The idea for The Farmery first came about when Ben Greene noticed something lacking from the agriculture industry. While there were plenty of farmers selling their produce through small enterprises, there was little to recommend their natural offerings over the glossy supermarket equivalents. Ben felt it was important to show the consumer the growing process and encourage their participation so that they could see exactly where their food was coming from and how it came into being.
Ben’s background is an interesting one – after studying Sculpture at college he then went on to join the military and was deployed over to Iraq as part of the US invasion. He followed this with a Masters in Industrial Design where he initially developed The Farmery as his final thesis project. He now works as an industrial designer for a powersports company alongside developing The Farmery. We were keen to hear how the process from thesis idea to business is going for Ben.
1. Where did the idea for The Farmery come from?
When I was pursuing my Master’s of Industrial Design Degree I needed a thesis and I wanted to find an industry with very little industrial design influence to see if I could apply my skills to solve problems in the industry. Agriculture seemed to be a field with very few designers so I looked for opportunities to improve profitability. The biggest problem in farming I could identify was that farmers were so far away from the customer that they had little control over their own profitability. So I decided to combine the growing and retailing systems into one unit to make small scale, urban agriculture possible and scalable. After lots of research I came up with a system design that looked somewhat like the current iteration of the Farmery. After graduating I began prototyping with a shipping container and took it from there.
2. Can you describe a typical working day?
7:00am- Wake up
7:30am- Deliver my produce from the prototype growing units to my retailers
9am- Go to my day job as a product designer at a design firm in Raleigh, NC.
Noon- Take business calls and respond to emails on my lunch break.
5pm- Leave my product design job, head straight to the farm to work on my prototypes. Plant crops, inoculate mushrooms, prepare the next days order
8pm- Leave Farm
8:30pm- Typically some sort of business meeting
10pm- Work on website, emails, business plan, etc.
3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on The Farmery?
There’s really not much time that’s not dedicated to the Farmery. But when I do have spare time, I like to design and prototype new products that have a future under the Farmery brand and can be produced with 3d printing, laser cutting, vacuum forming and other small scale manufacturing technologies. I also enjoy making art, typically some form of sculpture.
4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
I think the ability to communicate ideas in a way that inspires people to rally behind you multiplies what you are able to accomplish.
5. What drove you crazy when building your business?
Trying to tame mother nature.
6. What motivates you to keep going?
I really believe the Farmery is a necessary solution for local food. I think being mission driven rather than profit driven is what kept me from being discouraged even when the odds seem like they are overwhelmingly against you.
7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I think if I had taken the time to speak with more experts and pursued mentors then things would have gone much more smoothly. I’ve learned that experience is priceless and any chance to gain wisdom from someone else should always be sought after.
8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
In five years there will be three Farmery locations open. For the first five years, our expansion will depend largely on investors and our ability to secure capital. After the first three locations are going, we’ll be in good shape to continue our regional expansion.
9. If you weren’t working on The Farmery, what would you be doing?
I’d be looking for another large social problem that could be solved with my design background.
10. Tell Springwise a secret…
I broke three vertebrae in my back last year and was very close to having to quit a year and a half ago.
11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Look for a net that can catch you if you fail and go for it with everything you have.