A Social Enterprise
Windowfarms is a Brooklyn-based social enterprise that helps city dwellers around the world grow some of their own fresh food. Windowfarms makes vertical indoor food gardens that optimize the conditions of windows for year-round indoor growing of greens, herbs, and small vegetables. The company runs a 40,000 member online community of growers. Windowfarms is on a mission to revive agricultural biodiversity and to connect eaters with sustainable food production for a healthier future for both humans and the environment.
Founder & CEO – Britta Riley
Technology Designer. Masters degree from NYU’s ITP Program. Her interactive work has engaged visitors at MoMA and the Smithsonian. Windowfarms is her 5th social enterprise.
Director, Operations – Antonio Hernandez
Experienced product development professional who has led design and product rollouts at Smart Design, BUG Labs, OXO, Home Depot, and MakerBot.
CTO – Skyler Shepard
Web and software development executive specializing in targeted online advertising & content with experience at TargetSpot, Oddcast, & IODA.
Windowfarms for Foodies
Having a Windowfarm means fresh basil for pesto, dill to flavor salmon, and lettuce for salads, and you can get more local than your own window. Fresh ingredients are key to any good meal, and think how impressed your friends will be when you tell them you grew it yourself. It really is a microfarm for your window. Plant whatever you want. Give the farm a name, talk to it, find out what kind of music makes it grow.
See Windowfarms at the American Museum of Natural History
Windowfarms was commissioned to build two large arrays of Windowfarms at the museum in conjunction with the globe-traveling special exhibition on Food, “Our Global Kitchen: Food, Culture, Nature“. The LED grow light powered hydroponic research garden is on view for 10 months at the Columbus and 79th street entrance November 2012- August 2013.
An Online Community
Building a community of growers online and providing a platform for open source collaboration have been part of the Windowfarms mission from the beginning. Since the Windowfarm Community launched online in 2009, it has grown to include over 40,000 people from all over the world: the Netherlands, Sweden, China, Brooklyn, Boston.
New web features will move the center of activity from the engineering of the windowfarm as a physical platform to the plants. A new data structure will drive the community to share variables around plant species, nutrients, and microclimate conditions that prove the most successful under the unusual conditions of personal scale hydroponic food growing.
Ask a Windowfarmer
Windowfarmers post information about everything from their first growing cycle to kitty- proofing their system. New Windowfarmers can get advice from seasoned growers or the Windowfarms staff about waterflow issues or lighting questions. And members of the community can get ideas for modifications from others who have used solar power to run their farms orused alternative planting vessels because of concern over BPAs.
A Food Revolution
Windowfarms began as an experiment developing environmental solutions through open source collaboration and has evolved into a social enterprise, a successful business that organically fulfills a mission toward healthier people and a healthier planet.
In 2009, Founder Britta Riley built the first windowfarm with friends in her 5th floor Brooklyn apartment window. She collaborated to open & crowdsource the development of a home hydroponic food growing system for apartment windows, building a social media sharing site around a set of instructions for making the systems out of water bottles and plumbing supplies. The site now has nearly 40,000 registered users who have built Windowfarms and grown food in windows from Singapore to Senegal to Brooklyn.
Through two record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns, the social startup raised over $285,000 to bootstrap itself into manufacturing beautifully designed Windowfarms in the US and with sustainable practices, with an updated focus on the plants the systems grow — all with the goal of reviving agricultural biodiversity in small scale systems.
Windowfarms have been featured by NPR, The New York Times, Grist, Art in America, Good Morning America, Wired Blog, the Martha Stewart Show, Ready Made magazine, prominent food blogs, and documentary films. With a community of more than 40,000 people, Windowfarms are popping up in city windows all over the planet. Please check out the activity on the community website to see what’s “trending” now.
A Microcosmic View of the Food System
Through their careful cultivation of plants and harvesting the fruits of their labors, Windowfarmers gain experience with a nearly-lost fundamental human art and get a microcosmic view of the food system. They develop a stake in the conversation, and come up with new ideas for how to take care of ourselves and our planet in troubled times.
Researchers have argued that to grow some of one’s own food is the most effective action an individual can take for environment. It is estimated that current industrial food production in America uses 7-10 calories of fossil fuels to produce 1 calorie of food. It’s easy to forget all the fossil fuels needed to cultivate, fertilize, package, refrigerate, and transport a head of lettuce, especially during the winter. And by the time it arrives in the aisles, that lettuce will have lost a good deal of its nutritional value.
The Windowfarms Project approaches environmental innovation through a web 2.0 model similar to crowdsourcing and open source software development. Ordinary people can bring about innovative green ideas and popularize them quickly. Web theorists like Clay Shirky (he’s on the Windowfarms Board of Advisors) 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. The windowfarms core team presses past crowdsourcing into “mass collaboration” with an opensource collaboration model, modified for physical mechanical & biological systems, called R&D-I-Y (research and develop it yourself).
By harnessing the power of the Internet as Shirky suggests, Windowfarmers can communicate over oceans while still creating the community Michael Pollan says evolves when people have their own gardens: “Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools.”