Published on May 27, 2021
(Edmonton) When Jonathan Mui first started the Digital Media and IT program, he never envisioned completing his diploma program during a global pandemic, let alone finishing with a successful small business to his name.
Mui first sought out NAIT with the goal of being a freelance web designer, working from cruise ships while he travelled around the world. After reading an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming in 2018, Mui knew he still wanted to work for himself as a web designer, but in a more sustainable way. This was further instilled when he began living on his own for the first time. He noticed how much food was going to waste each week, particularly fresh produce. Raised by a single mother after immigrating to Canada from China in 2003, Mui struggled with the amount of food waste he was experiencing.
“When I think back on how hard my mom had to work to put good, healthy food on the table, throwing away so much produce on a weekly basis was almost soul-shattering to me.”
With that, Mui turned his attention to making a difference. In September 2019, he launched Agriolabs, maker of a self-contained, stackable, countertop garden he calls the Micro. It’s meant to take a bite out of carbon emissions while adding the flavour of fresh microgreens to anything from salads to sandwiches to stir-fries. The Micro is built using 3D printers, and contains three main components – water, light and ventilation – to turn the Alberta-sourced seed pads into what he calls “perfect microgreens”. The compact size and stackable features allow people to store the Micro anywhere in their homes without worrying about proper light, ventilation and a dedicated water source.
READ MORE ABOUT AGRIOLABS IN techlifetoday.ca.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in March 2020, Mui finished his program online. The ongoing pandemic also meant that his chance of walking across the convocation stage to celebrate his achievements were going to be postponed.
Mui took all the sudden changes in stride. He finished NAIT on a strong note while leveraging his business to give back to frontline COVID-19 healthcare workers. Using the Agriolabs 3D printers, Mui began to produce ear savers – plastic clips that pull straps from face masks away from the ears of the wearer – for healthcare workers in the Edmonton area. Agriolabs produced and delivered over 4,380 ear savers before demand for them decreased.
“We started this project as a way to do our part and contribute in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and were blown away by the response from the community. It was great for the Agriolabs team to be able to give back and help save the ears of those who were saving lives.”
Starting a new business while attending school full time and still giving back to the community, takes a lot of resiliency and dedication – characteristics that have helped shape Mui’s life.
Mui was just 5 years old when he and his mother immigrated to Canada. He watched his mom work two jobs, 16 hours a day until she earned enough money to move them out of a women’s shelter and into low-income housing. She continued to work multiple jobs until she landed a permanent, full time position, all so she could provide a safe home and food on the table for her son.
“My mom has come a very long way and has shown me what resiliency truly looks like. Every time I think something is hard, I remind myself of everything my mom had to go through, and that what I’m facing pales in comparison to what she’s overcome.”
He will continue to channel his dedication and resiliency into innovating Argiolabs. He and the Agriolabs team have already reaped the benefits of his passionate work ethic. The ingenuity of the Micro recently earned Mui and Agriolabs a spot as a finalist for the 2021 YEG Startup Community Award for New Start Up of the Year.
Mui will celebrate what has been an eventful journey at NAIT on Saturday, June 5 at NAIT’s 58th Convocation. He joins the rest of the Class of 2020 and his fellow graduates from the Class of 2021 for the online ceremonies.
Jonathan Mui is available for media interviews prior to convocation.
The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) is a leading Canadian polytechnic, delivering education in science, technology and the environment; business; health and skilled trades. With over 34,000 credit and non-credit students and a 98 per cent employer satisfaction rate, NAIT grads help fuel the economic engine of the province. NAIT also contributes to Alberta's prosperity by helping businesses and communities become more competitive through industry-driven research and corporate training. Recognized as one of Alberta's top employers, NAIT provides outstanding returns on investment for its graduates, industry partners, the provincial government and the people of Alberta.
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