How 3D Printing is Transforming Urban Farming
BEAU JACKSON DECEMBER 21, 2017
With limited green spaces and temperate environments, cities are a challenging habitat for growing herbs and vegetables. The perfect addition to any dish, high quality fresh produce often comes with a designer price tag too. With the help of 3D printing though, a number of projects are here to prove that it can be done – without costing the earth.
Farmshelf is a company based in Brooklyn, New York, that makes a living by setting up compact shelving units for plants. Installed in restaurants, homes and residential communities, each Farmshelf is realized by custom parts made on a desktop FDM 3D printer.
And, in a side project from Jake Clark, co-founder of North Dakota 3D printing hub Fargo 3D Printing, FDM technology is used to make an Indoor Garden that helps manage the water content of your carrots.
A touch of blue sky thinking
At Farmshelf, 3D printing has enabled the company to bring its products to market much faster than anticipated. The customizable, modular layout out of each shelving unit can be designed, tested and refined on site in a fraction of the time and cost that it would if relying on traditional manufacturing.
The company uses an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer for product development, and Andrew Shearer, CEO and Co-Founder of Farmshelf, believes that the tech has been key to the company’s success. “As we approached prototyping all of these parts,” says Shearer, “Ultimaker proved to be a great solution,”
“For all the different needs we’ve had, from prototyping to small batch, short-run production parts, this technology enabled us to push forward our timelines, and keep this company on the fast track.”
Shelving brackets and small plant pods capable of holding enough soil to root a seedling are made on the Ultimaker 2+.
In turn, FDM technology has enabled Shearer to rethink Farmshelf’s business model, and devote more time to blue-sky ideas. Shearer adds, “As a company, you can now look at 3D printing as a way to involve more people in the building process, and involve more in the prototyping and dreaming process, thanks to how easy it is.”
With simple single-part planter designs and a grow-your-own project, Fargo’s Jake Clark puts carrot farming in the hands of anyone with access to a 3D printer.
Noticing a trend for handy household projects on sites like Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory, Clark explains, “It started out as something to see if I can grow plants while using 3D printing.”
In the first iteration, it is possible to grow a batch of 49 carrots, each enclosed inside its own protective pod. Taking great care in the design of his Indoor Garden modules, Clark added a well at the bottom of each planter that allows for runoff if a carrot is over watered.
“I’m hoping to add additional things later next year once I get past the first growing cycle (~80days) such as automated watering,” he adds. In a step by step summary, he also details how home users can add a 132w LED to give sunlight to the plants, and manage day – night duration. The modules were designed with Fusion 360, and test printed on a MakerBot Replicator Z18.
The .stl files of Clark’s Indoor Garden can be found online here.
A complete 3D printed Indoor Garden. Photo by Jake Clark/Fargo 3D Printing
Featured image shows an Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer used by Farmshelf. Photo via Ultimaker