Britta Riley grew up in rural southeast Texas, where locals with a mastery of gardening subsisted on their land. "They really turned me on to the idea of growing my own food," Riley says. With the help of an open-source community, Riley now has her own productive plot -- a 20-by-30-foot vertical garden hanging in a glass pavilion at New York City's American Museum of Natural History -- and a start-up to put similar farms in windows around the world.
After Riley moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 2003, she grew potted vegetables in her dimly lit apartment. The results were far from successful. Her plants strained for light on a confined windowsill, and they poured their energy into growing expansive root systems instead of lush, edible greens. A rooftop garden, meanwhile, exposed her crops to the Northeast's finicky weather. Riley thought using the entire vertical, sun-soaked space of a window -- not just the sill -- could grow more and healthier vegetables. Stringing planters together seemed like the answer.
To keep her tiny vertical farm lightweight and encourage leafy growth, Riley tried hydroponics. The method forgoes heavy soil for a circulating liquid solution enriched with nutrients (see below). Suppliers catered only to big operations, so in 2009, Riley cobbled together a prototype from plastic bottles, a water pump, and a bucket. The pump drew fluid from the bucket through a tube and into the top planter; the fluid trickled down from planter to planter and collected in the bucket. It worked, if inelegantly; Riley grew a salad's worth of greens per week.
Neither an expert in agriculture nor in hydroponics, Riley launched an online forum, called Windowfarms, to crowdsource advice for her design. Users flocked to the site and, over the years, developed and tested more than a dozen different configurations before sharing their biggest breakthrough: an aquarium airlift pump. Instead of noisily sucking a column of liquid through tubing, the pump quietly lifts slugs of fluid atop bubbles of air.
In 2011, Riley launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a consumer-ready hydroponics kit for about $179. The project raised $257,307—more than five times her goal. Riley says the kit helps people who aren't keen on building their own window-farming system from scratch get started. Meanwhile, the Windowfarm community continues to tweak designs and share tips. The simplest community-developed model (Version 2.0) can be built in an hour for about $30.
Riley's next project is to collect the wisdom of her 38,000 users and build a searchable database of urban hydroponic farming knowledge. "We're not just building more farms but more farmers," Riley says. "That's how you make agriculture smarter."
(Get the specifics of the project and a video on the next page)
how can i contact the inventor Britta Riley so i can order a kit?
how can i contact bita rley so i can buy a kit?
You can purchase Windowfarms kits on the Windowfarms website at www.windowfarms.com
For international people interested in WINDOWFARMS Project KIT
Britta Riley, co-founder of the Windowfarms project had a great vision. Unfortunately, Windowfarms project was backed by thousands of people, young and old, with more or less money from around the world (not just the USA) who believed in her preaching... food consciousness, responsibilities and a change in behaviors. This project took place December 2011. It's been a year and a half (July 2013) and not only did they not receive their Windowfarms kit, but they are ignored by the staff who seems to have made a cross on international backers. After tentatives to communicate with them, they are left with no reply, no emails, no refund, no product. I am somewhat disturbed and angry to see they are still promoting their kit. I would definitely feel very ackward preaching what I consider to be a''fraud''. There are thousands of creative projects looking for financement. Windowfarms' Project has greatly tarnished the reputation of young creative people. The Windowfarms Project's team should be honest enough to say so if they can't fulfill their engagement to backers. I invite people to read the recent posts from international backers on Windowfarms Facebook's page and make their own opinion.