This Tech Is Making It Possible for Chefs to Grow Their Own Ingredients

SproutsIO x Untitled

Thanks to tech, it’s becoming possible to have fresher-than-farmers-market produce in city restaurants.

An increasing number of kitchens are experimenting with growing their own ingredients on-site, and although Untitled executive chef Suzanne Cupps doesn’t have her own in-house hydroponics system just yet, we partnered her with the Boston-based SproutsIO team at our Food Loves Tech (FLT) event last fall to grow and prepare a variety of herbs and microgreens for attendees.

Still in production, SproutsIO is a connected indoor growing system composed of a slick white 12- by 12-inch basin and a single arching grow light. The soilless system’s height is adjustable, “allowing the system to grow with your plant,” and can be anywhere from 24 to 36 inches tall depending on the varietal and growth stage. The makers use a combination of hydroponics and aeroponics techniques, and their “hands-free” growing can be done via a smartphone app. Owners can customize what they grow, too, with options including kale, eggplants, peppers and microgreens.

As part of the startup’s Tastemaker series, SproutsIO developed a “growing program” with Cupps, bringing produce and a limited prototype unit to Untitled in advance of FLT. Cupps played with the product and ultimately devised two dishes for the event, the first including multi-colored beets with whipped feta and ricotta; a basil, arugula and almond pesto; and SproutsIO arugula, amaranth and pea shoot microgreens. She prepared the second one—which included roasted carrots with cashew butter, cracked spelt and SproutsIO Genovese basil—live in the feedfeed test kitchen (video above).

“We don’t want to cook food just like every other restaurant in New York…. We like for the little touches on our plate to be really special,” Cupps says. “[The SproutsIO system] is sturdy. You can use the roots and you’re pulling them directly from the seed pod, so it’s a very different end result.”

Untitled isn’t known for using flashy tech for its own sake, and in Cupps’s words, adopting this system in general is “more about the end flavor and if it enhances what we’re doing.” She hopes to add a SproutsIO to her kitchen arsenal in the near future since she thinks the system can make a “really delicious” product that’s “a testimony to the technology behind it.”

For the latest updates on SproutsIO’s availability, they recommend signing up for their mailing list. And if you’re curious about Food Loves Tech, it’s returning to Industry City this November 2–3. Check out highlights from this past year’s event and stay in the loop here.

Featured photo courtesy of SproutsIO.