In August, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published findings that showed demand for locally-grown food rising rapidly. Consumers are more conscious than ever of the health and environmental benefits that come from eating local.
While this trend could help reduce our carbon footprint and improve the health of consumers, it faces some obstacles. Not every community has the land or resources necessary to produce healthy food for local consumption.
Seattle startup IUNU wants to help with an energy-efficient plasma lighting system for indoor farming. IUNU’s “Dual Plasma” spectrum, which is built in Seattle, creates an optimized distribution of light across an entire indoor garden and reduces heat and energy use by over 50 percent, according to the company.
“IUNU has a vision of a future where densely populated areas have consistent access to the healthiest locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs,” said IUNU product manager Lucas Hall.
IUNU, named for the ancient Egyptian “City of the Sun,” has other applications beyond growing food. The system can also be used for growing cannabis — coincidentally, IUNU’s home state recently legalized recreational marijuana.
“We welcome all legally-operating customers and strive to deliver the same level of exceptional customer service to every industry,” Hall said. “Our company’s vision is really focused on providing a means to grow sustainable, high-quality food, because we believe this avenue has the highest potential to help the most people. That being said, we contend that our light outperforms other lights growing any crop.”
We caught up with Hall for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “IUNU provides energy-efficient plasma lights and management solutions, making indoor farming more profitable and environmentally friendly.”
Inspiration hit us when: “Inspiration hit us when our team realized that our product was over 50 percent more efficient that traditional horticulture lights. With the best technology in the industry and a world demanding more high quality food, we have customers lining up.”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We’re bootstrapping until we meet the right angel investor or VC. Our team is looking for monetary investment, but it is more important that any investment comes with a passionate individual or team who can add value to our quickly expanding business.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Our flagship product, the Dual Plasma. An energy efficient horticulture lighting fixture producing full spectrum light, while consuming 50 percent less electricity and producing 70 percent less heat. Our customer-centric design approach created a tool that growers need and want.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Networking with reputable beta testers. Good testers come with experienced advice and established customer engagement. Word of mouth is an effective marketing tool that we’re taking advantage of.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Forgetting to sleep. Our team can be a little relentless at times. It’s not uncommon to have to tell each other to go to bed. Healthy companies have healthy employees.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates. He’s trying to make the world better off, and we are too.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We’re not sure that providing food to people is considered world domination, but we’re fine with that. When people get to experience the best-tasting produce, grown year-round, in their neighborhoods, we’ll win hearts, minds, and taste buds.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We’re not just trying to sell a product; we’re participating in a worldwide movement toward healthier and more secure food sources. Our competitors are welcome to join us in our drive towards healthy, secure food sources.”
We are truly unique because: “Our propriety products make growing indoors feasible. Without IUNU’s energy efficient lighting, the electrical costs related to indoor farming are too high.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Combining two point-source lights to create one uniform distribution of light over plant canopies. Other plasma light manufactures are only able to market their products as a supplementary light. Combining two lights gives our fixture the necessary output to grow healthy, beautiful plants without additional lighting.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “If you’re not an expert, find one. We all like handling things in-house, but you should never sacrifice quality or craftsmanship in the process.”