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Career Profiles

Shawn Fisher

CEO and Co-Founder
Aera Farms
portrait par Shawn Fisher
portrait par Shawn Fisher
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

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I advance sustainable food production at the point of consumption by inventing smart farming appliances.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in St. John's, NL. and grew up in Conception Bay South, NL.

I now live in: I now live in St. John's, NL.

I completed my training/education at:  I completed a diploma of Electrical Engineering Technology (Power & Controls Co-op) from College of the North Atlantic and a Bachelor of Technology from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

What I do at work

Every day I think and learn about the systems and networks that provide the things our society needs to meet its basic needs. In the past, societies have not considered the negative effects of the processes that provide us with our standard of living. I believe we must examine every one of these systems. We need to look at them critically. We need to come up with new, sustainable ways of doing those processes. I focus on the processes related to our basic need for food. My company looks at food production where it is consumed.

I believe fresh food should be available to everyone. I also believe that fresh food should be grown in the places where it will be consumed. My solution to this problem was to invent a smart farming appliance. This appliance is about the size of a fridge. It can be used in homes, restaurants or in public spaces to produce a wide variety of plant crops. In this way, fresh food can be produced on a regular and reliable basis. Since the food is produced where it will be used, there are less Green House Gases (GHG) produced.

To make my vision become reality, I founded a business. I did this without any outside financial support. I started small and worked to get us where we are today. I had to learn how to manage and run all aspects of the business. This includes everything from taking care of the day-to-day operation to planning budgets for the future. I had to hire people, pay our taxes, seek funding, and do the marketing. This type of business is known as a bootstrapped startup. In this type of business, you start out with a few people doing many things. You go on this way until you have funding to expand. This is a process that can take years!

Today, my company has a team of 8 people. We are using government and private funds to improve our design. The next step will be getting our appliance on the market. We make decisions as a team. Each member is the lead for their area of work. I am the final decision maker.

My background in electrical engineering technology and my problem-solving skills have been very important in my work. These gave me a good understanding of technology and its impact. Later, I completed a Bachelor of Technology. This training has been very important in the management of projects and teams. Outside of education, I have learned a great deal by working and collaborating with other people. I have been very lucky to have worked with some very smart people. These people have prompted me to always be growing and learning and to approach others with empathy and respect.

My career path is

I never expected to be working in this field. I wasn't educated in agriculture technology. Years ago, I read a book about a telepathic gorilla who befriended a six-year-old girl. They would have chats about human culture. One of these discussions involved the point in human history where we began farming and settled down. I thought about that whole journey. I thought about how technology evolved. I thought about the improvement of methods and processes that have taken place up until now. I looked around at all the things in my life that were the result of technology. I felt very disconnected from the processes of production that provide me with the things I need to live every day. I realized that I was depending on a face-less, six-continent supply chain. I felt I had no control over my basic needs. This needs to change, I thought.

I felt the production of items to meet our basic needs should occur where it was used. In addition, that production should be under the control of the consumer. At this point in the epiphany.  I was standing in my kitchen, so maybe that's why I decided to start with our basic need for food! I spent years working on these ideas as a side project while I worked full time. This allowed me the opportunity to validate concepts before leaving a secure job or investing too much money. This is important because in terms of time and money, starting a business will demand much of you. You need to be in it for the long haul. I'm talking 10+ years! Every day is challenging. It's important to set regular space for physical, mental, and social health.

I am motivated by

I’m building something that can help others and benefit the planet. When you create something like this, you've created the potential for that invention to be adoptable and to affect change. With regards to my career, this invigorates the work I do. It fills my day with purpose and drive.

I use several small-scale manufacturing methods like 3D printing for building prototypes. I get to take an idea or concept through the design process and then print it on a 3D printer. Being able to hold that idea in your hands, in the real world, is a special experience!

Each day I work on a variety of technical systems related to growing plants indoors. This includes such things as horticultural lighting, water supply, and nutrient plumbing. Added to this is the software and electronics that make our growing system work. Then you have to make sure it is easy to use and to solve problems that the user might experience. Taking these systems and integrating them into one system for growing food and seeing how this all interacts with people and the markets is challenging. It means that I am always learning and expanding my knowledge in all directions. I enjoy it all!

How I affect peoples’ lives

Food production is one of humanity's biggest problems in terms of environmental impact and greenhouse gas emissions. It's a basic need. While we can produce more than enough food to feed all humans, we throw up to 40% of everything we grow into the trash. Our food system is broken. I imagine a food system in which its production is a basic fixture in kitchens or living spaces. In other words, farm to fork is within a few feet.

When agricultural technology is embedded where food is prepared, the family or chef has more control. This is because fresh food items are always available and plentiful. These food items are ready to be prepared into meals at the point where it will be consumed. One key benefit is that this removes the standard systems and supply chains. This reduces greenhouse gases among other things. My focus is to build this vision and change the way humans produce, prepare, and consume food.

Outside of work I

I enjoy DJing, dance (house, breakdance), hiking, and exploring. I like tech stuff, climate stuff, cooking, pondering and having lively discussions. I love hanging out with my wife and Bernedoodle!

My advice to others

Explore. Always be exploring.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • History
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Business & Economics
  • Computer Science
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Enjoyed doing things on my own
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Liked reading
  • Was motivated by success
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best by doing
  • Played video games
  • Liked to take things apart to see how they worked
  • Liked to design or build things

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