Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Nicolas Leschke

Wise Words

Nicolas Leschke is the co-founder of Efficient City Farming, a company currently building an aquaponic farm on the roof of an old malthouse in Berlin that will produce both vegetables and fish.

Nicolas Leschke is the co-founder of Efficient City Farming, a company currently building an aquaponic farm on the roof of an old malthouse in Berlin that will produce both vegetables and fish. Previously, Nicolas was the Interim CEO at Malzfabrik, the co-Founder of Project Dharma, the Business Development Director for Entrepreneurs’ Organization across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and he was the co-Founder of the Accelerator Programm Germany. He also founded Planet Audio Guide in Italy, which claims to be the first GPS audio-guided city tour in the world. Nicolas holds a BA degree with honors in International Business Studies with French and Spanish from London’s European Business School.

Constructed from an upcycled shipping container with integrated fish tank and attached greenhouse, ECF’s aquaponic farms operate on a closed water cycle, whereby fish waste fertilises the plants, and the plants purify the water. Plans now call for a rooftop version atop Malzfabrik Berlin, producing both vegetables and fish reared according to sustainable aquaculture guidelines.

1. Where did the idea for the ECF aquaponic rooftop farm come from?

The old malt factory in Berlin is an incredible location and working here triggers all sorts of ideas. In terms of aquaponic, we started working with a small aquaponic unit, just for the fun of it but we soon realised the huge potential behind such systems. 17 percent of global emissions derive from agricultural production. So 1.7 tons of my personal ten tons of CO2 emission (average german) result from my very own food consumption. To reduce emissions now, I can eat less or I can eat products that come from CO2-neutral agricultural systems, like ECF Farms: CO2-neutral production without any transportation miles. As an add on, our ECF Farm systems are powered with Astraf Pro and use 50 percent less water than common agricultural systems due to the double usage of water for fish and vegetable production.

2. What have you found to be the major advantages to setting up the farm on a rooftop as opposed to a more traditional setting?

Space within cities is limited and costly. Looking into the future, you don’t have to be a prophet to foresee that this will not change for the better. Considering that by 2050 over nine billion people will live on this planet and most of them in cities, transportation routes will increase tremendously and so will all the negative side effects like increased CO2 emissions. We have to start looking creatively at the space available and that is why we choose to set up farms on rooftops or on parking lots as a roof (farms can be built on stilts) – highly interesting for supermarket chains.

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

Every day is quite different and there are just two things that remain constant: My phone is constantly ringing and I play table tennis with my team whenever I need a break.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on the ECF farm?

I love to work with my hands and, for me, building a chair or whatever is relaxing. I love climbing and there is nothing more relaxing than hanging on a wall thinking about the summit.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Persistence, courage and a little luck doesn’t hurt.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

We are still in the building madness and time as well as focus are difficult to manage.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

We have a wonderful business model that allows me to be myself and to do something good for others.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Sounds scary, but so far nothing.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

ECF will be the center of efficient urban farming. We have clients that run ECF farms worldwide and our products are a synonym for sustainable, fresh and healthy food.

10. If you weren’t working on the ECF rooftop farm, what would you be doing?

We need to reduce CO2 emissions drastically and make cities much more efficient. I would work either in transportation, energy, construction or agriculture, but since I love good food…

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

No secret, transparency is our business philosophy.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Just do it!

You can read more about the ECF aquaponic rooftop farmin our article here, or visit the ECF website here.