Farmshelf Pod

Growing Local Community project

Space may be limited and we don’t all have back yards, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fresh food or plants. Combining 3D printing with farming is at the heart of Growing Local.

A few months ago, Pioneer Gemma Amendola told me about her relocation from Michigan to Washington state, and about the wildfires and air pollution that she encountered near her new home. Her situation made her wonder if she could 3D print vertical gardens and grow plants that could help to clean the air. She wanted to work with her local agriculture department to figure out which plants would be best to include in her garden.

While it would take quite a few plants to absorb all the smoke from the Washington state wildfires, Gemma's idea planted a seed that inspired another 2018 Community Project.

Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist argue in Waste to Wealth that "3D printing in local value chains leads to a quicker turnaround on product design, development, and time to market. It also reduces costs for transportation, design, and development" (Lacy, Peter, and Jakob Rutqvist. “Driving the Technology and Digital Edge in Circular Advantage.” Waste to Wealth: the Circular Economy Advantage, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, p. 147). 3D printing and urban or vertical farming have much in common if you consider how these innovative local production systems are disrupting manufacturing and agriculture respectively.  In both instances, products and food can be produced and distributed where and when they are needed. These technologies also conserve time, resources, and money. The resiliency afforded by 3D printing allows for customization and iteration, while farming in unconventional spaces produces crops that can be picked at their peak and transported from field to fork in a time that preserves most of the inherent nutrients. Innovative farming techniques can also use less water, grow plants faster and without pesticides, eliminate a dependency on seasons, and allow one to grow food in surprising places, like in Claus Meyer’s Great Northern Food Hall restaurant in Grand Central.

I once read in the New York Times that vertical gardens began in 1988 as part of an experiment conducted by Patrick Blanc, a French botanist who was intent on creating a garden without dirt (Gardens That Grow on Walls). Unconventional farming can take advantage of hydroponics where plants are grown in a nutrient-rich basin of water, aeroponics, where crops’ roots are sprayed with a mist containing water and nutrients, or aquaponics, which involves breeding fish to help cultivate bacteria used for plant nutrients. Radios can let you communicate with your plants (see Botanicalls), and  microcontrollers can play a role in controlling how a plant grows by manipulating the light spectrum over periods of time (Manipulation of Light Environment to Produce High-quality Poinsettia Plants by Diego A. Mata, Javier F. Botto).

The challenge

The Ultimaker Community Team invites students, educators, and the community to design and incorporate 3D printing into vertical gardens, windowfarms or urban farming solutions from now until December 31, 2018. Adopt a high tech or a low tech approach, use soil or just water, but remember to share your designs on Youmagine, tag your solutions with #localGardenChallenge, and tell us about your harvests. We’ll celebrate and share the most successful solutions in early 2019.

Some resources

Some inspiration


Hydroponic Window Farm

by RockstarAlchemist



by coloursontheinside



by lars kaltenbach




by langfordw


Instructor Guide: Aquaponic

by Ultimaker Academy, Autodesk Sweden and Marki

For more information about this project, go to the Growing Local Community Project Page.