Simultaneously addressing Indonesia’s food security issues and declining number of farmers, Greens, a locally-founded agritech company, brings a new innovation poised to redefine how we approach the agriculture industry.

Walking the fifth floor of Plaza Indonesia, one will come across a corner of the super mall that stands out from its commercial surroundings. An indoor farm, like that out of a science fiction movie, is put on display for passersby. Sprouts of lettuce and watercress and alf-alfa growing in the most unlikely setting, the air-conditioned interiors of one Jakarta’s biggest shopping centres.

“This is what is called intelligent farming,” explains Erwin Gunawan, one of the founders of Greens. “We utilise AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things) technology to ensure maximum efficiency and yield.”

Inside each ‘Greens Pod’, a unit not much larger than a refrigerator, a sophisticated ecosystem has been created. Rows of single compartments contain vegetation at different stages of growth, from seedling to fully sprouted. Watching over the vegetation are webcams that feed live images to remote AI systems, which then adjust conditions in the pod, including light, temperature and humidity, ensuring the perfect micro-atmosphere for individual plants to grow. 

It took Erwin and his partners three years of research and development to perfect their Greens Pod, showcasing their first working model in November 2022 when they were confident they had perfected the technology for optimal yield and production.

Each of the partners brings their own specialised backgrounds to help the growing company. Andie Sie, CEO, has spent the last 15 years building tech startups with international exits; Geraldi Tjoa has a robotics background and his expertise lies in food production and automation, as such takes the role of Chief Product and Technology Officer. Erwin Gunawan, who spent the previous 20 years in the USA working in F&B and supply chains returned to Indonesia after two decades in a deliberate move to work on something meaningful and impactful for his home country.

“Our vision is to stop food loss, food waste and nourish people,” says Erwin. “We’ll do this by building hyperlocal farming everywhere, that’s our mission.”

“Indonesia is ranked 2nd in the world for food loss, between 23 to 49 million tons of food lost a year, around 500 trillion rupiah in goods,” explains the passionate entrepreneur. Food loss is different from food waste, and refers to produce before reaching consumers, i.e. failed crops, or produce spoiled in transport or storage. Indonesia’s poor infrastructure and challenging archipelagic geography makes things particularly tricky, contributing to around 14% of grown produce never reaching consumers.

With the majority of staples like rice, soy beans or garlic still being imported, coupled with a rapid decline of farmers, Indonesia’s future food security faces some serious risks. Greens believes they are part of the solution to this.

“The beauty is our Greens Pod is not just a growing chamber, it’s not just agricultural technology, it’s also distribution technology!” Erwin adds excitedly. “By allowing people to grow on-site, we are cutting out the issue of supply chains and therefore the risk of food loss.” 

He shares a long list of benefits that the Greens Pod allows: it uses 95% less water than standard agriculture, no pesticides are used (since there are no pests), and the controlled environment allows for an efficient harvest, cutting average growth periods by 50%. 

Eager to find the catch, I ask him how much energy each Pod consumes: “Aha! Valid question,” he answers. “Small pods use around 250kwh and larger ones around 450kwh, about the same as a refrigerator. An air-fryer uses more than a thousand! Sustainable right? Speaking of which, consider the carbon footprint we save by reducing deliveries and the amount of plastic packaging this eliminates too.” 

At the Greens Station in Plaza Indonesia, which serves fresh salad bowls and sandwiches, diners can witness and savour this technology in action. Currently, Greens is able to grow leafy greens, herbs, edible flowers and berries inside of their pods.

Microgreens, such as red radish, broccoli sprouts and kale, are growing in one-portion bunches behind the counter, and upon ordering these are directly harvested, washed and served with protein, fresh toppings and delicious condiments. It is perhaps the most instantaneously farm-to-table meal one might have, freshly harvested, all because the farm itself has been relocated into the kitchen. 

“Part of our mission at Greens is also to make organic, healthy and fresh foods more accessible,” adds Erwin. This is in response to Indonesians adopting ultra-processed food diets, with natural and healthy produce becoming less affordable, even a luxury in some cases.

A handful of hotels and restaurants have already adopted the technology, installing a Greens Pod in their kitchens. The Grand Hyatt Jakarta, The Dharmawangsa Jakarta, Pullman Jakarta Central Park are a few big names, as well as the Andaz Bali. The technology is an answer to many of the hospitality sector’s growing sustainability goals. Greens continues to supply the germinated seeds and rotate these into the pods based on the requirements of each kitchen, and the technology does the rest.

Even more sophisticated still is that at their salad and sandwich station, Greens has implemented blockchain technology to create a trackable and transparent supply chain, with QR codes revealing which ‘botanist’ planted the particular seed, which Pod it was planted in, plus the nutritional information of each dish. 

“We think that by making agriculture more sophisticated, more modern and technological, we can generate much-needed interest among the next generation to work in the sector,” adds the startup founder. Hence the use of ‘botanist’, which creates a more contemporary perception of those working directly with the plants and seeds.

Currently, Greens is working on expanding their pod capabilities to grow small fruits, cherry tomatoes, root veg and grains. Nevertheless, the technology as it is shows great promise in shifting Indonesia’s agricultural landscape, allowing us to rethink our relationship to produce and fresh foods, and hopefully create better access to natural and healthy diets for the population at large.


Visit the Greens Stations at Plaza Indonesia, or follow them at: @greensindonesia | greens.id