These Builds Grow Food In Cities

You’ve probably heard the term food desert: locations where it’s difficult to get access to fresh fruits and vegetables. One way to help alleviate the problem is to promote urban farming. This week we challenged you to think of ideas that would make growing fresh food in urban areas easier and more enticing. Let’s take a look:

The IKEA Model:

IMG_0429One concept that was popular with this week’s theme was ready-to assemble gardening kits. From personal experience I think this is of huge importance. Once upon a time in a crappy apartment far, far away my wife and I set out to grow tomatoes on the balcony. The plants flourished and bore fruit which the squirrel population of the neighborhood immediately stole while still green. I built this produce cage the following year and we were able to enjoy the fruit of our labors. But not everyone can whip up such a solution without help.

Aker is a set of designs for a modular farming system. The idea is to find a hackerspace or other group with a CNC router and use the plans to cut out different farming “furniture” like a chicken coop, tiered gardening container rack, a wall garden, compost system, and a bee hive. The coop design would serve as caged garden if need be.

Along the same vein is [Eric’s] Urban Gardening IKEA Style. He’s excited to pass along the knowledge he has accumulated over the years. Part of this is a simple to build gardening table that holds rectangular potting containers.

Modular Greenhouse:


Next up is the concept of modular farming. We like this because the gardens can be scaled based on available space.

Seen here is the Modular Vertical Farming mockup. The system specs different size and features for each pod based on what is being grown inside. Also included in the concept is a monitoring and feedback system which will help each urban farmer achieve success.

Combining modularity with water conservation is the Hydropod project. It’s not purely hydroponics, but the vertical cylinders are designed to pump water up to the top and reclaim it as it exits the bottom.

We don’t want to move on without a brief mention of the HydroPI Garduino. Kudos on maximum-buzz-wordiness in the title. We’re into the concept of including common tools to help monitor and control this hydroponic garden. But for city-dwellers who frequently move, the portable emphasis is valuable.


capture-condensate-from-acThis one is quite an interesting thought. If you live in a climate where air conditioning is used constantly, chances are pretty good that the humidity the condenser coil removes from the air is going right down the drain. The Condesnate Capture for Micro-Irrigation project wants to change that by sequestering the water for the next urban garden irrigation cycle. We’d love to see some solid data on average condensate output per square foot of building.

This Week’s Winners


First place this week goes to Aker and will receive an RGB Shades Kit.

Second place this week goes to Modular Vertical Farming and will receive a GoodFET42 JTAG programmer and debugger.

Third place this week goes to Condensate Capture for Micro-Irrigation and will receive a Hackaday CRT Android tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’re moving to a new set of weekly giveaways that are more numerous and valuable. This week we’ll be giving away thirty (30) prizes. Each will be a $50 code to spin some PCBs. More details on that in our next Time for the Prize post. For now make sure you submit an official entry. Start your project on and use the “Submit-To” button below the picture on the left to submit it for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Time for the Prize: Urban Gardening and Living off the Land

What kind of impact does growing your own food have on the world’s resources? Jump aboard for a little thought exercise on this week’s Time for the Prize challenge to brainstorm urban gardening and living off the land.

We figure for any kind of meaningful impact there would need to be wide-spread adoption of people growing at least some of their own food locally. This means making the process fun and easy, a challenge well suited for 2015 Hackaday Prize entries. Write down your ideas as a project on, tag it 2015HackadayPrize and you could win this week’s prizes which are listed below.

Space, Information, and Automation

urban-gardening-thumbTo get rolling, we started thinking about three things that are needed to convince people to grow their own food or live off the land.

First up, you need space to grow. This has been the subject of a number of urban farming hacks like the one seen here which uses downspouts as a vertical garden apparatus. Openings are cut into the front of the tubes, which are each hanging from a PVC rack. Each opening hosts a plant, holding them where they have access to sunlight, while taking up very little space on a sunny balcony or sidewalk.

The concept also includes a bit of automation. It’s a hydroponic garden and simple sensors and controllers handle the water circulation while providing feedback for the gardener through a smartphone app. We think the technology of the system is one way to attract people who would otherwise not take up seed and trowel.

For those new to taking care of plants the other thing to consider is information. Not only does the sensor network need to monitor the system, but something valuable needs to be done with the data. Perhaps someone has an idea for city-wide aggregate data which will look at successes from one urban garden and make suggestions to another?

This is your time to shine. Get those ideas flowing and post them as your entry for the Hackaday Prize. Even if you don’t see the build through the idea can still help someone else make the leap to greatness in their own brainstorming.

This Week’s Prizes


We’ll be picking three of the best ideas based on their potential to help alleviate a wide-ranging problem, the innovation shown by the concept, and its feasibility. First place will receive an RGB Shades Kit. Second place will receive a GoodFET42 JTAG programmer and debugger. Third place will receive a Hackaday CRT Android tee.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Robotic Farms Invade Urban Landscapes

Now there is no excuse to not have a garden, even if you are located in an urban area. The Robotic Urban Farm System (RUFS for short) solves the problems of growing many plants in a small area. The system’s high plant density is attributed to its vertical orientation. The entire system is even made from easy to find parts from your local hardware store. The water usage is kept to a minimum thanks to the closed loop watering system. Instead of flowing down into the ground, any excess water is collected and saved for use later.

Plants are placed in holes made in the side of a standard plastic downspout that hangs from a PVC frame, each hole several inches apart from its neighbor. A standard plastic plant pot is place inside each hole and is filled with hydroponic media. That’s right, there is no dirt in this system. Plants will grow happily in the hydroponic media providing they get all the nutrients and water they need.

Robotic Urban Farm SystemThe potential urban farmer may not be super excited about tending to his crops. This is where the robot portion of the RUFS system comes into play. There are two control systems that work independently of each other. The first is for indoor applications and controls light cycles and circulation fans. The second is a little more complex and controls the watering portion of the system. Not only does it water the plants at pre-determined intervals but it also monitors the pH, nutrient and water levels inside the reservoir. Both these systems are Arduino-based. For extreme control freaks, there is one more add-on available. It’s Raspberry Pi based and has an accompanying mobile app. The Pi records and logs sensor data from the Arduinos and also allows remote updating of the watering and light schedules. The mobile app lets you not only look at current conditions of the system but also displays the historical data in a nice visual graph.

Warming seeds in an outdoor garden


Spring is almost here and with that the green thumbs out there are preparing for their summer gardens. It’s usually a good idea to get a jump on all your gardening activities by starting seeds indoors, but with this comes the problem of making sure juvenile plants get enough sunlight. Putting a few seeds on a window sill will keep seeds warm enough to start germinating, but that will drastically reduce the amount of sunlight available for any given day. The best solution is to make sure the seeds are kept warm outside, but for wont of a properly placed clothes dryer vent [Tim] decided to make a solar soil heater using junk he had lying around.

[Tim] constructed a simple heater cartridge using a few 5 and 10 Ω resistors. These were sealed inside a piece of copper pipe with heat shrink tubing and silicone. The solution to powering this heater cartridge, though, is an impressive display of thinking outside the box.

The cartridge is powered by a solar lantern – the same kind you’d find illuminating a garden path at night and recharging during the day. After inserting the cartridge in a hill of seeds, the heater provides a little bit of warmth to get the seeds through the night. During the day, the battery in the solar lantern recharges, providing just enough power to cycle through another night.

It works for [Tim] in his native New England, so we’re betting it’s good enough for just about any growing region.