Urban Aquaponics, Internet and Food

“My garden is sending tweets!” Eric Maundu

Just came across this amazing video in which Eric Maundu talks about his start-up “Kijani Grows” (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), a small startup that designs and sells custom aquaponics systems for growing food using cheap technology including arduino boards. Toby and I often talk about “closed loop systems”, this is a great example of one.

“The land in West Oakland where Eric Maundu is trying to farm is covered with freeways, roads, light rail and parking lots so there’s not much arable land and the soil is contaminated. So Maundu doesn’t use soil. Instead he’s growing plants using fish and circulating water. It’s called aquaponics- a gardening system that combines hydroponics (water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish farming). It’s been hailed as the future of farming: it uses less water (up to 90% less than traditional gardening), doesn’t attract soil-based bugs and produces two types of produce (both plants and fish). Aquaponics has become popular in recent years among urban gardeners and DIY tinkerers, but Maundu- who is trained in industrial robotics- has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his gardens smart. Using sensors (to detect water level, pH and temperature), microprocessors (mostly the open-source Arduino microcontroller), relay cards, clouds and social media networks (Twitter and Facebook), Maundu has programmed his gardens to tweet when there’s a problem (e.g. not enough water) or when there’s news (e.g. an over-abundance of food to share).
Maundu himself ran from agriculture in his native Kenya- where he saw it as a struggle for land, water and resources. This changed when he realized he could farm without soil and with little water via aquaponics and that he could apply his robotics background to farming. Today he runs Kijani Grows (“Kijani” is Swahili for green), a small startup that designs and sells custom aquaponics systems for growing food and attempts to explore new frontiers of computer-controlled gardening. Maundu believes that by putting gardens online, especially in places like West Oakland (where his solar-powered gardens are totally off the grid), it’s the only way to make sure that farming remains viable to the next generation of urban youth.”

Author: Arthur Mamou-Mani

Arthur Mamou-Mani AA dipl, ARB/RIBA FRSA – is a French architect, director of Mamou-Mani Architects, specialised in a new kind of digitally designed and fabricated architecture. He is a lecturer at the University of Westminster and owns a digital fabrication laboratory called the Fab.Pub which allows people to experiment with large 3D Printers and Laser Cutters. Arthur has been selected as one of the RIBAj's 2017 cohort of Rising Stars. He has won the Gold Prize at the American Architecture Prize for the Wooden Wave project installed at BuroHappold Engineering and since 2016, he is a fellow of the The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Prior to founding Mamou-Mani in 2011, he worked with Atelier Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid Architects and Proctor and Matthews Architects.

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