windowfarms: grow a micro-gardening dream

TO A VEGETABLE PLANT, my apartment has to be about as foreign as outer space,” says Britta Riley, who nevertheless gardens it with a vengeance—in a vertical hydroponic system she conceived called a Windowfarm. How to get your own system—and help kickstart the success of this dynamic startup project.

The basics: There is no soil in each of the growing cups (they are just over 3 inches in diameter), but rather clay pellets hold roots in place. Plants are nourished by a liquid nutrient solution—an organic formula, not chemicals. A pump moves the solution up and over the roots; the window the system is hung in supplies the needed light. Herbs, salads and other greens are some of the most commonly grown crops, but community members are tackling strawberries and cherry tomatoes and small peppers and so on in the evolving group experiment.

I bet we A Way to Garden-ers could really push the envelope on productivity!

With a similarly defiant attitude as she uses gardening her Brooklyn windows, Britta and her “2.5-woman team,” as she describes it, have also managed to cultivate a fast-growing international community of 25,000 windowfarmers on a Windowfarms social network site. In the best open-source tradition of knowledge sharing, members in turn have contributed enhancements to the system’s design. Pending patents on the latest design will be held by the community—so quite the opposite of the case of most intellectual property that a traditional corporation owns and enforces, often sacrificing progress (and what’s best for the consumer!) in the name of profit.

So here’s the challenge (as the top video explains):

Right now—until Wednesday, December 7—the Windowfarms team is working toward a pre-order goal to finance having the product molds made and get up and manufacturing. With their orders, therefore, the community is financing the startup. They’ve already met the $50,000 goal to get going, but at the magic $200,000 threshold—and they’re almost there, thanks to Britta’s video (below) being posted on the TED Conference website—this green operation can be a domestic one, all made in the USA.

There are two ways to get started window-farming:

  • …or better yet pre-order a system that will be shipped to you in March. (If you wish the garden to be a holiday gift, perhaps for a child or a school or yourself, a gift card announcing it will arrive before December 24, with the farm to follow in March.) A donation as small as $1 is also welcome.

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December 4, 2011

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