This month in Food, Nutrition & Science, Growers House really looks to educate our customers and provide information where there may be information gaps in the industry.
Growers House is a family owned and operated hydroponics supply and indoor gardening center based out of Tucson, Arizona. Most of the materials they supply are to small farms, growing operations and end users or hobbyists. We talked to founder Nate Lipton about the importance of the burgeoning at-home growing movement.
How is your business unique from others that help farmers and consumers grow food?
Aside from offering thousands of products to hydroponic, aquaponic, and greenhouse growers, Growers House really looks to educate our customers and provide information where there may be information gaps in the industry. For example, many indoor lighting bulb manufacturers state for one reason or another why their product is best, which can be very confusing for customers. Which manufacturer do you trust? Who is telling the truth, and who isn’t?
In response to many customers asking us what products are best, we started doing comparison tests using objective measuring instruments and posting that information publicly online. Here is the test on 1000w Grow Light Bulbs that we did. We also try to present this information in a visual form with infographics and graphs. With these objective measurements, consumers can make their own informed decisions on what product will be best for their purposes.
How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?
We have found it to be pretty easy to merge sustainable practices with normal business operations. We recycle all boxes that come into our warehouse from distributors and use those boxes to ship out to customers. We do this with packing materials too. We've spent less than $500 on packing materials in just over one year in business, and we're already doing over two million in revenue annually.
We also do not include packing slips with our orders, instead we email customers their itemized packing slip along with tracking info and their invoice. Lastly, we switched most of our retail store lighting setups from HID bulbs ranging from 600w to 1000w to LED grow lights that were using between 100w and 300w. Being in Arizona, this helps our electricity consumption a lot because air conditioning was running constantly with high wattage lighting fixtures that generate a lot of heat.
Why are small farms and home growing operations important to the food industry?
Small farms and home growing operations are extremely important to the food industry now more than ever. In the next 50 years, as a civilization, we will have to grow more food than we have in the last 10,000 years. Large agriculture has yet to come up with a good way to provide for this demand. Growing yourself, or getting your food from a small farmer often uses growing space that would never be intended for large agriculture. Growing yourself (even indoors with equipment) can also save you money versus buying your food, as long as you're growing crops that do well in your environment.
Large agriculture is already depleting the land they use drastically. Imagine what it will be like 20, 30 years from now. Using fertile land in a way that it can be reused and growing via hydroponic and aquaponic methods may be the only sustainable gardening there in the future.
What's the future of the company? Where do you think you'll have the biggest impact?
The future of this company is bright – no pun intended. We're growing quickly, and we attribute that to us doing our due diligence in providing the right products at the right price with customer service, and a market that is wanting to grow outdoors and indoors, hydroponically and aquaponically, more than ever. I think we'll have the biggest impact in end users who decide they want to grow hydroponic lettuce in their apartment, or start a garden in their backyard for their family. We're not looking to make large agriculture larger. We're looking to make growing your own food as popular and part-of-life as cooking your own food.
What can retailers learn from your success?
That's funny to think about considering how young we are, but I would recommend that retailers push themselves beyond a vision of simply selling an item. Offering customers unique information and insights help build loyalty in your customer base and help it grow. When your goal is the same as your customers, you tend to understand each other better and provide a mutually beneficial relationship for all parties involved.