“The material I’m working with is people — creating moments for them to be thoughtful,” says Britta Riley, whose window farms have been displayed in more than a dozen buildings in New York City. Riley and her collaborator, Rebecca Bray, are conceptual artists whose goal is to engage the public in developing simple solutions to vexing environmental problems. By artfully demonstrating how lettuce and tomatoes can be grown in even the most cramped urban spaces, they hope to inspire people to think about where their food comes from — and then take part in producing it. (1)
(2) “The Windowfarms project broaches both immediate urban agriculture goals as well as a far-sighted shift in attitudes toward the green revolution. We are both starting a windowfarming craze in cities worldwide and hoping to accelerate the pace of sustainable design by having ordinary citizens think of themselves as innovators.”
The Project was started by artists 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. Riley continues to drive the project at Eyebeam with a team of volunteers and the participation of hundreds of windowfarmers worldwide.
Windowfarms: Growing Food Year-Round in Inner City Buildings
Researchers have argued that to grow some of his own food is the most effective action an individual can take for environment, not only because of the food industry’s heavy carbon footprint but also because participating in agricultural production cultivates a valuable skill set around sustainability issues.
Many neighborhoods (particularly low income ones) in cities aroun the world are considered food deserts, meaning little fresh food is easily accessible. Residents tend to consume processed, packaged, and canned food having depleated nutrients.
Few other projects provide opportunities for such direct personal involvement, make this productive use of existing construction, or so directly target urban dwellers estranged from agricultural issues.
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.
R&D-I-Y: Mass Collaboration to Solve Environmental Problems
The ultimate aim of the Windowfarms project, however, is not to create a perfected physical object or product. Rather, the most highly valued result is a rewarding experience with crowsdsourced innovation. We are interested in the participants’ experience as they design for 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.
The windowfarms project approaches environmental innovation through web 2.0 crowdsourcing and a method called R&D-I-Y (research and develop it yourself). 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.
After only 7 months and only $5000 in funding the project has already been widely acclaimed and supported with features in Grist, Art in America, Wired Blog, Ready Made magazine, prominent food blogs, and upcoming documentary films. Hundreds of thousands of hits have come in to the site from IP addresses workdwide. The participating public has submitted 29 unique viable design improvements.
What are Window Farms??
Window Farms are vertical, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield edible window gardens built using low-impact or recycled local materials.
to start a Windowfarming craze in New York City and other dense urban areas, helping people grow some of their food year-round in their apartment windows.
give ordinary folks a means to collaborate on research and development of these vertical hydroponic food-growing curtains through the community site at our.windowfarms.org
How the Windowfarms Project Works
Each participant in the project makes it easier for the next windowfarmer to grow some of his/her own food. The system design and instruction sets evolve as each person comes up with ideas for improvements or points out problems and we collectively test solutions proposed by the group.
(1) First paragraph from an the article “Art You Can Really Digest” in onearth, NRDC’s online magazine
(2) Body is excerpts from the WindowFarms website