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:

Red Bull Creation: i3 Detroit

If there’s one thing I learned about Detroit last weekend, it’s that it is freaking huge. It’s an unbelievably large city, and looking at the population numbers, you can really start to see the problem of providing city services to such a large area. With such a sparse population, it’s the ideal environment for experimentations in urban farming, after a few seasons of planting crops that will leech everything out of the soil of course.

If you have a farm, you’re going to need some means of irrigation, and you might as well throw a scarecrow in there as well, giving i3 Detroit the idea for RoboCrop, the perfect project for an urban farm or anyone who is putting on a production of The Wizard Of Oz but is a little shorthanded for a full cast.

RoboCrop is an all-in-one irrigation and bird and small mammal scaring device, controllable with webcam video streamed right to the remote. It’s a fun project, and fits right into the apparent unofficial “urban gardening” theme of this year’s Red Bull Creation.

i3 is also the largest and arguably the best equipped hackerspace in the Detroit region. They were kind enough to let us throw a little get together there last weekend where we gave away a 3D printer for The Hackaday Prize. Good times all around. We’ll have a video tour of i3 up a little bit later.

No sleep till Brooklyn aquaponics installation is complete


This is some extreme gardening. [I Am Become Derpth] didn’t let lack of space or tillable soil stop him from growing a bountiful harvest. Instead of cutting though prairie sod to begin the farming he had to contend with the concrete expanses found in the NYC area. Here he’s nearing the end of an impressive aquaponics installation in Brooklyn, New York.

For a good overview of what aquaponics is all about we suggest you take a look at this Oakland, CA setup. The heart of the system is a closed loop that uses both plants and fish for balance. The byproduct is edible greens. The image above shows the growing beds through which water is circulated. They’re filled with clean gravel which keeps the roots happy. Once the water has made it through this system it is piped into the basement of the apartment where water tanks filled with fish reside. The system uses the fish waste (broken down by bacteria) to feed the plants.

It’s an efficient system but one thing’s for sure, you don’t just go out and buy a rig this complicated. We think you’ll really enjoy going through the build log linked at the top.

[via Reddit]

Urban farming uses aquaponics to make farmland where there is none

[Eric Maundu] is farming in Oakland. There are no open fields in this concrete jungle, and even if there were the soil in his part of town is contaminated and not a suitable place in which to grow food. But he’s not using farming methods of old. In fact farmers of a century ago wouldn’t recognize anything he’s doing. His technique uses fish, circulated water, and gravel to grow vegetables in whatever space he can find; a farming method called aquaponics.

The video after the break gives an excellent look at his farm. The two main parts of the system are a large water trough where fish live, and a raised bed of gravel where the fish waste in the water is filtered out and composted by bacteria to becomes food for the vegetables. More parts can be added into the mix. For instance, once the water has been filtered by the stone bed it can be gravity fed into another vessel which is being used to grow lettuce suspended by floating foam board. But the water always ends up back in the fish trough where it can be reused. This ends up saving anywhere from 90-98% of the water used in normal farming.

But [Eric] is also interested in adding some automation. About seven minutes into the video we get a look at the control systems he’s working on with the help of Arduino and other hardware.

Continue reading “Urban farming uses aquaponics to make farmland where there is none”

BAMF2010: SolarPump Charging Station

Amidst the noise of a bazillion robots and Tesla coils at the 2010 Bay Area Maker Faire, we located a bubble of usable WiFi, and got a nearby power charge to boot. If nothing else here, we want this:

The SolarPump Charging Station is a self-contained oasis of free power for laptops, cel phones and even electric bikes. This charging station is one of several designs created by Sol Design Labs of sunny Austin, Texas. No bigger than a bus stop (and way cooler looking), it’s like the ultimate case mod, repurposing a vintage Citgo gas pump and recycled metals for more modern needs. Three large Sanyo solar panels provide power for devices and shade for users, while topping off the internal 24V 100AH battery for nighttime use (with LED lighting) or cloudy days. The end result transcends “green” — the SolarPump is simply appealing at a visceral level, managing to be simultaneously fun, attractive and practical. Did we mention wanting one? We totally want one.