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We <3 Failure!! Kill those plants & dissect them!!

11:55 am in Being a good member of this community, Education, environmental impact, Help the project by testing this, kits, made from scratch (without a kit), our mission, Plants, posts with pitcures!, Version 1.0 Reservoir System, Version 2.0 airlift system, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns by Windowfarms

The moment I started really hating on those water pumps.

Failure is more interesting than success in our community.

In the windowfarms community, no design is final. Rather, we are constantly evolving the designs to better performance standards. They evolve because WE LOVE FAILURE.

You can think you have a brilliant design but, like the Titanic, most designs are subject to failure at some point and it’s only when you see how your design performs throughout several seasons and under unfavorable conditions that you learn its true merits and shortcomings. We are fascinated with merits and shortcomings. Distinguishing between them is the core of what we do.

In our community, value comes- not from having the idea that works- but from BEING A GOOD TESTER.

@ajinil is one of my favorite pioneering testers, who is trying growing strawberries year-round in a snow-laden environment with no supplemental lighting by simply supplying flowering nutrients. So far, he has kept the plants flowering for 9 months!

Innovation can be painful. Death brings moments of revelation for windowfarmers doing R&D-I-Y. Ok. So I was only fake crying in the image above, but I was super bummed about losing my okra plants. After letting off a little steam, we were really able to take inventory of issues from this die-off. Ultimately, this was the last version 1 system we built after determining that nutrients just plain like to clog both water pumps and drip emitters as particulate matter builds up over time and clogs pathways. Failure also motivates progress. This is when the airlift technique started to seem a lot more attractive and worth pursuing. Ian, Ania, and I got to work on tweeking the airlift to work for windowfarms just a few days after this came down.

The MOST interesting moments are the ones right before your plants die (=FAIL= YAY!). What was that edge condition you managed to rock for a while? What can we learn from it?

Dry roots the result of clogged reservoir drippers in a V1 system

A mature plant’s root conditions are the best way to assess the workability of your windowfarm design.

I have a dissection table set up next to my windowfarms and as soon as I kill a plant (and trust me, I kill a LOT of plants with all of the frankenstein systems we have in the core team’s shop, where we test out the community’s ideas), I take it out, look at the root situation in the net cup and see what killed it. Were the roots massive and healthy right before they died? Did they dry out? Did I have spider mites? Are there any signs of rot? Were the factors that killed it particular to this plant or to the system? Would other people have this problem as well?

So maybe you want your windowfarm to thrive– totally valid. That’s why we give you two columns in the kits. One you can have be a control column, where you give your plants ideal conditions and allow them to thrive. Consider dedicating your other column to research. Take on an experimental conditions, fail, and report back!


by britta

First Patent Pending

2:28 am in Education, Version 3.0 Modular Airlift Columns, Windowfarms Project News by britta

The first patent is pending, thanks to the generosity of Rafe Furst.

As the area of open hardware/mechanics intellectual property law gets sorted out, this patent pending status secures the community’s design against patent trolls but keeps the designs free & in the public domain for individuals who accept the community’s open terms of service.

In general, the larger opensource community takes a stance against patenting in favor of Creative Commons and GNU licenses. However, the information we are sharing on this site is different from those other projects because it is not covered by copyright or trademark law– we are dealing almost exclusively in the area of patentable knowledge.  The kinds of ideas window farmers deal with are different from those that open hardware folks deal with because the end product is seldom a circuit board layout, between two of which it would be (arguably) easier to identify one as a physical or functional copy than say a pump design or a configuration of valves.

Why pursue a patent and not just let anyone do whatever he/she wants with the information shared here like so many other opensource projects do? We would like to do that, but we recognize some other unusual circumstances in this area and, thus, believe that we would better serve our community through proactive patenting paired with royalty-free licenses for non-commercial individuals.

We want to keep hydroponics from going the way of Monsanto & the pharmaceutical industries. We do not want yet another valuable lifegiving human resource to be tied up in corporate intellectual property. Consider three assumptions we face:

1) Anyone on this site has already thought about the idea that growing hydroponically makes sense as one of the best ways to supply fresh food to people in cities, making the intellectual possibilities in this area fit into what is called the commons.

2) Our attorneys (many of whom have given us pro bono advice worth thousands of dollars) have told us that hydroponics is one of the most active areas of patenting in the US currently. This makes it a valuable area of public knowledge, a candidate for over-harvesting, and subject to the tragedy of the commons.

3) Our attorneys have also recognized that the popularity of this project in conjunction with 2), means that the community’s ideas are a good target for patent trolls, who are often patent attorneys who find and patent aspects of successful products or ideas that have not already been patented and then find ways to financially benefit from current users of the idea.

Thus, proactive patenting + royalty-free licenses is the path we have chosen, for the time being, to keep a tech that’s vital to healthy future cities in the public domain. We welcome your comments and look forward to seeing how the opensource movement makes inroads into the complex area of IP law.

If you would like to support us and help contribute to our extensive legal consulting and administrative costs of keeping windowfarms opensource and free from patent issues, please visit our contribute page.

by britta2

Finnish Windowfarms Team Adds LED light component

2:05 am in Completed Window Farms, electronic components, energy consumption, Materials and Resources, posts with pitcures!, Windowfarms Project News by britta2

Please check out the excellent work of the Finnish Windowfarms team. This shot is a sneak preview of them installing the first few LED lights on the windowfarm they made out of Finnish recyclables in the window of the Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum in Helsinki.

Their work on adapting the Windowfarms Project for Finland is part of a larger program called Herbologies/Foraging Networks at the Pixelache festival happening this month in Helsinki.

Niko Punin was responsible for development of the grow spectrum LEDs and has some very interesting ideas that we will be watching closely in the future!

More pictures here:

Windowfarms Finland on Facebook