Turning our cities’ windows into vertical vegetable farms.
Do you have a sunny window in your apartment or home? Do you wish you could just stroll over to your vertical salad and herb garden to pluck yourself some lunch? You are in luck!
Britta Riley has developed a groundbreaking new system called The Windowfarm Project. Urbanites are now growing food in their apartment or office windows throughout the year. These elegant, inexpensive, vertical, hydroponic vegetable gardens are made from recycled materials or items available at the local hardware store. The first system yielded a weekly mixed salad throughout the winter in a dimly lit 4’ x 6’ NYC window.
One of the most progressive parts of the Windowfarms concept is the R&DIY approach (Research & Develop-It –Yourself). The idea grew roots with an open source prototype farm that was shared online. This allowed anyone to build their own window farm and then contribute to improving the design as part of a mass collaboration. Windowfarms created an interactive community platform where their 15,000+ community members can propose experiments, learn from others, and test and share techniques.
The Windowfarms Project operates in what seems a small niche, but the team hopes it might be what Buckminster Fuller would call a “trim tab,” a small part that turns giant ships by being particularly well placed. Growing some portion of one’s own food is a simple pleasure that can make a big difference in one’s relationship with nature. By nurturing a garden from seed to salad we grow just a little bit closer to nature’s ways.
TMS: What was the moment that you realized this idea had legs?
Britta Riley: When I harvested my first okra.
TMS: How did you come up with the R&DIY concept?
Britta Riley: I studied the impact of the internet on society at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. There, I learned about crowdsourcing. Mass collaboration is the “holy grail” of crowdsourcing, getting lots of people to contribute valuable input rather than just doing basic tasks. Wikipedia was the first great instance of that. I was really excited about applying that method to environmental problems, which are largely based in physical and logistical problems, which are not digital. I needed a good case study to start with that was something people felt they could do. Windowfarms turned out to be the perfect application, where other projects failed before.
TMS: What natural or man-made structures were your design inspiration for Window Farms?
Britta Riley: Mud swallows’ nests. The paint-dipped water bottle designs are a great way to reuse materials and build Windowfarms inexpensively with a very minimal design.
TMS: Please describe your micro-financing structure.
Britta Riley: We got our first round of funding via a website called Kickstarter. We were able to generate some revenue from the community’s donation of starter funds. Now we are doing a deal with angel investors to get to the next level and break even.
TMS: Do you have a mentor? If so, how has this person impacted your success?
Britta Riley: My parents are my mentors and my grandpa was my inspiration. Before he died, my passionately environmental engineer/inventor grandpa talked to me about a challenge our generation would face: his generation set systems that turned out not to be as healthy for ourselves or the rest of the natural world and too few people comprehend or are involved in the decisions that operate them. I launched Windowfarms as a grassroots way to start to address a nexus in these issues – our food system.