“Mira,” Spanish, def. “to look” or “to visualize.”
“Marvel” def. “to be filled with wonder or astonishment.”
For founding partners Riley Kuffner and Randall Shapiro, Miravel means “to look at the marvel of life.” This notion represents the company’s underlying motivation to close the gap between sustainability and accessibility. With the Simple Garden, Miravel’s flagship product, the company is seeking to provide homes with a functional appliance that grows fresh food sustainably and autonomously. The Simple Garden fits neatly on a wall inside your home, and while some home garden units may perform a similar function, Miravel’s product stands out as an elegant and beautiful home accessory. The design has a sleek, craft wood finish that accentuates the aesthetic of a modern home. Further, customers can select a wood finish to match their specific home style and interior design.
Founders Randall and Riley have had the entrepreneurial itch since meeting in high school when they initiated a small broadcasting arm of their school’s journalism program. Randall and Riley split for college – Randall to Indiana University (my alma mater as well, go Hoosiers) and Riley to UCLA – before reuniting in Los Angeles post-graduation. Riley’s wheelhouse is on the product side, having spent a significant amount of time studying and experimenting with sustainable technology, while Randall utilizes his stellar undergraduate education to lead business operations. Being particularly interested in the intersection of sustainability and technology, the duo started examining some deep seeded (pun intended) problems with the agricultural industry.
The Simple Garden was perfected through numerous customer interviews and seeks to solve a systemic problem– agricultural distribution. The supply chain is too long. Food typically travels for 7-10 days before reaching the consumer’s plate. Each additional day can decrease freshness and increase the risk of contamination. The Simple Garden’s driver is the growing demand for organic and fresh ingredients and people who are increasingly taking ownership of the food that goes into their body. Because of this trend, the bridge between the producer and the consumer is narrowing and Riley and Randall want to bring it even closer.
How It Works – Four Elemental Components
Light: We don’t need to sit through another high school biology lesson to understand how photosynthesis works. At a high level, chlorophyll absorbs light at two peak wavelengths. Essentially, the Simple Garden mimics the light and spectra required for chlorophyll absorption with carefully designed and aesthetic white lights. These lights sustainably nurtures the plants with the love that they need to thrive.
Water: The product features a watering mechanism that simulates how a water table works in nature. Sensors at each plant bed determine when the water level needs to be refilled. The mechanism is designed to mimic the natural rain cycle, and users periodically (every two weeks) fill up the system’s built in water reservoir rather than being responsible for daily watering themselves.
Earth: Soilless seed squares that customers can order online are inserted into the unit. They are made of a sponge-like material and are fully compostable. Seed squares include three primary categories: Herbs (basil, mint), Greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula), and Microgreens (broccoli, clover, etc.). Microgreens are grown into sprouts and harvested after just a couple of weeks. They are nutrient dense, flavorful and can be used to garnish sandwiches, avocado toast, salads, etc.
Air: Fans on either side of the seed beds constantly circulate to ensure proper oxygenation of the soil and plants. A nice perk is that the fans also waft aromas throughout the home and provide a fresh, natural fragrance.
The market is filled with home garden systems. Some have substantially more capacity than the Simple Garden, but most existing products look like science projects. Many other consumer products are large and clunky and can hardly be distinguished from a traditional washer/dryer. If sustainability is the Simple Garden’s value proposition, its style and modern aesthetic is its differentiating factor. The company is also working on iterations of the product to allow modularity. With this unique functionality, multiple units can be tiled together to cover an entire wall surface and increase yield. With a retail price of $395, the Simple Garden is positioned as a premium product. Most other indoor self-watering units are priced between $100 and $200, but Riley and Randall believe the Simple Garden is an elegant and sustainable complement to the modern home that warrants a premium due to using higher quality materials that are built to last.
Miravel is attempting to enter a growing market. Not only did lawn and garden spending set an overall record of more than $52 billion in 2018, according to the National Gardening Association, but participation by the Millennial generation (ages 18-34) continues to grow at a higher rate than other age groups – now equaling Gen Xers and Baby Boomers in total growers. Miravel is combining elements of interior design, autonomous technology, and sustainability to appeal to health-conscious consumers, homeowners, and aspiring gardeners.
The Simple Garden is currently a 6th generation prototype and has been in development since 2018. The final product design is complete and Miravel is finalizing supply chain partners and building out its production capability. The Simple Garden debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Los Vegas earlier this year and was met with enthusiasm (5 Coolest Startups). Following CES, the team launched an option to pre-order the product at a slight discount by placing a deposit on their website. Already, The Simple Garden has 300+ members on their wait-list and around 50 that are confirmed for the company’s beta test. Randall and Riley are hoping to have the first Simple Gardens delivered to customers in Fall 2020.
The product will initially launch out of Los Angeles with distribution primarily in California. Miravel sells direct to consumer via their website (which you can find here) and plans to run a comprehensive social media marketing campaign. Down the road, the founders can see the product in retail stores throughout the country, and I can too. Personally, I am a big fan of the aesthetic. I can see this product on display not only in home kitchens but also in restaurants, bars, lobbies, waiting rooms and offices. Further (did you really think I was going to make it the whole article without mentioning COVID-19?), quarantine life is increasing both the concern about lengthy supply chains and demand for in-home autonomous living. The duo says that during the stay at home period, they have received more demand for their product than ever before in the company’s history. The big question for the Simple Garden however is functionality – Riley and Randall must deliver on their promise of autonomous growing. If they can deliver a great looking product that produces exceptional produce, Miravel could be primed for a bright future.