Earth Prime: Growing Access to Fresh Food

With Feeding Fair right around the corner, we are looking forward to finding concrete solutions to real problems surrounding global malnutrition. We are getting excited to bring together great minds, international mentors, and a whole lot of innovation inspiration. While there is certainly still plenty of work to be done in the field, we decided to take a look at some companies that have already started to attack various food issues in their communities.

Meet Sam Skydell, Director of Business Development and Co-Founder of Earth Prime, an urban, hydroponic growing startup that believes, “Man, Technology, and the Environment can not only live—but thrive—in harmony together.”  Based out of New Orleans, Sam and his business partner Henry Clay duQuesnay are striving to address a pressing need they saw in the city of New Orleans. “There are a lot of areas in the city that are food deserts, and a lot of the city’s urban youth don’t have access to fresh food. We saw that as a really big problem,” notes Sam.


©Earth Prime Inc

While Sam comes from a business background and has years of experience in the food and beverage industry, Henry had spent time managing a vertical hydroponics farm where he was impressed by the efficiencies of the system, but was always brainstorming ways to improve. Having graduated from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business with a focus in entrepreneurship and accounting, it was only natural for Henry to start putting his ideas for improvement into action. After three years of planning and thinking, Henry pulled in Sam to help further develop the Earth Prime concept, which was officially launched on Janurary 1st of this year.  Together they came up with a way to, as Sam puts it, “help fix the broken food system” by providing direct access to fresh produce in an urban environment.


©Recirculating Farms


Right now Earth Prime works on custom installations of vertical hydroponic growing schemes for various organizations. They have partnered with Recirculating Farms of New Orleans, an incubator for urban farming that offers community classes and support related to farming, gardening and sustainable food. Part of the produce that the organization grows and then donates is thanks to the system Earth Prime set up for them. In addition, you can find Earth Prime hydroponics at The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine of Tulane University, where their teaching kitchen benefits from Earth Prime produce as well. The program, soon to be replicated nationally, helps educate future medical professionals about the benefits of a nutritional and fresh diet in combatting particular health issues.


©Recirculating Farms


Sam is passionate about access and education in the fight against malnutrition. “We wanted to find a way to make it possible for anyone to have access and ability to grow their own produce…and not to be deterred just because you don’t have enough information, or enough space, or soil quality or land available,” says Sam. Currently, they are working to make their latest product, iGardenX, available commercially. The iGardenX is designed to have a footprint of just 2 x 2.5 square feet and is able to grow hydroponically up to 30 full size plants. The system is designed to use recirculating water, which means water efficiency at 90% higher than that of traditional agriculture. In addition, the iGardenX is made to be easily packaged and shipped, quick to assemble and simple to use.


©Earth Prime Inc

When doing market research for the product, Sam says talking to people about the product was the most rewarding step. “We found out that of all the people that don’t currently garden or grow their own produce, [almost all] wanted to. Either they didn’t know how, or they didn’t have enough resources. So, we solved these problems with our system,” Sam explains. Earth Prime is now also developing a companion app for the iGardenX that will help guide novice growers through all the steps of producing their own food. “With the app,” explains Sam, “we’re taking care of perceived knowledge that [people] think they need to know to garden.” Sam laughs, “Someone like me can’t even keep houseplants alive.” With himself as inspiration, Sam knows that a companion app infusing technology seamlessly into the physical world is a perfect solution for people like himself who might not otherwise have the confidence or know-how to grow their own food.


©The Edible Schoolyard Project


Sam hopes iGardenX can be an outlet for food education as well. A huge supporter of The Edible Schoolyard Project, he sees iGardenX as a way to make sure even inner city schools that might not have access to land, can still benefit from the rewards of food education. “The children that are participating in Edible Schoolyards can not only identify more fruits and vegetables than their peers, but they are also eating healthier at school and at home,” says Sam. “That is an amazing thing, especially in a city like ours, with so many food deserts.”


©The Edible Schoolyard Project

We ask Sam what advice he might have for future food hackers, he shares a saying from a dear friend of his: “You can’t have a solution without a problem.” Sam praises an innovative mindset: “Start with the problem and work your way back to figure out how you can creatively find solutions. Some might not work. One might be great. Try to understand the problem completely.” Earth Prime used New Orleans as their inspiration, a city with contaminated soil, where individuals have little space and lots of apprehension about growing food, and said, let’s change! Now they are offering a fix that skirts space and soil requirements, a companion app that promotes easy user interaction and a final product that gives fresh, healthy food.


©Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program via The Edible Schoolyard Project


What challenge is your community facing? How do you want to change the food system? What problems, like food access and education, do you see as the most pertinent in malnutrition? Join us on September 23rd in Milan to hack malnutrition and see what kind of change you can create for the food sphere!

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Comments ( 1 )
  1. Harriet Elvidge

    Nice idea, very inspiring guys

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