Oktoberfest Singapore may be an unlikely location to meet a business partner, or perhaps it could be the best place of all! When Nadine Keller first met Thorben Linneberg, she didn’t imagine that they would not only partner up as a couple but as business co-founders. The pair have recently launched Aerospring Garden, a vertical, aeroponic gardening system, ingeniously designed to conserve space and allow you to grow a full edible garden right on your balcony.
It was the quest for ripe, juicy tomatoes that started Nadine and Thorben on this journey. Unable to find delicious tomatoes at a reasonable price, Thorben decided to grow some himself. He always had a bit of a “Macgyver” quality about him, able to experiment and put things together. (For those unfamiliar with Macgyver, he was the main character of an 80’s TV show. “Resourceful and possessed of an encyclopedic knowledge of the physical sciences, he solves complex problems by making things out of ordinary objects, along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife.” (Source: Wikipedia.org))
Even when we visited Nadine and Thorben, we were treated to espresso made from his own home roasted coffee beans. We were also thrilled to be able to touch and feel the original prototype of the pole on which the finished Aerospring Garden system is designed from. The prototype was printed on a 3D printer that Thorben purchased specially for this project. While he started learning about aeroponic gardening, doing research and building his own experimental systems in his spare time, he soon realised that this project would take some full time commitment. After years working for MNC’s, then starting and running his own award-winning social media aggregation app called OrSiSo and moving on to capital raising and distribution, Thorben decided to put all his efforts into Aerospring. Being blessed with a “green thumb” also helped in the process.
Nadine, on the other hand, did not start out as an avid gardener. Self-confessed as not having a knack for growing plants, she started helping Thorben with Aerospring early on and was surprised that she was able to keep the plants alive. At that time, she was working in a fast paced role as General Manager for a digital content production company. Gardening became Nadine’s source of relaxation. She had no idea about gardening, but she knew she loved working with the plants, naming each of them as she grew them. She experimented with different plants, growing anything that struck her fancy from the standard herbs to exotic chillies to garden greens. Still, she kept her “day job” but when the opportunity came to take on a different role in the same industry, she decided that she would, preparing to switch jobs. It was during this in-between time that she decided that growing was what she loved to do and as the opportunity was right there in front of her, she decided to join Thorben in their business instead.
An Aerospring Garden comes complete with seedlings, nutrients and detailed instructions for setup and use. You can pick which seedlings you would like to grow and, being who they are, Nadine and Thorben are always on hand to advise and talk about what may be needed. I’d be interested to try this out myself to see if I could actually grow a garden to feed my family. I have never loved worms, dirt or getting my hands dirty though it has always been with intense interest that I’ve visited The Vegetarian’s parents plot of land in Australia where they grow bananas, avocados, tropical fruit, vegetables, african beans and so many great crops that feed their family. I think The Vegetarian misses being able to pop a seed into the ground and watch it grow and this is why an Aerospring Garden would suit any family in Singapore because many don’t have the space and land required to grow a garden. While minimal maintenance is needed, you still need to look after your plants and care for them like you would any plant. But don’t let that scare you off. Like Nadine, you might just find your true calling in life.
An Aerospring Garden seedling starts its life in vermiculite, a substrate used in soil gardening. Once the little seedlings are strong enough, they are moved to Grodan rock wool cubes and then put in a seedling pot, ready to be selected by enthusiastic Aerospring customers. “Planting” your seedling is as easy as placing it into the custom built plant site that holds the pots of seeds for the entire duration of their life. I was in awe of the thick, strong stalks that grew from these little pots, 27 in the Standard Unit or 36 in the Pro Unit, producing enough veggies to adequately make a large salad.
I was equally impressed by the amount of research and development that went into getting the Aerospring Garden into production and then launching the product right here in Singapore. The technology and investment involved was substantial and as a result, when you purchase an Aerospring Garden system, you are basically given a ready-to-go plot of “land” – a vertical pole, made of plastic – but ready to grow whatever you fancy. Keep in mind that they are still living plants and you will need to look after them and ensure they have the proper nutrients, but the amount of effort involved seems to be minimal when compared to soil planting.
If you follow Aerospring Gardens on Facebook like I have, you’ll be able to see the progress of many edible and luscious plants, from melons to cucumbers, herbs as well as views of various systems on location. I love keeping track of how the gardens are growing. One day I might have one too, with enough fresh tomato and basil to whip up a recipe I’ve been making since college that is basically a bruschetta with pasta. Or perhaps I could grow enough kale, like Nadine has, to make the kale, pomegranate and goats cheese salad that my friend has given me.
For more information on Aerospring: