When Dylan Soh was just 11 years old, he presented a TEDx Talk in Singapore on the future of urban farming and sustainable cities. And by the time he was 13, he had raised $25,000 on Kickstarter for his first invention, the ‘GIYstick,’ which “reuses bottles and fabric to make any pot self-watering.”
Now, still just 17 years old, Dylan Soh is back with an even bigger goal. He recently launched another product called the One Kind Block, a LEGO-like hydroponic system that aims to make cities fertile and self-sufficient. Soh wants to raise $105,000 this time. And with just a few days left in the campaign, he has $75,000 of it to go.
To learn more about what Dylan Soh is working on — and his inspiration for the design, function, and future of his new product — theRising sat down with him for an email Q&A.
What inspired Dylan Soh to work on the One Kind Block
With over 60 percent of the human population living in big cities, crises like Covid-19 are exposing the cracks in agricultural systems. Soh was experiencing these challenges first-hand. He said that his favorite herbs and vegetables in his local supermarket were suddenly becoming absent.
So Dylan Soh had one question: “Is there a way to make cities sustainable and provide people with a new, convenient way to cultivate crops from the comfort of their own homes?”
On a mission to find an answer, Soh came up with the idea for the One Kind Block. And he estimates just five units of them could help yield around 50 percent of one person’s vegetable needs.
How Soh devised the One Kind Block
The simple way to describe OKB is if “IKEA and LEGO got together,” Soh tells me. And while the principle is simple, OKB has a “deceptively complex” design. And he initially struggled to create the form and connectors of the system, he explains.
While he eventually learned to design the form and connectors of the system, Dylan Soh knew he’d need some help. So he reached out to the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). There, a team of students has been working on the system as their capstone project. The team did the prototyping, mathematical calculations, and proper testing to implement the connecting system, Soh tells me.
Additionally, the One Kind Block received help from its manufacturing partner Watson E.P. Industries, an injection molding company.
A message from Dylan Soh to other young innovators
The long-term goal for One Kind Block is to begin production and manufacturing. Additionally, Soh hopes to develop corner blocks, grow light blocks, create solar-powered blocks, and create bigger systems for different plant needs, he tells me.
It’s a big challenge though — and Soh and his team can’t tackle it alone. Here’s his message to other young innovators:
“[I’ve proven] that I can gather a group of friends and come up with ideas and invent a solution to a global problem. Hopefully, it will also inspire other teens to come up with their [own] ideas to solve issues they see the need to. We are Generation Invention and we have to invent a new future.”
You can support Dylan Soh and the One Kind Block by donating to his Kickstarter campaign.
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org