic to manufacture the plastic parts of our product. It costs us a little more this way, but we feel its money well spent.
We’re also delighted to partner with Teens For Food Justice, an organization that provides urban farming education to food insecure children. Each kit we sell helps a child grow roughly a pound of healthy, affordable produce for his or her community.