At Just Vertical, our goal is not to sell an AEVA. Our goal is to encourage thinking about environmental sustainability in a personal and healthy way. The AEVA is just one method to have a positive impact but it only works if it you can use it. This week I sat down with Co-Founder Kevin Jakiela to discuss some of the testing we do to ensure that you can get what we promise from the AEVA.
Q: How did Just Vertical decide on the design and functional processes of the AEVA?
A: Each component is selected via two dimensions. The first is that healthy plants require a certain amount of space, light, etc. so we pick materials that will ensure optimal growth. The second is reliability. For example, the lighting unit found on the AEVA is rated for 55 thousand hours or just over 6 years of continuous lighting. In addition, because different plants have preferences for which wavelength of light (colours) for optimal growing conditions, our light is a full spectrum light. While it may not be the best light for a particular plant, it gives customers a good option to grow a wide variety of different plants in their units at the same time.
Q: You make some lofty promises for how much can be grown in an AEVA. How can you be sure?
A: Testing, testing, testing (with different varieties of plants at the same time). Growing plants is often dependent on the level of attention a grower gives to them. However, we designed the AEVA to be as simple as possible for people without a green thumb. We do research with two mindsets. The first is leveraging our plant science expertise to identify different environmental parameters and the growth of plants under various conditions. The second is to follow our instruction manual exactly to see what AEVA owners can expect. For both conditions we can keep track of the time it takes for plants to reach a harvestable stage as well as the mass of the produce we harvest.
Q: You have multiple AEVA’s at home for testing purposes, what have you found the most rewarding and most challenging when it comes to growing in the AEVA.
A: For me, its been exciting to watch how fast plants grow in our units, especially basil. I have plants in planters on the balcony during the growing season and seeing how much faster plants grow in the AEVA is a treat. The most challenging thing I have found is trying to match growing different kinds of plants in one AEVA unit. Very few customers purchase an AEVA to grow only one type of plant. But each plant has different requirements for optimal growth and finding a happy medium that works best for our customers is a constant learning opportunity for us, and is the main focus of our plant growing R&D.
Q: What kinds of things are you looking for when you are testing growth from a customer’s perspective and not in a lab?
A: All we are really looking for is how long it takes for the plants to reach a harvest stage and how much produce a customer can get. We do this to ensure that our instructions have the most up-to-date information for optimal growth. Because we also grow these plants in our own AEVA’s, it helps us mimic the customers experience so that it is easier to troubleshoot any problems that may arise for a customer.
Q: You talked a little about leverage the plant knowledge expertise in your research. Can you speak a little more to that?
A: With more research-oriented goals, we can look to track and control the environmental conditions so that we can really understand what optimal conditions may be. For example, we can track TDS (Total dissolved solids) and pH of the water basin before and after adding nutrients which give us an idea of the electroconductivity and alkalinity of the water tank, respectively. We can try and test differing watering and light cycles. The new EVE units will arrive with a dimmer switch so we will able to adjust the intensity of the lighting as well. We can also monitor humidity, CO2, air temperature and other parameters to best understand and control our growing conditions (in lab settings for optimized “at-home” growing). When building a commercial hydroponic farm, we would try to identify very specific numbers, but recreational growing differs greatly from home to home. We test all the things we can control (like lighting) and monitor all the things we can’t (like environmental conditions). Taken together, we can be confident that the AEVA can be a solution for a wide array of homes.