Have you ever read a piece of writing that changed your direction in life? For urban farmer and artist Britta Riley, it was an article by journalist Michael Pollan on why growing our own food is one of the best things we can do for the environment. His thoughts inspired her to use her skills in design technology and background in RD (research and development) to develop a way to grow food in small, indoor spaces, so long as there’s a window.
Using hydroponic technology – basically, the ability to grow food without soil – Windowfarms are “vertical, hydroponic platforms for food-growing indoors.” In her TEDx talk below, Riley explains how they work:
“There’s a pump at the bottom, which periodically sends some of this liquid nutrient solution up to the top, which then trickles down through plants’ root systems that are suspended in clay pellets – so there’s no dirt involved.”
Pretty cool, right?
Like most things worthwhile, Windowfarms didn’t happen overnight, and certainly not alone. While Riley came up with the original idea, she knew she needed help – both in making it a reality, and achieving optimal quality. A longtime proponent of open source collaboration, Riley decided that “instead of creating a product, what I was going to do was open this up to a whole bunch of co-developers.” The impact of this choice extends beyond Windowfarms:
“I really wanted it to be an open project, because hydroponics is one of the fastest growing areas of patenting in the United States right now and could possibly become another area like Monsanto, where we have a lot of corporate intellectual property in the way of people’s food.”
A hydroponic Windowfarm hangs at a window (Wiki)
No outdoor garden? No problem!
Because of Riley’s inclusive, DIY (Develop-It-Yourself) mentality, Window farms are now being used to grow food in urban spaces internationally. Better yet, they continue to improve with the connected efforts of talented people around the world. In the same vein as Occupy the Farm and guerrilla gardening, Window farms show the potential for change that exists in wholehearted collaboration — of which Riley wants us all to be a part.
“Join us in rediscovering the value of citizens united, and to declare that we are all still pioneers.”- Britta Riley