a small black tray with little greens growing in it
Hamama's simple kit for home-grown salad microgreens

Hamama’s home-grown microgreen kits can yield ‘a salad a day’

Food coverage is supported by a generous donation from Susan and Moses Libitzky.

Anyone can grow edible food at home, according to Daniel Goodman — and he’s banking on it. The young Bay Area entrepreneur reports that he and his business partner have come up with a perfect system that is easy to master.

Goodman never thought of himself as the green thumb type. In fact, it was more the opposite. So when a colleague at MIT asked if he was interested in creating a sensor to monitor the temperature for an indoor agricultural project, it was definitely a stretch.

“I knew how to engineer, not how to grow plants,” Goodman said. “But he put it into my context, and I saw an entirely new world that I wasn’t aware of, using all the engineering principals I knew to grow food.”

It was there that he met Camille Richman, a fellow mechanical engineering student who already had fallen under the spell of indoor agriculture.

Together, they’ve started Hamama, a San Francisco-based indoor growing system for microgreens, mainly different kinds of sprouts, as well as wheatgrass.

Goodman, 27, grew up in Greenbrae and attended Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon and Camp Newman in Santa Rosa. Richman, 25, is from College Park, Maryland, and before meeting Goodman, she spent a month in Israel as part of a self-directed internship at MIT.

Given Israel’s reputation in the agricultural world, she figured it would be an interesting place to learn more. When she learned about an educational greenhouse on Kibbutz Ein Shemer, she knew that’s where she had to go.

“It seemed like this magical place, where students of Jewish and Arab backgrounds work together on ecological issues like saving water,” she said.

Richman went back to the kibbutz three more times and helped start a program in Israel through MIT’s International Science and Technology Initiative. Massachusetts Institute for Technology continues to send students to the Israel program every year. “That’s one of the things I’m proudest of,” she said. “MIT students are still going there.”

Hamama is the Hebrew word for greenhouse; they named their company such because of Richman’s connection with Israel and Goodman’s Jewish heritage.

They say the system is foolproof; simply pour 3 cups of water into a tray, place the seed quilt into it, and cover. After a few days, remove the cover, and a few days later you are ready to harvest.

“We wanted to create something that was accessible to anyone and has all the magic of a robotic gardening system,” Goodman said. “It does it for you.”

Richman said they chose microgreens because “it will definitely be a big source of nutrition in the future. They’re really nutrient-dense and don’t take a lot of space, and they’re efficient in that they’re really fast-growing. Some seeds you can harvest in a week.”

Furthermore, while the sprouts — be they broccoli, kale, radish or others (there are nine types) — have the same flavor as the vegetables people already know, they are up to 40 times more nutrient-dense in sprout form.

The product is offered on a subscription basis. The first order ($35) includes a grow tray, instructions and three seed quilts. Thereafter, three new seed quilts are sent on a monthly basis ($17) with free shipping. For more information, visit hamama.cc or check on Amazon.

The founders say their company is selling kits to thousands of customers in all 50 states, proving their system works anywhere.

“We’ve seen the entire spectrum of weather and are happy to report that it works in Alaska in the winter, and in Arizona in the summer,” Goodman said. “The plants will grow wherever you are.”

The company has so far been funded by family members and though a loan from the S.F.-based Hebrew Free Loan.

Eventually, they hope to offer kits to enable more types of food to be grown indoors.

“We want to take this idea and increase our production capacity,” Richman said. “We already have customers who have multiple kits so they can stagger their harvest. If you have 10 kits, you can grow a salad a day.”

For the long term, though, Goodman said, “we hope that the status quo in five years will be that you can grow some of your own food indoors year-round.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."