TITLETOWN (NBC 26) — TitletownTech is a place where many innovators in Northeast Wisconsin call home. For one entrepreneur and his team - and working with the venture capital firm - his brain child of an urban farm took him from New York City back to his home state of Wisconsin, where they're not only helping non-profits get fresh food, but also educating youth.
"Pretty much anything you can dream that you would grow outside, you can grow here," said Lalu Bere, the Brand Vice President of Fork Farms. She spoke to NBC 26 on behalf of Alex Tyink, the creator and CEO of Fork Farms, who was on paternity leave.
The unit is called the Flex Farm. Bere explained it grows up to 20 lbs more of fresh food in 28 days exclusively with water that's fortified with nutrients, eliminating the need for soil. It's a standing unit that opens from the inside. The walls are covered with small pots to plant seeds. In the center is a light that provides what the produce might need from the sun.
"It is designed to recapture the energy in such a way that makes it really efficient," Bere said. "So you can grow food for less than $1 per pound, which is better than any competitor that we know of today."
The company works with food banks, healthcare systems, restaurants and anywhere else that needs fresh, leafy greens and food. But their work doesn't stop there: Bere said they're in about 400 schools across the United States, and one of them happens to be in Neenah.
Emily Bennett is a science teacher at Neenah High School. She discovered the Fork Farms through Facebook, and knew she had to have one. Through hours of grant writing, she was able to raise the money to buy a Flex Farm for her classroom. Bennett's goal is to have one unit in every building in the district.
"They [the students] had to check the levels every day, they check the pH, they check the nutrient levels, they have to problem solve and figure out what's going on if there's an issue with the unit," Bennett said.
But, she explained the Flex Farm offers more teaching opportunities than just science.
"It's business. It's marketing," Bennett said. "Figuring out how to deliver it to a humongous school like Neenah High School, and how to efficiently deliver it to all different teachers has been huge. We've done a whole marketing scheme and a business type side of it."
Bennett said the Flex Farm guides her students down the path to success, and part of that starts with eating clean and green.
"By teaching these students healthy eating habits, you're giving them an idea of how easy it is to grow vegetables and herbs, just you know, in their house," Bennett said.
Back at TitletownTech, Managing Director Craig Dickman praises Fork Farms for the reception it's gotten from the marketplace. The business is finding more than one way to fit into the community.
"That's one of the things that makes a company really special is when the purpose, the product, and the marketplace really line up, and Fork Farms has done that extraordinarily well," Dickman said.
Continuing to grow into something great.