Growing your own food is one of life’s great pleasures—plus it’s good for you and for the environment. But in increasingly tight, urban homes, we don’t all have room for gardens. And hydroponic systems, as appealing as they may be, often appear to be a whole lot of hardware for only a bit of actual green. Some fresh arugula would be nice for dinner, but who wants giant plastic box taking up half their kitchen to get a few leaves?
The Rotofarm, by an Australian company called Bace (which appears to have produced skincare products in a past life), is a space-friendly hydroponic system, and it doubles as a beautiful sculpture in your home. With a circular design, which rotates plants like a Ferris wheel through the day, the Rotofarm is able to fit nearly five feet of growing area inside a countertop footprint of just 11 inches. Water is dispersed through the nutrient and water reservoir in the stainless steel base, and a bright LED grow light lives in the middle like a tiny sun. Then to harvest, you can tilt the farm 180-degrees and pull off its clear cover. You take what you want (kale, mint, lettuce, spinach, or, yes, marijuana), and close it back up.
Of course, you might be wondering, will it work? Can you grow plants upside down? In fact, you can. NASA has discovered that root systems understand how to grow just fine in zero gravity. Meanwhile, existing rotary systems like the Omega Garden contend that moments of flipped gravity can actually help plants grow and flower, but you wouldn’t want the Omega Garden’s giant drums in your apartment. “The rotary design has been around in agriculture for a while, but these are things that take up a whole room with giant troughs of water underneath,” says Bace’s founder Toby Farmer (yes, his name is “farmer”). “Rotofarm is the first concept that really belongs inside the home.”
The Rotofarm is supposed to debut on Kickstarter next month. Despite connecting with Farmer on email, we’re left with all sorts of questions about its true feasibility. Will you need to buy the special, potentially expensive fertilizer packets for the machine seen in the teaser video? What’s the monthly power usage like? How will some teased automation features—from misting to overgrowth sensors—actually work? And of course, what will the whole thing cost?
As a prototype, the Rotofarm is intriguing. As a product, it has all sorts of everyday execution details that need to be just right for the system to be a productive joy rather than a big, annoying, green lamp. That said, so far, so good. Rotofarm offers a convincing thesis on the future of urban gardening. Now we’ll see if the Bace product team can deliver it.