International Women's Day with Aerospring Co-Founder, Nadine Keller
Aerospring Co-Founder, Nadine Keller, who co-founded Aerospring with her husband Thorben Linneberg in 2015, started the company to empower people to grow their own food at home, and to live more sustainably. Health and nutrition are also important to her and her family, and every day Aerospring strives to help people and families live more sustainable healthy lifestyles.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2023, we sat down with Nadine to get her thoughts on the past eight years and how we can all live more sustainably.
Q: What was the reason you started Aerospring?
A: Thorben and I started gardening together as a hobby, first in soil and then with the DIY hydroponic systems he built for me because we had failed spectacularly in soil. A neighbour had lent us his vast outdoor deck for space to place the gardens on and very quickly, we became known as the urban farming couple who would bring fresh herbs, kale and tomatoes to dinner parties. Friends visiting us at the gardens would marvel at what we were able to grow and urged us to turn the garden into a product. Through gardening, I became more acutely aware about the food security issues facing Singapore and more cognisant of how our changing climate would affect food security for the world in time to come. Both Thorben and I were at a crossroads in our careers at that point and were so much happier when we were gardening, so it seemed like a natural step forward to pass this joy along to others. I was always known as the person who hadn’t met a plant she couldn’t kill and I figured that if I could do it, everyone else could as well. To grow a little of their own food at home.
Q: How has the world changed since you started Aerospring in 2015?
A: There’s been a wild swing of climate change not just in Singapore, but around the world. It’s wetter, drier, hotter and colder in parts of the world not usually accustomed to such weather patterns. Crop failures are becoming more regular and food security is becoming even more paramount, especially since the pandemic and the outbreak of war in Ukraine. The pandemic was a major turnaround for many people as well, the world stopped in its tracks while we waited for the virus to clear. With everyone stuck at home, many turned to gardening to bide their time. While it was a terrible time for so many, I felt like the world began to stop and think about the world at large.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you and why is it important?
A: To me, sustainability refers to the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We need to practise and enact drastic policies now for the well-being of future generations but we seem to be dragging our feet in so many areas for the protection of policies that favour the few now. Women already are disproportionately affected by environmental degradation and climate change, which can exacerbate existing gender inequalities. Real sustainability involves a range of practices and policies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving natural resources, promoting renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and sustainable urban planning. It’s important that it involves promoting social equity and inclusiveness, promoting human rights, and addressing poverty and inequality. We have a long way to go but we have to fight for what’s important to ensure that all people have the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling lives, now and in the future.
Q: What does it mean for you to be able to grow your own food at home?
A: Growing my own food has taught me to be more patient and to better appreciate the efforts of farmers who provide us with food. I feel more empowered, more independent and more knowledgeable about being self-sufficient. I primarily grew to save some money, but as I learned more about farming, I grew my own to avoid pesticide-laden produce and to also grow varieties I couldn’t easily buy. Today, it’s incredibly important to me that my young daughter is introduced to growing food much earlier than I was. Like most children, she has yet to appreciate the nutritional benefits of fresh homegrown greens but I’d like her to be involved and understand the reasons why her generation must learn how to grow their own.
Q: How does it make you feel to see so many people using Aerospring systems to grow food at home?
A: It’s an indescribable feeling to see our little gardens thriving in far-flung places like Alaska, Tahiti and South Africa and to hear the impact they have had on their users and their families. I feel proud of how something we have created, made and conceived has had such a positive impact on so many. I had always believed that I had black thumbs and it’s a story we hear from many who walk through our doors for the first time. But that little bit of success achieved from growing in the Aerospring is what awakens a curiosity that cannot be quelled. It’s what drives you to try growing plants and varieties you have never seen before and I’m always delighted to see produce grown in the system I never thought possible to grow - cotton and Brussels sprouts have been the big surprises so far!
Q: When it comes to growing food at home, what can people do today to get started?
A: Everyone can grow a little of their own food at home and you don’t need a whole lot of space to do this. It can start with that basil, rosemary or mint pot they’ve brought home from the supermarket but fundamentally, there needs to be a desire and an interest to do this. While a plant is not a pet, it does require some care and attention to grow well. The wonderful invention of the internet provides so much information on how to grow and care for plants: there are videos, blogs, articles and guides on how to get started. I’d also recommend joining a local Facebook gardening group. Gardening communities are generally a helpful and friendly bunch of people always willing to share seeds, cuttings, tips and advice. It doesn’t matter if you start in soil or hydroponics, the key is to start somewhere!