Category: urban farming

1.  Hunger for energy

One of major issues with the  high-tech in door farming system based on hydroponic, is that the system is of highly hunger of the energy due to use of the LED light, sensors and actuators like valves and pumps. Psychologically, it is a issue that people don’t want to spend too much money on a machine that produces less green.  In fact, I am quite shocked when I hear a ordinary household system costs energy as much as a fridge

It is a business trade off between the green and energy. We surely can have solar power, wind power for energy resource, however, cost, maintenance for the individual or family use are still big problems.

2. A great Design

So unlike conventional large green house or roof farming who focuses really on large farming production, the values of small scale, in-door farming system might not lie on the production, but more on the elegant design that adds green and healthy element and life style to the house, or intelligent apps autonomously help coordinate the resource of water, energy and green based on the sensors and adaptive robot learning algorisms possibly. That is to say we need a good design and good app.

Since now in the long tail economy, it is now getting harder and struggling to say what the customer really want. There is no longer a popular design that dominates and satisfies to all, except in circumstances that you control the whole chain of ecosystem like what Apple does now.

Again a module design on the hardware for adapting to new components, interfaces, i.e. adding a solar system for energy, or adding a camera for visualization. Modularity means the flexibility for the customer’s needs and it help to gain new life cycle when in necessary

A good app for green farming?

apps to make people manage the input and output in terms of finance, material, time -as when it is for the new, how long, and when it will be grown out, useful information,  the condition of the grown, the phase of the grown, the energy produced and used

For a open design on the software, it is more important to have geeks to come in and play their part , prototype with it in a their own intelligent way and easy way. software interface is necessary for this reason. 


For the time being, we are seeing many good designs, one good example is from Danielle Trofe inspired by the green wall.

Trofe’s creation works much like hydroponic systems, which grow plants using nutrients without soil. Electric pumps send water up the stands based on a timing system that can be customized for each pod. Excess water trickles back down the shaft and into the reservoir at the foot of the unit. Each pod has an LED light built into its underside to provide extra ‘sunlight’ for the plant below it.

The Live Screen is a modular design, so it can be adapted to fit any space of a minimum size. Because it is a standalone setup, it doesn’t depend on a wall, thus the "screen" in the name. I could see these being used in lieu of cubicle dividers in offices, providing a much needed dash of green along with some privacy- as long as you keep the plants alive. Plus, there’s the added benefit of growing herbs, vegetables and even fruit at your desk or in your city apartment.





突然之间发现,所谓的 CLIMATE CHANGE 气候变化,早已经不是危言耸听,它,曾经相对稳定数千年的气候,在我们这个时代开始出现巨变,悄悄来到我们身边,然后突然给我们各种爆炸性的‘惊喜’。遗憾的是,直到今天还只有很少数的人意识到它的严重性。





Urban Farming Apps

The slide of my presentation in Amsterdam smart city app conference






















The design of urban farming tool, requires components

  • Actuator :LED light (red and blue),  pump, valve(optional to the droplet), fans (cool the environment and air exchange)
  • Sensor: PH, temperature, humidity, light, C02 Sensor
  • physical structure:
  • water reservoir, plant holder, 反光片
  • replacement:
  • water , nutrient-rich liquid,
  • virtual structure:

Control interface:

the pumping rate, the air exchange rate, the lighting hour

Sensing interface:

            the temperature, humidity , light , CO2 , PH

Automation interface:

              rule provided to run the micro farm.

The advice is based on pre-agreed “growing plans” that it generates based on what plants people want to grow.

Energy interface:

            energy consumed and energy produced
    Knowledge interface:
            knowledge about every plant, create and share data that is really easy and applicable.

The necessary condition: constant water demand, air exchange, light , temperature.

The environment of hebe living should be separated from human living environment?

  • human living space is less humidity, more natural light, temperature are 20 – 25 degrees.
  • plant living environment is more humidity 40 – 60 %, combined red and blue light.
  • While the plants live in the open air without a green house structure, the living conditions are more dry, more hot, so the plant demands more and constant water irrigation or droplet.  The water consuming speed are much quicker than in the enclosed green house environment
  • To prolong the water recycling, the water should not exposed to the air, only the leafs are exposed to the air


Where is the energy source to drive the LED light, pump, air fan?    outlet or solar, wind source

how to reduce the energy cost?  1. use the sustainable energy; 2.periodically run the water pump and air fan.   automation

Where is the water source ?    manually add water to the water reservoir. notify to human.


Automation part:

pumping, lighting, air exchange

Manual part:

“reservoir” refills and other maintenance


How to supply with more CO2, How to control the temperature

  • Give more advice on how to better grow;
  • Give more real time awareness and control;
  • Reduce the efforts on the manual part;
  • Reduce the energy costs;


image  image

The plan isn’t just a fun gimmick, the circular design actually fits more plant real estate into a smaller footprint. “If you calculate the circumference of the wheel, you have larger growing area that helps to cultivate more plants with a lower energy cost,” explains Rutilo. It’s hard to believe, but that wheel is actually holding over 8 feet of plants, a space savings that allows one light source to do where, traditionally, two or more would be required.

image  image

The Kitchen Nano Garden by Hyundai is a super cool concept for growing a vegetable garden right in your kitchen, without help from sun or rain. And yes, it is straight from The Jetsons.

Nano Garden is a vegetable garden for the apartment kitchen, using hydroponics, so users don’t need to worry about pesticides or fertilizers. Instead of the sunlight, Nano Garden has lighting which promotes the growth of plants. The amount of light, water and nutrient supply is also controllable, so users can decide the growth speed. It lets users know when to provide water or nutrients to the plants, and Nano Garden functions as a natural air purifier, eliminating unpleasant smells.

labbox rendering numbered1 Inside the LabBox Grower


  1. LabBox Controller
    The LabBox Controller is the main brain of the system. This controls the nutrient delivery, temperature control and the light schedules.  At the top of the LabBox Grower is a push button switch that allows you to select between 3 light schedules (24hr, 18/6, 12/12).

  2. High Intensity LED Light System
    The array of red and blue high intensity lights provides an efficient way to deliver the lighting spectrum needed for optimum plant growth. LED Blue Wavelength: 470nm /  LED Red Wavelength: 630nm.

  3. Active Carbon
    The active carbon filters help eliminate some odors that may permeate from your grow. These are replaceable filters that can be purchased through our store.

  4. Removable Top Access
    The removable top held down by magnets help contain the vermiculite medium and plant in its grow tray during growth and transport. The removable top provides access the plant’s root system or growing medium to clean or flush salt buildups. The LabBox grower includes two swappable  tops  (Left side opening and Center opening tops).

  5. LST Tie Downs
    The Low Stress Training (LST) tie down screws are provided to help you train your plant to grow in a certain direction or height.  Wires are used to tie down your grow.

  6. Grow Tray
    This is the where your plants grow. Simply add the included vermiculite  medium and seed to start growing.

  7. Nutrient Reservoir
    The nutrient reservoir is where you will be filling your water with the nutrients.  Air is pushed from the pump into the air-tight reservoir causing positive pressure, pushing your water/nutrient solution into the grow tray while oxygenating the root system. Two access points are provided to fill and clean your reservoir.

  8. Air Circulation Output
    The air vents located on the grow box case provides a circulatory airflow, replacing all the air within the grow box about every 3 minutes. This also aids in the temperature control system integrated in the LabBox Controller. Note, that the ventilation system was designed to be used with the case provided. Air circulation and temperature control may not work properly without the case. Although, the using the case is optional depending on your environmental temperatures.

  9. Grow Box Case
    The grow box case is actually a large CD or DVD case used to hold about 12 CDs.  This case has been modified to house the grow box securely.

  10. Air Circulation Input
    The air circulation input brings fresh air into your grow box providing needed oxygen (for the roots) and carbon dioxide to your plants.



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Vertical farms may be just around the corner, literally, if you live in the city. So you may wonder what building one would cost. That’s a tricky question, since there aren’t any comparable projects to consider when compiling an estimate. But engineers are taking the guesswork out of the estimation process by using existing construction costs for skyscrapers to produce a viable cost estimation.
The following is a basic cost estimation provided by the Columbia University think-tank that was involved in the conceptual creation of vertical farming:

  • Sub-structure and electro-chromic glass shell – $25,000,000
  • 1000 ton Geothermal HVAC – $2,500,000
  • 400 ton chiller + cooling tower – $500,000
  • Biogas to fuel cell cogeneration facility – $11,000,000
  • 800 kWh/day tracking photovoltaic array – $500,000
  • 4,500 kW water-cooled lighting system – $2,000,000
  • Energy infrastructure and automation systems – $35,000,000
  • Living machine-based water recycling system – $500,000
  • Floating garden hydroponic system – $1,700,000
  • Office and laboratory facilities – $5,000,000

Total Building Cost for vertical farming is around $83.7 million
Adding in the costs associated with annual operation and maintenance of a vertical farm, brings the total of this endeavor to over $100 million. While this may sound like an astronomical amount, it is could be worth the investment. Economists estimate that in about seven years, the profit in fresh produce alone could pay for the initial investment. In addition, the energy and water that a vertical farm would produce could not only sustain its own needs but also provide such important elements for others.


Bosco-verticale-boeri-studio-milan   VS


While the concept of building farms inside skyscrapers might today sound like a far-fetched idea. In engineering, it equals to a building automation project that cost too much on the infrastructure at first and still not efficient compared to more distributed growing machine placed in our household. Today I still prefer the low tech solution, hopefully not long after we can see a high tech integrated house set up for the green vertical farming

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