| by Kenneth Chase | 100 comments

A garden in my apartment | Britta Riley

I, like many of you, am one of the two billion people
on Earth who live in cities. And there are days —
I don’t know about the rest of you — but there are days when I palpably feel how much I rely on other people for pretty much everything in my life. And some days, that can even
be a little scary. But what I’m here
to talk to you about today is how that same interdependence is actually an extremely
powerful social infrastructure that we can actually harness to help heal some
of our deepest civic issues, if we apply open-source collaboration. A couple of years ago, I read an article by New York Times
writer Michael Pollan, in which he argued that growing
even some of our own food is one of the best things
that we can do for the environment. Now at the time that I was reading this, it was the middle of the winter and I definitely did not have room
for a lot of dirt in my New York City apartment. So I was basically just willing to settle for just reading the next Wired magazine and finding out how the experts
were going to figure out how to solve all these problems
for us in the future. But that was actually exactly the point that Michael Pollan
was making in this article — it’s precisely when we hand over the responsibility
for all these things to specialists that we cause the kind of messes
that we see with the food system. So, I happen to know
a little bit from my own work about how NASA has been using hydroponics to explore growing food in space. And that you can actually
get optimal nutritional yield by running a kind of high-quality
liquid soil over plants’ root systems. Now to a vegetable plant, my apartment has got to be
about as foreign as outer space. But I can offer some natural light and year-round climate control. Fast-forward two years later: we now have window farms, which are vertical, hydroponic platforms for food-growing indoors. And the way it works
is that there’s a pump at the bottom, which periodically sends this liquid
nutrient solution up to the top, which then trickles down
through plants’ root systems that are suspended in clay pellets — so there’s no dirt involved. Now light and temperature vary
with each window’s microclimate, so a window farm requires a farmer, and she must decide what kind of crops she is going
to put in her window farm, and whether she is going
to feed her food organically. Back at the time, a window farm was no more
than a technically complex idea that was going to require
a lot of testing. And I really wanted it
to be an open project, because hydroponics is one of the fastest
growing areas of patenting in the United States right now, and could possibly become
another area like Monsanto, where we have a lot of corporate
intellectual property in the way of people’s food. So I decided that,
instead of creating a product, what I was going to do was open this up
to a whole bunch of codevelopers. The first few systems that we created,
they kind of worked. We were actually able to grow
about a salad a week in a typical New York City
apartment window. And we were able to grow cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, all kinds of stuff. But the first few systems were these leaky, loud power-guzzlers that Martha Stewart
would definitely never have approved. (Laughter) So to bring on more codevelopers, what we did was we created
a social media site on which we published the designs, we explained how they worked, and we even went so far as to point out everything
that was wrong with these systems. And then we invited people
all over the world to build them and experiment with us. So actually now on this website, we have 18,000 people. And we have window farms
all over the world. What we’re doing
is what NASA or a large corporation would call R&D,
or research and development. But what we call it is R&D-I-Y, or “research and develop it yourself.” (Laughter) So, for example, Jackson came along and suggested that we use air pumps
instead of water pumps. It took building a whole bunch
of systems to get it right, but once we did, we were able to cut
our carbon footprint nearly in half. Tony in Chicago has been taking on
growing experiments, like lots of other window farmers, and he’s been able to get
his strawberries to fruit for nine months of the year
in low-light conditions by simply changing out
the organic nutrients. And window farmers in Finland
have been customizing their window farms for the dark days of the Finnish winters by outfitting them with LED grow lights that they’re now making
open source and part of the project. So window farms have been evolving through a rapid versioning process
similar to software. And with every open source project, the real benefit is the interplay between the specific concerns
of people customizing their systems for their own particular concerns, and the universal concerns. So my core team and I are able to concentrate
on the improvements that really benefit everyone. And we’re able to look out
for the needs of newcomers. So for do-it-yourselfers, we provide free,
very well-tested instructions so that anyone, anywhere around the world, can build one of these systems for free. And there’s a patent pending
on these systems as well that’s held by the community. And to fund the project, we partner to create products that we then sell
to schools and to individuals who don’t have time
to build their own systems. Now within our community,
a certain culture has appeared. In our culture,
it is better to be a tester who supports someone else’s idea than it is to be just the idea guy. What we get out of this project
is support for our own work, as well as an experience
of actually contributing to the environmental movement in a way other than just
screwing in new light bulbs. But I think that Eleen expresses best what we really get out of this, which is the actual joy of collaboration. So she expresses here what it’s like to see someone halfway across the world having taken your idea, built upon it and then acknowledging
you for contributing. If we really want to see
the kind of wide consumer behavior change that we’re all talking about
as environmentalists and food people, maybe we just need
to ditch the term “consumer” and get behind the people
who are doing stuff. Open source projects
tend to have a momentum of their own. And what we’re seeing is that R&D-I-Y has moved beyond
just window farms and LEDs into solar panels and aquaponic systems. And we’re building upon innovations
of generations who went before us. And we’re looking ahead at generations who really need us
to retool our lives now. So we ask that you join us in rediscovering the value
of citizens united, and to declare
that we are all still pioneers. (Applause)



Mar 3, 2016, 1:48 am Reply

Overly complicated so they can make money off an old idea. Why all the pumps and "special equipment"? People have been growing plants in their windows for as long as I can remember without all this. Doesn't seem right for a TED talk to be selling stuff. Thought it was supposed to be inspiring.

Blank reg

Mar 3, 2016, 4:07 pm Reply

Fantastic idea…… thank you for you video 🙂

Educating Savvas

Mar 3, 2016, 8:37 pm Reply

Is it just me or does the website not work?

Hany Aziz

Mar 3, 2016, 12:15 pm Reply

excellent .


Mar 3, 2016, 11:13 pm Reply

are u vegan tho

Chris Banana

Apr 4, 2016, 11:53 pm Reply

So what do i do get when i get fines from my HOA and city for growing plants in my house?

Sheryl Castro

Apr 4, 2016, 7:57 pm Reply

Wow!! Awesome job Leading "Pioneers" =)

Jin Kang

Apr 4, 2016, 2:39 am Reply

in my opinion it is another way of "greenhouse" hang on the windows and equipped with pump

Nina Vermeulen

May 5, 2016, 6:40 pm Reply

Hi, i'm from Belgium and I love this idea and want to try it. But for some reason i can't get on the rndiy website and i really want to! Is the problem just with me or do other people experience the same problem? and can somebody maybe help me ?

Maria Morales

Jun 6, 2016, 1:53 am Reply

I also have a limited space and vertical gardening save a lot of space and budget wise all of my vegetables and herbs consumption came to my garden, a lot of savings in my pocket and always eat fresh. I have my compose bin, and saved me a lot, buying garden fertilizer are also expensive, using organic compose yield twice of the harvest. Gardening is so rewarding. Yes, hydroponic is also an options and this is an excellent idea for people with limited space. Post more videos about hydroponic. Thank you in sharing

Helen B

Jul 7, 2016, 2:53 am Reply

What if you have no electric for the pump to work then what?


Jul 7, 2016, 2:18 pm Reply

Where is she now? You can't find her on the internet at all! No news about what she did with the fund raiser money also.

jo Cobbett

Jul 7, 2016, 6:19 am Reply

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windowfarm answers some ????


Aug 8, 2016, 3:16 am Reply

Where can we find the water pump? Or how can we make a water pump and how to use it?


Aug 8, 2016, 4:01 am Reply

Honestly you can do this without the pumping systems or anything powered. You can easily water indoor window farmers manually. You just need to know what you need nutrient wise.


Sep 9, 2016, 11:32 am Reply

And really, no one suggested to use milk bottles instead of PET plastic? :/

Allie Fettig

Sep 9, 2016, 3:54 pm Reply

Look at all those wires on her back. She's a ROBOT!

Jon Tor Strøm

Sep 9, 2016, 9:59 pm Reply

Be the change! I Will consider This once i get my own place great idea!

Lone Wolf

Oct 10, 2016, 8:55 pm Reply

When she mentioned hydroponics and Monsanto I decided to turn off my YouTube, good night folks.

Josh Stuchbery

Nov 11, 2016, 9:59 am Reply

People power doesn't lie within what you can force the government, or anyone else do, it lies within what YOU can do.


Jan 1, 2017, 4:57 pm Reply

Britta Riley's Kickstarter was a scam. I donated over $100 for a window farm and she hasn't delivered to myself, nor has she delivered to HUNDREDS of international backers.


Teresa Baker

Jan 1, 2017, 3:39 pm Reply


Archana Chimantrawar

Jan 1, 2017, 2:48 pm Reply

no. 2 ye sal mera kasa jayega

Siobhan Vida Ashmole

Feb 2, 2017, 10:32 am Reply

We apply Open Source principals to our food/medicine/eco start-ups, and it's great to see such a good example of crowd sourcing innovation; but what on earth happened to them? I can't find anything on Britta Riley or RNDIY and it seems from the comments she was either a scamster, a sellout or sued by big business? Very strange end to a too-good-to-be-true story. We need real solutions.

janet lesley

Feb 2, 2017, 11:10 am Reply

TED talks have gone way downhill. R&D model of how to get it done for free.

Barbara Aspengen

Feb 2, 2017, 1:41 am Reply

This is the NEATNESS thing i have ever heard of so wonderful &enlightening.


Feb 2, 2017, 12:58 pm Reply

The website do not work 🙁

Gia Alvarado

Mar 3, 2017, 6:57 pm Reply

This is beautiful and amazing


Mar 3, 2017, 4:26 am Reply

Was really interested in this, but after a quick Google search, it looks like heaps of Kickstarter backers never received their kit or a refund. The website is now down and Britta has disappeared. Disappointing.


Mar 3, 2017, 1:52 pm Reply

ted talks are infomercials.


Mar 3, 2017, 4:13 pm Reply


bb bk

Mar 3, 2017, 9:54 pm Reply

come and go. They watch few hydro concepts and try to summarize it, then pull "community patents. All those concepts shown on plans and amateur research she did her homework good and plants are for ppl not patents or kickstarts


Mar 3, 2017, 10:51 pm Reply

wow? thank you?
my drim is a ???♻??????????????????????

Loek Peters

Apr 4, 2017, 2:26 pm Reply

url does not work. Domain is for sale….

Snake 27

Apr 4, 2017, 6:42 pm Reply

dude .. the sollution is to move out of the city and just grow in soil .. and stop exploiting soil for other purposes.. pff.Hidrophonic bullshit , plants like those aren´t supposed to grow in water!?


Apr 4, 2017, 9:28 am Reply

Be careful; devious Governments want to build on what land we have that is still virgin. Window farming is OK but it is finer to grow food naturally in the soil as has been done for millennia. No matter how successful on the surface window farming aquaponics and tower gardening becomes; on a wholesome level naturally grown food will beat it hands down. One day people will look back and wonder how we could ever allow ourselves to be robbed of the fields and be forced to growing food in plastic bottles rather than in the good earth as nature meant us to do
Return to the land and protect it; and you will protect your families future.


Jamine Regnier

Apr 4, 2017, 6:02 am Reply



Apr 4, 2017, 9:45 pm Reply

nice idea but this would never work in my place . my windows barly get 2 hours of sun a day in the longest days in summer so i need a grow light . this thing wont last a week in my place

Bhupesh Rakhra

Apr 4, 2017, 10:39 am Reply

Awesome. How do I join this community?

Lila Lundquist

Apr 4, 2017, 5:55 pm Reply

Why would you need her products when there are millions of people building their own systems at home with minimal amounts of cash. She basically stole the ideas of other people for profit. It's not her idea at all. Anyone can figure out how to do this at home. There's so much information available on how to do this yourself. This woman is just a business woman looking to cash in on other people's ideas, and nothing more.

Dennis Atherton

May 5, 2017, 12:56 pm Reply

I got scared from the moment she mentioned MONSANTO and even WORST, PATENTS (the reason the world is stuck with fossil energy and any over revolutionary idea that is some companys draw, and you cant use it even if you invent it from your own mind)

Ethan Locke

May 5, 2017, 1:02 am Reply

this makes me sick. This rivals the Makerbot opensource betrayal, though it seems more personal as it involves food.

Where is the community now?

Gamer *

May 5, 2017, 10:03 am Reply

The website is not working, it just shows ads related to similar stuff.

Elvin Ames

May 5, 2017, 4:35 am Reply

So, let me get this straight. They took people's ideas from all over the world, had a kickstart account to raise money, patent it, and her & her associates are profiting from the idea by selling it 5-10x more than it would cost to "DIY". And all those people who shelled out money to "fund" this venture were left in the dust, along with the people who spent time and energy helping create the idea. Well, isn't that interesting?

Heena Shah

May 5, 2017, 8:49 am Reply

What studies I will have to do for learning this???

Kelly Lugo

Jun 6, 2017, 8:18 pm Reply

How disappointing. The website is now no longer working.

Peter Ksenic

Jun 6, 2017, 3:12 pm Reply

Is consumed electricity cost effective to grow the plant? Isnt it more expensive?

Ryan Plethra

Jun 6, 2017, 11:31 am Reply

I'll tell you what, and this isn't from someone who plays with trash to put food on the table (even though hydroponics is a great idea for herbs and cherry tomatos). The downfall to hydroponics large scale is the maintenance, and since it's liquid you're dealing with you need a "container" just as big as the system itself to use when the pipes need to be cleaned and whatnot.

Lia Laura

Jun 6, 2017, 5:48 pm Reply

So amazing!

amnah alholi

Jun 6, 2017, 2:33 am Reply

Hydroponic is not growing your food alone ,, you depend on the mass companies .. Monsanto is a bad evil company to our environment


Jun 6, 2017, 2:32 pm Reply

You lost me at NASA

A Peculiar Gentleman

Jul 7, 2017, 12:05 am Reply

Michael Faraday was a born again Christian from 19th century England. It was through him that we have electricity and that our eyes were opened to electromagnetism. Yet, Michael Faraday was paid an inadequate wage by the Royal Institution and furthermore, he turned down lucrative consultation work in the private sector in order to devote his time to research which ultimately lead to the betterment of human civilisation.
Why don't we have scientists and pioneers like this anymore?


Aug 8, 2017, 4:09 pm Reply

Britta Riley , you totally look like Angie Tribeca actress Rashida Jones.

Wade Patton

Aug 8, 2017, 5:37 pm Reply

The idea is great, the program got fucked over for money. Whoops. Suppose I'll DIY-my-damn-self.

Wade Patton

Aug 8, 2017, 5:40 pm Reply

Boo for TED on this one.

María Paloma Cordero Martinez

Sep 9, 2017, 9:54 am Reply

this is so sad 🙁 look this website: http://www.windowfarmsfraud.com

Alma Frain

Sep 9, 2017, 11:42 am Reply


Nenad pesut

Oct 10, 2017, 9:54 pm Reply

Greath!! 🙂 Soon i go to live in Malta,and i try to make in my apartment and to share with you and all Plant people 😀 😀 😀

Rebecca Conn

Oct 10, 2017, 5:26 am Reply

I am headed in a different direction, I am eating native plants. They grow so easily that it is a bit of a mockery of the drudgery of gardening. I grow microgreens indoors all winter and eat greens daily. This year I added two wild tomato plants from cuttings from outside. Herbs all winter for cooking. I do have 9 windows and grow a lot of food inside. My saffron crocus is about to bloom and give me saffron, the most expensive spice, but I will plant nasturtium right afterwards for greens. This is fun, and I recommend any way that you like.

B Mangla

Dec 12, 2017, 2:53 pm Reply

very nice

tess macie

Dec 12, 2017, 3:42 am Reply


Paul Bengtsson

Jan 1, 2018, 11:22 pm Reply

This looks like a nice setup.



Jan 1, 2018, 4:03 pm Reply

:30sec in and can't pronounce the new word you just learned, next.

passky dejaico

Jan 1, 2018, 4:50 am Reply

thanks for ted talks…empowering innovations to make the a world a better place…more blessings from the almighty

Rebecca Conn

Jan 1, 2018, 10:20 pm Reply

Please note that a tin can with a nail hole in the bottom and an edible plant in native soil is no muss no fuss no money. A can of spray paint will tart it up. Two cans, outside catches drainage and inside holds plants. I saw zillions in Mexican windows growing tons of vegetables flowers fruit. Millenials: please try not to make this too hard, and do not send money.

Rebecca Conn

Jan 1, 2018, 10:22 pm Reply

Any little pot will grow beans. Edible greens as well as green beans and dried beans.

paul kervin

Jan 1, 2018, 1:07 pm Reply

I am going to do this on a small scale.thank you for this 🙂

Gee Wiz

Jan 1, 2018, 9:01 pm Reply


Kell Brigan

Feb 2, 2018, 8:26 pm Reply

Dear Lord, woman. It's just lettuce.

RapistAndFalse ProphetMuhammed

Feb 2, 2018, 5:10 pm Reply

Growing food is the most important job in the entire world ! The day when children say they want to become a farmer when they grow up, that is the day you will know the generation is becoming wiser .

Hudson Jaxson

Feb 2, 2018, 8:16 am Reply

Dont you mean he/she?

Anil Önür

Feb 2, 2018, 5:13 pm Reply

lol this is genius. im in

Hamisa Hamis

Feb 2, 2018, 4:31 am Reply

EYah, love this ideal. I have garden ini room

Pedro Garcia

Feb 2, 2018, 5:24 am Reply

My roommate sent me this video last night and we are about to dive in on the idea

Derek O’Hara

Feb 2, 2018, 3:04 pm Reply

Very, very cool! Starting my own window farm soon.


Mar 3, 2018, 6:39 pm Reply

So did this project come to a halt? Haven't heard, or website has not been updated.


Apr 4, 2018, 9:26 am Reply

Hydroponics is bad for the environment, eventually this system needs to dump the unused liquid chemicals, plus acquire more water resources, the use of carbon energy which is not efficient.
Aquaponics (hydroponics system using fish bio-waste for plant nutrients) this method recycles consistently. Heavy fish solids is reused in garden's & compost, also aquaponics feeds an ecosystem of fruits & vegetables. Whereas hydro fertilizer is sythetically designed to provide nutrients to 1 individual species..


Apr 4, 2018, 4:43 am Reply

The best way is for her to act as a trader for growers and the marketplace. This could be extra income to a community.


Apr 4, 2018, 3:12 am Reply

If you're at all interested in this (as I was) I'll save you some time. "Window Farms" went out of business but the community version can be found here: https://windowgardeners.org/

See also:
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windowfarm#Controversy_and_complaints
– http://www.windowfarmsfraud.com/
– https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/windowfarms/learn-to-grow-and-share-with-new-windowfarms/comments

Kadesh Hendricksen

Apr 4, 2018, 4:39 am Reply



May 5, 2018, 12:50 pm Reply


Shiva Kumar Rastogi

May 5, 2018, 11:44 pm Reply

Interesting and very nice video, thank you for making it. We tried to make rectangular shaped garden pot for limited space in apartment – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBkxHtuJVrc

mehst one

May 5, 2018, 3:03 am Reply

lmao these guys got nothing on the marijuana hydroponics hippie knowledge


May 5, 2018, 9:36 am Reply

I grow mint by my window, it grows fast its just sitting in a jar with some of the roots near the base of the plant out of the nutrient water for oxygen


Jun 6, 2018, 7:12 am Reply

The plastic can leech into food items…

Michaels Paper Dolls

Jun 6, 2018, 11:38 am Reply

We plant vegetables in our yard a habit passed down by my grandmother. In our school and house we use empty plastic bottles and cans as pot.

Ron Bowers

Jun 6, 2018, 1:53 am Reply

Michael Pollen is great

Sonu Chaurasiya

Aug 8, 2018, 7:08 am Reply


Jungle Theme

Oct 10, 2018, 3:23 am Reply

Everybody knows that hydroponic weed is very very different from weed that is grown outside. I believe growing food hydroponically is a mistake. Plants need the actual sun. We need the actual sun.

Sandya raju Raju

Nov 11, 2018, 12:34 am Reply


Health Mind & More

Dec 12, 2018, 8:21 pm Reply

The site is dead. Please anyone got new links ?

Michael Adamson

Dec 12, 2018, 1:57 pm Reply

"she" whats with the feminist rhetoric….that ruins permaculture….i

Asan Emirsale

Jan 1, 2019, 10:55 pm Reply

does it work?

Mamadaliev Kamil

Mar 3, 2019, 10:47 am Reply

Какой же сайт у них сейчас

Stephanie Jordan

Mar 3, 2019, 7:27 am Reply

So peaceful so full of life.

A. T. Hawke

Apr 4, 2019, 7:15 pm Reply

The rndiy.org website is gone.

mohsen aziz arts

Apr 4, 2019, 11:20 am Reply

Great talk! Thank you


May 5, 2019, 6:34 am Reply



Jul 7, 2019, 7:06 pm Reply

Another person presenting a community enhancing idea when it was ultimately a lie and eventually a cash grab. A miniature Theranos. There's a theme there I think…

Diana Bernardellli

Jul 7, 2019, 4:19 am Reply

im so interested

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