Mobile, solar-powered garden wins $10,000 in pitch contest

Marianne Randazzo of United and Duron Chavis of Lewis Ginter with the $10,000 check. (Mike Platania)

One of Richmond’s most famous gardens added some extra green this week.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden on Tuesday won $10,000 through United Healthcare’s annual Community Care program, a contest in which local businesses work with local nonprofits to pitch ideas to improve community health in the Richmond region.

The winning pitch was for Lewis Ginter’s “GrowBox”, a mobile, solar-powered garden which will help provide fresh produce to underserved communities.

The organization aims to grow more than 6,000 pounds of leafy greens, and will test the product through March 2018. The prize money will go toward building and stocking the GrowBox.

“The GrowBox increases the amount of healthy food that can be produced on the limited amount of land available in urban communities all year round without the worry of soil toxins that are prevalent in urban soils,” said Duron Chavis, Lewis Ginter’s community engagement coordinator.

The box is 10 feet by 20 feet, with six rows of vegetables lining the inside.

“It’s kind of like a farm-in-a-box, with the irrigation lines and things that are in greenhouses,” Chavis said.

Finalists for this year’s United Health Care Community Care Award. (Mike Platania)

This is the second year United Healthcare held the event, this time with the help of UnBound and BizWorks, two local nonprofits that work with small businesses.

Other finalists this year included Aviant Health, Boho Cycle Studio, Sneed’s Nursery, and Woofy Wellness. Finalists worked with other local nonprofits to develop their pitches, including SeniorConnections, Team Excel, the Chrysalis Institute and Rise Phoenix Rise, respectively.

While the other finalists worked with other local nonprofits, Lewis Ginter, itself a nonprofit, made its pitch on its own.

The event was held at Simply Ballroom, a dance studio in Chesterfield that won last year’s inaugural award.

Each business pitched their idea to a panel of judges, which included Veronica Nugent of Simply Ballroom, Beth Bortz of the Virginia Center for Innovation, Doug Gray of the Virginia Association of Health Plans, Jay Markiewicz of VCU School of Business and Marianne Randazzo of United Healthcare.

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