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Second trend: urban vegetable plots

Innovation / -

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(photo credit: Florio Badocchi)




Increasing the total cultivatable area inside cities as well as outside them is a necessity… and also a pleasant hobby. Devices equipped with sensors are able to measure air temperature, atmospheric and soil humidity, concentration of main nutrients, threats, etc. This data is then gathered and processed and communicated via a mobile or web device. But small spaces can also be exploited using aeroponics, aquaponics and hydroponics, none of which require soil.

Bulbo: spotlight on indoor kitchen gardens

Innovation / -

Cynara, il modello più venduto da Bulbo, utilizza ceramiche artigianali di Faenza
ph Ottavio_Montanari ©Bulbo 2014

A university spin-off has patented design lamps that are 100% Made in Italy and able to stimulate the growth of vegetables even indoors: the next step is to make them smart.

To capture sunlight in a lamp. This is the mission of the Bulbo, a start-up founded in 2012, that produces and markets LED design for indoor kitchen gardens. It all started in 2009 when Lorenzo Antonioni, a student of the Faculty of Design at the Politecnico of Milan, began looking into the interaction between light and plants. It must be said: these lamps for indoor kitchen gardens were like a proverbial lightbulb going off. "We believe that the food revolution begins in our cities, in the transformation of our homes without gardens or orchards, through the principals of protection and an understanding of nature – according to Antonioni - We want to increase public awareness of agriculture through an immersive experience."

LED lights are the basis for innovation in bulbs. What makes them particularly suitable for indoor cultivation is not only their low energy consumption and the fact that they give off cold light, allowing them to be positioned in close proximity to plants, but their ability to reproduce endless light frequencies. Antonioni’s experiments – carried out by 2011 in partnership with the Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Bologna – has identified the best light spectrum for stimulating the growth of vegetables, herbs, flowers and succulents.
The Spinner Competition, the adventure begins 
2012 marked the decisive event: the European Spinner Competition, funding young entrepreneurs to develop research for high-tech innovations, rewarded the spin-off of Antonioni and his two partners with a non-repayable grant. Finally, what was an intuition began to take shape as a company. Thanks to the partnership with Pasquini Studio, a manufacturer of industrial lamps, at the Salone del Mobile in Milan, Bulbo presented its first prototype, winning instant success. The lamps appeared in numerous design magazines, including "Domus", "Wohnrevue", "Inside", "Elle Decoration UK," "The Irish Times", "Living - Corriere della Sera." Since October 2013, when their marketing efforts began, Bulbo began selling across Europe, quickly reaching a turnover of €50,000.
The lamps have a retail price that is around €200, depending on the model. The best-seller is Cynara, a low-power lamp (7 watts, like a wi-fi router) that uses faience terracotta.

"We chose to keep Italy in the whole production process, from the supply of materials, to their processing and assembly – says Sara Pellegrini, Marketing and Communication Manager of Bulbo – and each model is developed with small and medium enterprises in the north of Italy. But right now, the most enthusiastic reception we have had has been from abroad, especially in Germany, leading us to expand our customer base by taking part in two international exhibitions in London and Paris. "
In Italy, the start-up has started working with Ernesto Meda and for Arclinea kitchens with built-in templates, which were presented at the last Salone Internazionale del Mobile in Milan.
Do you talk to plants? Get the app!
What more could you want? "The next step is to make our lamps smart - says Pellegrini - through an app that helps you communicate with plants through sensors and sends notifications to remind you to wash them down, gives practical tips, programs the amount of light and follows each step of their growth. We also want to allow our customers to send photos of their plants to other growers, to make the experience even more exciting. In short, we want to go Phase 2.0."
For this reason Bulbo is participating in the Call for Ideas 2014 of the Telecom Italia's Wcap-Working Capital Accelerator, which since 2009 has rewarded the efforts of 179 business ideas. And soon they will initiate a crowdfunding campaign, again on the platform set up by WCAP for this year's edition. Proof that even good ideas, if cultivated with passion, bear fruit.

The GreenWatcher, Giunko, Hangreen and OrtiAlti: innovative life for the world of food

Innovation / -

Four startups, four ideas for injecting new life into the world of food. These have been selected by Autogrill which, on the occasion of the presentation of its own tenth sustainability report, chose to share the stage at the Coca-Cola Pavilion in Expo Milano 2015 with them.

Their names are The GreenWatcher, Giunko, Hangreen and OrtiAlti, and they are four startup companies who intend to change the course, preferably in an eco-direction, of our everyday lives.  Autogrill selected them, and presented them at Expo Milano 2015 in the Coca-Cola Pavilion as sustainable innovative projects capable of contributing to the future of food, and more. Here is what they propose:
The classic app that makes life easier. At least during the crucial moment of differentiated waste disposal. In Italy especially, it’s not always easy to work out which container to use for certain waste items, especially when they contain various materials. This is further complicated by the differences between one municipality and another, especially for people travelling or temporarily in a different city. This matter was the subject of a discussion between four engineers from Bologna during a long car journey, and in the end they hit on a solution, brilliantly combining two elements easily available to most citizens: the barcode, now present on all industrial products, and the smartphone with its geolocation function. Thus was born the Junker app, which by scanning the barcode on a product’s packaging (its database already contains over 1 million items), and determining which municipality you are in, tells you how to dispose of its various components.
If the product scanned is not recognized, the user sends a photo of the barcode to the app and receives an answer in real time, while this reference is added to the database. Junker currently has 6,000 users and 30,000 searches made, and has received numerous prizes for innovation: from Innovami in 2013 to Call4Ideas at Forum PA 2015. Hera, the multi-utility of the Emilia Romagna Region which serves 3.5 million citizens, has inserted this technology in its Rifiutologo… a Regional platform for waste services.
The startup’s business model offers its service free to citizens, while it charges a subscription fee to subcontracted service companies or Municipalities… which can also use it to communicate to its citizens the calendar for waste collection and other useful information.
We have already mentioned this startup various times, on account of the large number of awards it has collected: from Legambiente Italia’s Premio Innovazione Amica dell’Ambiente to the first prize in the We-Women for Expo competition.
OrtiAlti (meaning ‘High Vegetable Plots’) is a social enterprise founded by architects Elena Caragnani and Emanuela Saporito, whose mission is to create vegetable plots on the roofs of companies, condominiums and public buildings. It is continuing this mission: last December, on the roof of an industrial factory from the 1930s in Turin, assigned by the Municipality to a cooperative which works with disadvantaged people, it created a roof vegetable plot which also supplies a restaurant in the same building. Meanwhile, the inauguration is approaching of a project for the Carrefour Shopping Center in Nichelino (a province of Turin), whose produce will be distributed to customers. The next development could well be the development of aquaponic systems.
This startup too is focused on green initiatives, here related to automated vertical gardens. The modules proposed (in three different formats) are built with eco-sustainable materials (wood and water-tanks in recycled plastic) and are equipped with special sensors for checking the parameters relating to plants cultivated. An electronic card connected to a smartphone app communicates the data to the user.
This is another startup which has won numerous awards: First Prize Startup Digital Media, Special Prize Sardinia Research, Special Prize Make at Cube (the prize from the Avanzi Fund, where the company is currently incubated), Special Prize and the first prize at the Startup Weekend Cagliari 2015. Would you like to meet the four young creatives who started it? From October 2 to 4 they’ll be in Green City Milano.
The GreenWatcher
Having surveyed 7,000 companies and attracted thousands of signed-up users, this company describes itself as the world’s biggest global platform for checking on the degree of eco-sustainability of individual companies.
First launched in Florence, The Green Watcher in its bilingual Italian-English version is now used in Europe, the US and South America. The platform is fed by information sent by its users (EcoOpinions) while the measurement of the companies’ environmental sustainability (EcoEvaluations) is carried out in self-service modality – online and directly by company owners or management – and is certified. The platform can be accessed by mobile-friendly devices and as an app.

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