The Windowfarms Project – where it all started

“How to supplies fresh local food to people in cities”

This project started in New York City in 2008 by Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray wanting to grow some of their food.

Here you can see their story:

The idea was to grow some of the food we consume in our urban apartments. Using hydroponic systems made this possible. People can hang several columns of empty (recycled) bottles in front of their windows and grow vegetables.

To develop the system they created a portal for “open source” development of the system. And offer the public to join in and contribute. They call this activity “R&D-I-Y” for Research and Development It Yourself. The public did respond and thousands of people registered and added their innovations.

One of those people made an ingenious development that made this project feasible. He suggested using an air-pump to lift the water to the top of the bottle column. This saved the need to use a heavy, noisy, high-powered water pump for that. The air-pump replacement is small, silent, cheap, aquarium air-pump that lifts small drops of water. This is more than enough to water the plants. The water drips down the bottle column and nourishes the plants in them. Doing so it put oxygen into the water and the oxygen gets into the reservoir bottle. This prevents anaerobic bacteria from growing.

Using hydroponic system makes the plants grow faster than in a normal soil-based growing. The lack of soil makes it much cleaner so it can be used in people homes.  The home delivers:

  1. Climate controlled environment.
  2. Pests-free.
  3. Fertilizers rich.

So plants can grow to their full DNA potential.

Windowfarms system is suitable for leaves plants rather than root plants. Smart selection of the plants you grow can give you fresh herbs and vegetables in their best condition to your daily food.

Windowfarm owner could grow one to two salad dishes per week. This salad is organic, pesticide-free and freshly harvest from the farm.


You can see Brita at Ted’s talk:


Another introductory video can be seen here:


Here is another cute introduction to it:


To allow rapid development and enhancement of the system, they created a website for it. Soon, people from all over the world started participating and contributing to the project. This community made the system affordable and in wide use across the world. People had a forum to discuss issues with their window farms, and place to publish their research and development. Research on topics like proper water PH level and suitable lamps to use when growing in shaded places. Some enjoyed showing off their crop.

This active community created the windowfarms until version 3. There was substantial information on the website. Many satellite sites were created in different countries. Aiming to their local community and their local geographic state. Some of the like the Nederland site active today. The windowfarms in Finland dealt with growing lights as the country has long dark winters.

The project made a significant influence. There were exhibitions of windowfarms in museums.

At that stage, they decided to go commercial. They opened a Kickstarter project to fund commercial products of the windowfarms. Appealing to people who don’t want to build windowfarms from recycled bottles themselves. (“Not everyone is MacGyver”).

The Kickstarter project succeeded and raised $250K. That is a nice sum sufficient for creating the plastic molds for the product. Manufacturing and delivering the ordered windowfarms. But they went a step ahead and created a company with several employees in it. Ah.
A small company can cost $10-$50K in monthly burn rate. If you don’t have that money come in, it goes under. I believe this is what happened to the commercial company Windowfarms.
The company went under leaving many angry and frustrated people. Without their purchased windowfarms and without any refund. They did try desperately to revive the company without any success. Eventually, the company went bankrupt and they vanished from public appearance.

There are many windowfarms designs over the Internet. Allowing people to use plastic bottles and build their own system.

When I realized that the website went offline, I tried to contact them and ask to pass it to me. As I intended to keep it operational. But I got no response.

I see this project as important for people. I consider opening a new site for it. I just need to verify that there are enough people interested in it. If you are interested in reopening the project, drop me a line.

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