When COVID-19 struck the United States, people rushed to grocery stores to stock up on food, only to find that many shelf-stable items like beans, rice, and flour were sold out. It was the first time many of us were forced to consider where our food comes from—and how vulnerable the global food system really is.
These food shortages spurred many Americans to consider growing their own food for the first time. Some planted vegetables in their backyards and windowsills, while others went for high-tech hydroponic gardens.
In the years before the pandemic, startups developed these compact self-watering, self-fertilizing, gardening machines that were aesthetically pleasing, to boot. During the lockdowns, sales of these products—which start around $800—spiked, prompting venture capitalists to pour millions into the industry.