Harnessing The Power of DIY Hydroponics

New York City resident, Britta Riley, was once overwhelmed by the idea that most urban dwellers’ daily needs are serviced by other people: urbanites– like most of the world’s rapidly-increasing population– rely on other humans to grow their food, to administer medicine, to transport them by air and rail, to make their clothes, and to meet a myriad of other needs that takes agency over what they consume out of their own hands.

As most of the world’s population are now living in cities without access to farms or food processing centers, Riley had an idea: why not re-purpose the copious amount of trash generated in urban environments and turn it into something productive, like an indoor food garden?hydro

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Using social media beta testing and a host of other community-driven research, Riley developed a DIY hydroponic system constructed out of old plastic bottles that she now uses to grow food in her Manhattan apartment. Because of her apartment’s ability to offer at least some sunlight and year-round climate control, she was able to engineer a window system for vertical hydroponic food-growing in which pumps periodically send liquid nutrients up to the plants at the top of the stack, which in turn trickles down the plants’ root systems, which are suspended in clay pellets (not dirt). Light and temperature vary with each window’s micro-climate, which is why even the most sophisticated hydroponic system requires a farmer to decide what plants to grow and how to fertilize them.

Riley piloted her idea through a social media website that explained the system and invited others to experiment with window farming in order to improve the model for everyone. There are now over 18,000 people experimenting with bottle hydroponics worldwide, growing tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, and a compendium of other produce. Best of all, knowledge of how the system works is public, and the impending patent will be community-owned.

Watch her explain the complexities (and the simplicities) of her community-supported DIY hydroponic system below.

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