Window Farms started with a mere $5,000 as an art project initiated by Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray in February, 2009 through an artist’s residency at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York and sponsorship by Submersible Design, Riley and Bray’s interactive design firm.
The response to Window Farms has been so positive and (frankly) overwhelming that Riley and Bray have decided to launch Window Farms as a full time organization, starting with a funding campaign on Kickstarter in which they have already exceeded their goal to raise $25,000 by more than 10% but could still use all the help they can get for a successful launch.
Window Farms arose from the founders’ desire to address the growing need to address food deserts in cities around the world. Rather than wait for expensive vertical farming solutions to get off the ground (if they ever materialize), Riley and Bray decided to take a low-tech DIY approach:
Inner city dwellers can grow their own food in their apartment or office windows throughout the year by means of these elegant, inexpensive, vertical, hydroponic vegetable gardens made from recycled materials or items available at the local hardware store. The first system produced 25 plants and a salad a week in mid winter in a dimly lit 4’ x 6’ NYC window.
Riley and Bray developed Window Farms as as a Web 2.0 “crowdsourced” innovation inventing the How-To Manuals and an Online Community so that participants can build “their own microenvironments, share ideas, rediscover the power of their own capacity to innovate, and witness themselves playing an active role in the green revolution.”
According to Riley and Bray, Window Farms focused on the design process rather than the consumer product in an effort to address sustainability in the information age:
Big Science’s R&D industry is not always free to take the most expedient environmental approach. It must assume that consumers will not make big changes. Its organizational structure tends toward infrastructure-heavy mass solutions. A distributed network of individuals sharing information can implement a wide variety of designs that accommodate specific local needs and implement them locally. Ordinary people can bring about innovative green ideas and popularize them quickly. Web theorists claim that this capacity to “organize without hierarchical organization” will be a fundamental shift in our society brought about by the web over the coming decades.
Riley and Bray have articulated simply but clearly a central aspect for charting a new course in urban agriculture and in sustainability practice. The union of information de-centralization and global environmentalism creates a powerful nexus in which the process is known to be part of the product and the means of production is community property.
If we look to big government or big business for big solutions to our big environmental problems, we will get more large scale ideas (no matter how persuasive) with massive unintended side effects. One should recall that US government corn subsidies were intended to reduce the volatility of farm income during the Great Depression. Now the same subsidies have morphed into the biggest corporate welfare package in the world with disastrous consequences for consumer health and the environment.
So far the viral design process for Window Farms has yielded 29 separate modifications and sparked hundreds of thousands of hits for their site. Not surprisingly, Window Farms has been a big hit with schools eager to teach children about the source of their food but lacking big budgets to plant a garden.
So take a minute and check out Window Farms, donate some leftover holiday dollars and become part of the movement to take over your own food supply.Filed under: Urban Agriculture | Tags: Britta Riley, crowdsourced innovation, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, Kickstarter, Rebecca Bray, Submersible Design, vertical farming, viral design, Web 2.0, Window Farms | 1 Comment »