Back to the Roots // AquaFarm Prototype Project

Back to the Roots  is a San Francisco Bay Area-based company founded in 2009 by Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora. After successfully developing an easy-to-use kit for growing edible mushrooms in recycled coffee grounds, Velez and Arora looked to create another consumer product that brings sustainable farming into the home on a small scale.

“Along the way we realized that our true passion is coming up with tools that connect people to food, to help them grow their own food at home,” said Arora.

The duo focused in on creating an aquaponics system as their next project, a process that combines aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment.

This vision later became known as AquaFarm, an all-in-one unit that allows users to grow fresh produce at home — beans, basil, thyme, baby greens, oregano, mint, parsley, and spinach to name a few. The closed-loop eco-system uses fish waste to naturally fertilize the plants above.

“It’s ultimately the fish that is providing the nutrients,” said Velez, adding that AquaFarm is ultimately a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food. “The nutrients themselves are being taken up by the herbs and the micro greens on top.”

Velez and Arora wanted to create a smaller version of this concept as it’s more traditionally used for large scale production. The partners turned to FATHOM to help bring their concept to life.

“We reached out to FATHOM to see if we can have as similar of a prototype of the product as possible,” said Velez. “Within a couple of days, we’re able to have this [rapid prototype] in our hands — it fit flush, it perfectly, and it gave us the confidence to sign off on our tooling.”

Carolina Aguirre