Startup: Ohneka Farms


Founders: Brielle Pettinelli & Eric De Feo

Pitch: Ohneka Farms is developing ROOT, a countertop smart planter that allows you to grow a variety of plants seamlessly by automating watering and lighting cycles with the swipe of a finger.

Andrew’s Commentary: 

In terms of trends, I’m not sure there’s a bigger one than consumers’ growing distrust of big agriculture and their desire to know that their produce is grown safely without the introduction of non-natural fertilizers, pesticides and preservatives. This trend has led to significant growth in farm-to-table restaurants and supermarkets supplying local, organic produce.

In Brooklyn, where I live, there seems to be excitement everywhere in growing produce on terraces and roofs. Hydroponic farming, a method of sustaining plants with water and minerals and without soil, promises to be another exciting alternative for home-grown produce, particularly in urban areas. As adoption of hydroponic systems grow, you can expect hydroponic planters to play a prominent role in the Internet of Things. From smartphones, owners will monitor and administer sustenance to their plants based on information derived from the planters in which they live. Clever Internet integrations may lead to the acceleration of more hydroponic systems inside the home, representing a big business opportunity for startups focused on the convergence of farming and web technologies.

Video Highlights


To connect smart gardening systems throughout the home to a flourishing network of growers around the world, no matter their experience level.

Macro Thesis:

The entire growing industry will be transformed with the introduction of smarter software that personalizes growing. Everyone will be able to grow plants with the swipe of a finger. Every growing experience will harness collaborative growing networks in order to address gardening pain points.

With signs of drought and soil depletion all over the world, people are going to depend on smarter technology to conserve resources in order to cultivate more locally-sourced vegetation. In the future, people will be able to easily grow and monitor gardens from the comfort of their own homes.

Market Sizing:

We are addressing a 30 billion dollar US home and gardening hydroponic growing market that is quickly expanding with the introduction of smart, integrated devices. The legalization of cannabis in the United States will lead to a greater number of homegrowers. This taps into the already 2.7 billion dollar legalized marijuana market (2014), steadily growing 74% up from 1.3 billion in 2013. As more American states and territories legalize cannabis, this market will only continue to flourish.

Product Or Service:

We are building a countertop device that allows you to grow a variety of plants in your home seamlessly. All you have to do is take our plant pods, pop them into the ROOT system, input into our app what you would like to grow and your plants will begin to sprout! Throughout the growing process, you will be notified of the health and status of your plants and be periodically reminded when to add water and plant food.

Real And Vaporware:

Our first product ROOT will launch this winter, and we have already gained pre-orders. ROOT is simple, yet customizable, offering a user-friendly experience. ROOT technology delivers information regarding the status of users’ plants in real-time, allowing them to control lighting and watering cycles. Unlike simple “planters,” ROOT has evolved to become a “smart planter,” allowing busy people who may not always be home to water their plants to relish in the joy of gardening indoors at little cost and time.

ROOT is our first consumer product and we plan to scale our software and hardware systems throughout the home all the way to industrial applications.

Why Us:

Our team is experienced in integrated product design, merging the philosophies of universal, human-centered design with forward-thinking engineering and manufacturing practices. We orchestrate a team of designers trained in biology, aerospace engineering, architecture and UI. We bring these disciplines together to create new experiences for each consumer. We leverage professional experience from companies as varied as OXO, Gensler, IBM, Sony, GE and MakerBot.

ROOT was selected this past winter to be part of the first class of DreamIt Athena – a female-founder startup accelerator in Philadelphia. The ROOT system has also been featured in several international publications. Moving forward, we aim to create compelling new products and experiences customizable for any user of any experience level.

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