Almost all of which seem to be on presale/crowd-funding deals.
Once you’ve got your head around arduinos they’re fairly easy to make as well, although the one above has a couple of bells and whistles… eg: long battery life, nicely polished apps.
The reason I like this one though… is the video… because it IS actually acting as a Tamagotchi… but instead of having a “virtual” animal that gets sick/healthy… there’s an actual plant.
The other thing that’s interesting about this is the 6000 strong database of plants… although this doesn’t become interesting until it’s open-sourced… which ought to be simple enough to do – just a matter of defining a micro-format really.
Whatever happened to micro-formats?
In the future, every tree will have its own gardener. (might not be human)
And is the future on a number of different levels.
It’s living between the cracks though – and we should not need to live between the cracks. We need to find a way to stop paying rent, and to stop paying interest. Sorry Libertarians – we need to contribute tax – otherwise cracks are all there will be. Cracks and razor-wire.
Inspiring video though. His seedlings seem to be growing a hell of a lot faster than mine :)
But back to the razor-wire:
Because that is the future as well – the inevitable spiritual offspring of optimising for scarcity.
This looks quite cool, mainly because I’m obsessed by Silent Running and want to escape into space where everyone will leave me alone.
It’s an indiegogo project for an aquaculture system that you can put up on your roof… or backyard or whatever. Assuming you have a flat roof. The guy does a TED talk about it here:
… which gives it a little more credibility I think than the indiegogo thing, which seems to come up with unnervingly round numbers. Like 100kg per year as an estimation of fish output – that looks like a number pulled out of thin air to me, but if these guys have experience doing this stuff, then maybe not. It appears they do – website here etc.
Which does seem to be able to generate a reasonable amount of food. For a completely closed system though, you’d need to do more than feed fish effluent back into the plants (if you’re going to eat the plants/fish)… you’d also need to spray human excrement, styrofoam containers, plastic bags, heavy elements and greenhouse gases in a fine drizzle over the whole system. Bring an umbrella.
Balls to that though. I’m going to make a mini one of these with fresh-water crayfish, because most of the ideal fish are illegal in NZ. The best ones anyway – pretty much everything else in the rest of the world is a threat to native wildlife.
Here are a load of really interesting pictures (if you like this sort of thing) off Conceptual Devices, the design partner’s site. This stuff rocks – kindof needs an easily defineable BOM though… so it can be like the reprap of DIY food.
Although these are basically “Carrying Stuff About” bots, which is no bad thing I suppose. At least these ones are actually doing something – there was this ludicrous thing a couple of weeks back where someone made some “concept” thing where hexapods were going to do swarm-gardening… and loads of blogs reported it as though it was fact. Nope. Not fact. Barmy idea. It’s going to be a long time before gardening robots can function in anything other than environments specially designed for them… like these carrying-stuff-about bots. Very controlled environment… flat floors, uniform plant-pots etc etc.
What happens though if a pot falls over? Hmmm? What then? If something out of the ordinary happens?
They lose their minds, that’s what. They’re a long way from being able to weed, and incinerate bugs etc… and by a long way, I mean about 5-10 years. Everything seems to be about 5-10 years away. It’s a kind of permanently receding singularity… which is basically the mid-point of the sci-fi singularity… ie: between now, and the point where technology has become so bizarre we can’t begin to predict what it will be like.
The Sci-Fi Demi-Singularity then. Between the foreseeable and the unforeseeable futures. 5-10 years.
This is a bit of a spiel/rant… the thing that inspired it is right at the end.
Ok, back to this guy.
He’s inciting violence. I’ve been inciting violence in my mind for a while now… in my mind… and if I get drunk I write it down, but when I’m sober I delete it again because it’s tactically catastrophic. It’s an own-goal. If Machiavelli had written a book called “The Peasant” instead of “The Prince”, he would have said “Don’t give princes an excuse to move the battle to a terrain where they’re massively equipped to win”.
We are from the network. They are not. Everything we do must be a network-response. Otherwise we’re fucked.
Network responses completely blind-side and unbalance hierarchy.
So. Derrick Jensen – doesn’t leave many places to hide – other than his definition of civilisation… which is a way of life based on non-renewable, non-local resources. A city is something that must import resources. So we got to go off-grid. That’s all.
I don’t know if we can do that 100%. I don’t know if we’d want to – or even if we have to.
So anyway. We’ve got to go (some %) off grid… and we have to do it in an urban environment.
I think there is also a moral component to this – it is our duty to turn life’s essentials from scarcities into abundances (you know, like Jesus did)… there are riots kicking off in Spain right now… because there aren’t enough jobs. I’m highly dubious about this idea of “jobs”. I don’t think we need more jobs, I think we need to reduce overheads. I think we need less rent. We need to stop giving money to people who are getting something for nothing. We’ve got amazing technology now – and it’s getting better all the time. We need to create the technologies for a way of life which creates abundance.
Marcin’s open-farm thing crossed the radar again the other day… partly due to a conversation about solar->steam
I like this project – but it’s attempting to make a closed-system on a couple of acres of land. Which is probably what’s required for a 100% closed-system, but we can’t achieve that… what we need is a 60% or 40% or even 10% urban equivalent of this system. Something smaller and lighter and more ikea-like. We have fantastic technology that is exploding in every direction. If we can produce 80-inch flat-screen TVs then we can do this other stuff.
This turned up the other day
It’s a farm-shop in Dalston, London – probably enough to sustain about 4 people in Dalston, but it’s not nothing. When I first moved to England in the late 80s, you couldn’t get grass… the only THC we could get was imported hashish. Today the UK is a max-exporter of marijuana… and it is famously strong. Hydroponic. People are growing hydroponic pot in spare-rooms and attics and cupboards and so on. We can do this stuff.
Even if it isn’t 100% of our nutritional requirements. Even if solar-cells don’t give us 100% of our needs… it’s ok. Some is better than nothing… 1 is infinitely more than 0.
1 is a start. Just a little cash-crop in the cupboard hugely tempers the devastation of 46% unemployment. It’s the difference between nothing and something.
So… finally getting round to the thing that inspired all this.
There’s this site called Pachube that allows for the publishing/collation/collection of real-time sensors. Home-automation stuff. All that sort of thing. This is going to be big… we are at the beginning of a revolution in sensors. An RSS feed for the health of your body… of your local river. Your plant. There have been various TED talks about this… and I think most of those are vapour-ware to be honest, but not this. It’s coming.
I think that’s incredibly interesting – it means we can not just crowd-source optimal conditions for growing, we can actually use these optimised outputs to control the machine that controls our plants. We can use the Chilli-guy’s program to control our greenhouse. We don’t need to become experts in hydroponics, we just download the program.
This can theoretically be taken a step further – if we can find a way of automatically measuring the vitality of a plant, we can feed this back into the system… put a genetic algorithm into the loop… and we have plants that are evolving their own environmental conditions.
Maybe plants are more fickle than this… but hydroponics is a way of simplifying the fickleness… and genetic algorithms are weirdly smart, and fast.
They remind me of throwies, or the woolen graffiti meme… some of which has turned up in my (small) home town in New Zealand. Quite subversive in a funny sort of way – in that it is basically graffiti… or littering, but cute and charming etc. Designed (kindof) to last a season, them move on… although if it’s plastic, it’ll probably last for 16 million years or whatever.
I think I’d like them more if you could kindof make them yourself – rather than just buy this beautifully packaged package from somewhere. They’d be better if there was some sort of self-expression or ability-to-morph built in as well.
They also remind me of those seed-bomb things… which have also gotten a designery makeover recently… though danged if I can find the link now, but when I was looking I did find this:
from etsy (The bird-, bee- and butterfly-friendly wildflower mixture includes Queen Anne’s Lace, Upland White Aster Aster, Prairie Aster, Pot Marigold, Cornflower, Siberian Wallflower, Shasta Daisy, Godetia, Farewell-to-Spring, Lance-Leaf Coreopsis, Plains Coreopsis, Sulphur Cosmos, Wild Cosmos, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Wild Larkspur, Sweet William, Purple Coneflower, California Poppy, Perennial Gaillardia, Indian Blanket, Globe Gilia, Baby’s Breath, Wild Annual Sunflower, Dwarf Sunflower, Dame’s Rocket, Rose Mallow, Baby Snapdragon, Candytuft, Scarlet Flax, Blue Flax, Perennial Lupine, Russell Lupine, Annual Lupine, Four O’Clock, Baby Blue Eyes, Evening Primrose, Red Poppy, Mexican Hat, Prairie Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy, Sweet Coneflower, and None-so-Pretty. These wildflowers were chosen because they’re native to the Midwest, where we live, but many are actually native to much of North America.)
Which is cool. No actually, that really is cool. Look at all the different ones etc. They sound like fireworks.
Obviously if I was going to do this there would have to be a mixture of marijuana and psylocybin and such. I mean that is obvious isn’t it? Psylocybin would be particularly good because it would be undetectable until next year or whatever, when it would be too late. They’d be everywhere, and sheep would eat them… and wind up pissing themselves with laughter, staggering about the place unraveling etc. (Sheep are woolen)
But other things would be good as well – particularly if they were useful. Like chillies or something. Or catnip.
Every second time I hear anyone, especially Bruce Sterling, talk about backyard-farming the always seem to be complaining about what hard work it is… which I don’t entirely get, unless you’re growing acres of something… if you’re just pottering about in your backyard then it’s not really that hard is it? I mean old people do that all the time, and old people are some of the laziest people I know. A lot of them actually retire completely.
Still, there do seem to be these recurrent ripples of interest and enthusiasm for automated gardening, and I do find the concept quite intriguing… and have even set up a tube system to I can water my high-rise strawberry farm in one hit… but you know? half of the fun of doing this stuff is that it’s hands-on… it’s in doing stuff yourself. I LIKE watering my plants… so the only good reason I can see (maybe) for automated gardening is to stop yourself cocking it up, and accidentally killing your plants.
So anyway, appropos of very little, here’s a smallish collection of automated gardening systems.
That photie at the top looks well cool – like a spaceship for caterpillars or something. It is A Volksgarden from OmegaGarden.com… fairly large hydro/aero-ponic system that rotates the plants around a central LED column – using less energy (they claim) than traditional – grow-in-tray hydroponic systems, but more than if you just go out and plant the things in the dirt presumably… unless you count your own energy which is spent scurrying round on all-fours, eating bugs.
They also claim that the plants actually like being rotated against gravity all the time like that, and grow bigger as a result. Who knows. Have to try it I suppose. They only rotate once every 45 minutes or something… I wonder if you make a hamster-powered version.
Which is a little computerised thing (ie: it has a timer?) that sits in your kitchen and grows herbs and tomatoes and things. According to this:
They grow 5 times faster than in dirt… and besides, dirt is like… dirty. Is that what all this is about? Fear of dirt etc? Probably. They have pre-seeded ‘plug-and-grow’ pods so you don’t have to physically touch the seeds either.
Ok…. off to Arduino-Land… a Garduino… one of those things that you have to build just because it’s got a great name etc.
Has the geek factor; doesn’t have the techboy-jackdaw shiney shiney factor… and lets face it, what we really want is some sort of autonomous droid that potters about watering things and eliminating aphids and wants to be our friend and thinks we’re great etc. That’s all we want. Is that too much to ask?
But they haven’t been invented yet… so lastly and possibly leastly – certainly most cheaply (apart from (as I say, just sticking seeds in the dirt) is this…
a Powerplant… another little desktop aeroponics (as far as I can tell) system… which is a bit like a potplant pot that you have to leave plugged in all the time, like you do with all your battery chargers and TV etc. A snip at 30 something quid, and Firebox appear to have sold out of them. There are variants all over the place actually – a load on youtube.
I must learn how to do this actually – maybe knock something up on Ponoko. Apparently you need a nebulizer. Sounds like the sort of thing Dr Who would have back in the 70s when nothing had really been invented yet.
A little compost/grey-water recycler with built-in plants etc. They’d probably work in people’s back-yards in London as well… if you could get the rocks. Or the dirt. Table-height gardening is quite a good idea I think – the back fuckery of ground-level gardening is a bit of a killer… well, eventually. The ground happens to be where most of the dirt is though.
It’s a well-known fact that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon weren’t an expression of Babylonian Imperial Grandeur but rather came about because The Babylonian economy had crashed so people began to grow their own food… and there wasn’t a lot of space, so it tended to be up walls etc. And they couldn’t be arsed weeding so it was like… weedy.
And so it is at the dawn of the 21st Century.
There have been a lot of hopeful twitterings (I mean that in the brand-agnostic sense) about Urban Agriculture… especially in Detroit… in the ruins of the unsustainable.
And some are trying to paint it as a political thing… and maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t…
… because as I’ve said previously, the biggest vampire-pipe draining blood out of you and your family’s jugulars isn’t to do with food… it’s the FIRE industries… Finance, Insurance, Real-Estate… and if you’re American, you can add Military to that as well. Until these get sorted (and by that I mean radically localised), growing your own food is just a gesture.
But gestures are good. Statements of possibility and intent. You’ve got to start somewhere… and the difference between 0 and 1 is far greater than that between 1 and 2.
I must confess a huge fascination with this stuff because I’m a geek, and geek’s love self-contained life-support systems… hence the photo at the top… and inspired by the Swedish box thing… I’ve grown my own high-rise strawberry farm.
See, it’s got a crafty drip-feed mechanism that requires endless fiddling to get an even distribution. There’s got to be an easier way.
So far it’s blown down once, and I think I’m going to have to make white or silver inserts… because the sun does get most ferocious hot in these parts and the bin-lining will act like an oven. It was inspired in part by the Rube Goldberg Garden I was on about earlier
In an urban context, space is the thing, so the errr… Internet, has a fascination for things grown vertically. This next one is a double win because it’s a closed (nearly) system AND it’s vertical:
Aquaponics. Marvelous… although the one doing all the talking says the word “poop” (pron “Pee-oop”) about 4 times more than is strictly necessary IMHO.
The greeny blogs love vertical farms to the extent that they’ll publish drawings of them and rave about them, pretending they’re real. This one does seem to be real… and isn’t from a greeny blog.
But these things need constant care, attention and luck…
Things don’t always work out.
About a year ago I came across this article in an NZ magazine… where a school in Scary South Auckland (Once Were Warriors-land) was having huge success growing vegetables… and the transformational effect it had on the kids… and the entire neighbourhood in fact. One of the most inspiring pieces I’ve read… especially the bit that goes:
“I was told it couldn’t work, because people would steal, but I don’t call it stealing or raiding, I call it helping themselves, and that’s great because that’s what it’s for. Those gardens belong to everybody at the school and in the community. We leave our gates open in the day and people come and go and we’ve never had damage in our garden. One measure of the project’s success is that they value what we’ve done.”
Unfortunately, the same thing was tried in my home town here – and a couple of days ago, vandals turned up and destroyed the lot. You can’t fuckwit-proof the world.
Maybe there’s a genetically-engineered angle on this… because (hearkening back to the Ancient Babylonian’s reluctance to weed)…
From Detroit again. You can’t stop mother nature etc.
That bottom photo is a classic – a beautiful old house but “someone (ie: a bank) owns it” so no one can live there and eventually it becomes uninhabitable. When I was a kid I once broke into a prospective squat in London (through the front window with a brick. It’s easy when you know how) – it had been empty for 8 years… and it was fucked. There were trees (literally) growing through the floor-boards… on the second floor!
There was nothing we could do… it was too far gone to live in… nature had won. It took 8 years of neglect.
So there you go. There’s no actual point to this blog-post to be honest… just a selection of links and photos etc around a theme… which I suspect may be something to do with vertical farming.
And in case you don’t want to farm plants… someone’s made a vertical bird-farm, which to me looks as scary as hell… the nesting place of Minions of Doom…
Which we haven’t figured out yet. Apparently back in the 1800s a slave cost about as much as a luxury car costs today. In 2009 you can pick up a slave in Haiti for about $50. And slavery is worse today than it was in the 1800s
There’s an interesting series of talks by the guy who wrote The Wire here – about The Wire being about the end of The American Empire.
I’m in love with the idea of being able to work 2 hours a day to support ourselves – which (as far as I can gather) is one of the aims of the Open Farm Tech project… and at risk of seeming cavalier (as I already have) about one of the (if not THE) worst on-going, trans-millennia tradgedy that humanity has managed to inflict on itself… most of us are (in a diluted sort of way) still slaves. Most of us will spend most of our lives working just to survive… so someone else can get rich. It’s ok. It’s livable. We could do better.
For vast swathes of humanity, NOT being a slave is a life-threatening condition. We’ve created this system based upon scarcity where for the majority of people, if you’re not part of the system, you can’t feed yourself – even if you did have a machine that can do the work of 70 slaves – because the land is owned by someone else, and we’ve let this system evolve where you can’t own/use land without going through a (long) period of dilute slavery.
I’m rapidly coming round to the idea that the biggest problem we have isn’t corporatism, it’s the monetary system. Corporatism is just a byproduct of this.