A year of Young Spinach

A quick look back at some major milestones of my urban farming journey, and a preview of what is coming in the next chapters of this story.

It’s been only 12 months since I launched the blog, but it feels so much longer. I’ve been able to gain incredible amounts of knowledge and experience that it will be quite challenging to summarise it all. There’s been struggles, failures, and victories, but most importantly a great progress.

Let’s start with the negative part of this overview, also the most visible one, and that is the activity and content on Young Spinach. In the last twelve months, I’ve written only 17 blog articles and posted about 20 instagram pictures. I’m not going to lie, my original goal was to write an article every 2 weeks, which I’ve managed maybe twice, so that was a huge underperformance. Honestly, I don’t even have a good excuse, it is just laziness and me not seeing the benefits in it. After all, one of the core ideas for Young Spinach was to serve as my personal portfolio. It is not a lack of time or content that I could share, there’s simply no patience and perseverance on my side. I enjoy learning, trying and building new things so much, but when it’s time to sit down and put it into a text, I just delay and eventually give up. And while I have bigger dreams and goals than this blog, I realize the importance and urgency of taking a step back right now and fixing what needs to be fixed, otherwise I would leave many unfinished projects behind me in the future. Therefore, going into the second year of YS, I will be focusing on doing “the boring stuff” regularly.

With that being out of the way, let’s move onto some more exciting summaries. In late fall of 2017, I’ve applied to startup incubator PointOne under Czech University of Life Sciences. Without any doubts, this has been an undeniable boost for me personally and for my entrepreneurial aspirations. After getting some social following earlier, I was inspired by microgreens farmers and decided to work towards building my own farm. I have managed to prepare everything needed to build an actual farm – business plan, financial calculations, architectural layouts, management and delivery systems, legal paperwork etc. (Un)fortunately, an engineer pointed out some major issues with leaking and piping of the designated object before the reconstruction could have started, and so it had to be delayed by a few months (due to most construction companies being booked for months in advance). I have to say it was a true luck. I was tunnel-visioned and wanted to build something where I could learn about the plant production process, a relationship between a farmer and a customer, and other similar aspects. What I missed was it would absolutely consume me and it was nowhere near to what I wanted to do. After a consideration of some B and C plans, I decided to completely change my direction and do what I love the most at the moment and since the beginning of my agricultural journey – development, and education.

Now before we get to the future, there is one major project that definitely can’t be left behind. I am speaking of none other than the Ultimate Urban Greenhouse Challenge. There are already two articles on the blog about it, and you can expect at least one more (finally showing the result), but let me do a quick recap. University students from all over the world have been given an opportunity to join an international challenge to design the urban greenhouse of the future. The objective was to come up with something that could be put into reality and not only stay on a paper. And so that is what I together with the Bohemian AvantGardeners worked on. For more than 6 months, we have been creating something that fits the requirements but also brings much more – you’ll see soon. For me personally, it was a time of learning incomparable amounts of new things and skills. I’ve been able to understand new production systems, energy flows, circularity, social embedding, and economics. Apart from that, I worked on a long-term project in a team for the very first time and there are many social skills I understand much better now. Our work does not end with the final event of the competition since we created a friendship and we all strive to really make a difference in our environment.

And that finally brings me back to my goals. I realized what genuinely excites me and makes me happy. I don’t want to stop exploring, learning and pushing, and I want to get everything from it while this mood lasts. While still being a part of the startup incubator, I decided to continue and do it the way it should have been done from the start. At the moment, I am starting a tech and consulting company for urban farming in the Czech Republic. Yes, it might sound a little bit hasty, but that’s actually the whole point of it – putting yourself in the best position to do things you like, in my case learning, trying and building something. To be frank, nobody has come with the solution for affordable and real food for everyone yet. It is important to not be afraid, go out and try new things. That also comes hand in hand with giving this opportunity to others. When I realized this, it was very clear what needs to be done. And because of that, I decided that all my development will be open-source and available to everyone. There is absolutely no reason for me to not do it. You can think about it this way: people without technical skill requirements will not be able to benefit from it (and therefore I can offer them additional services), and the rest can actually take it and build something bigger than I could do on my own, possibly getting closer to the ultimate solution. Yes, these are very ambitious dreams but imagine more urban farmers, developers, and crafters going this way, attracting more and more likeminded people. It will be exciting to see how all of this unfolds, but I have all the time needed to try my best and give it a go.

I would like to thank you for everything this amazing community gave me, it has been truly life-changing. Whether you’ve been following for the whole year or just joined for the first time today, thank you. I can’t express how privileged I am to have all of this, and I understand that now it is my time to give back. So here’s one for the upcoming years!