by Chelsey Lucas
Photography by Alex Stafford
ANYONE WHO’S GROWN TOMATOES in Florida knows these plants are finicky in our oppressive heat, so Chris Cantolino, CEO/founder of Vizco US, Inc., invented SimGar: The Simple Garden to tackle this dilemma. “I’d plant [seeds], forget to water them and the plant would die,” he says, “so I came up with something that waters itself.”
Cantolino dubs the system a hydroponics-terraponics hybrid. It comes with a plastic tub base that houses irrigation and filtration systems and either a solar panel for outdoor use (priced at $169.99-$229.99) or specially selected LED lights that provide optimal growth for your plants indoors (priced at $149.99-$219.99).
After the 15-minute set-up process and adding soil and water, the system weighs approximately 300 pounds. Cantolino and his team of 25 employees added wheels for easy relocation. “My mom has one and she loves it,” he says. “She’s older and can’t bend over so I figured out a way to make her happy.”
Cantolino also manufactures the plastic used in SimGar, and his factory is entirely run on solar power installed by Sarasota’s Region Solar. And SimGar is not limited to tomatoes; Cantolino uses his for herbs and leafy greens.
There was a soft launch last July, but Cantolino expects things to progress this year with TV advertisements, local distribution and experimenting with the current design. “Our system has add-ons,” he says, “Right now we’re experimenting with worms.” ■