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Refarm the city: open source tools for urban farmers

We’re becoming an urban planet – more than half of us live in cities – so if we want local food, we need to grow more in our cities.

Hernâni Dias and his collective from re:farm the city want to make sure that the world’s next generation of urban farmers have the tools to create a 21st Century urban farm.

The open source tools are published on their wiki where anyone can access “hardware (the urban farm, the composter, the electronics, the sensors, recycled materials, …) and software (build a farm according to your personal needs, your local vegetables, local gastronomy, …) that will give you the tools to design, control and manage your farm during her life.”

Gardening from the sofa

Re:farm provides open schematics so you can create boards that will let you monitor and control your farm from a remote location (re:farm on vacations), from the “sofa”/computer (re:farm on the sofa) and from the wall (re:farm on the wall). The boards use Arduino electronics, but have been tailored to fit the needs of an urban farmer.

The farms themselves are also completely customizable. There are passive watering farms, low-budget hydroponic farms, hanging farms and farms on wheels.

City trash as a resource

Much of what you can build here can be made from your city’s own trash. Re:farm offers ideas for making planters out of recycled items like plastic bottles, water dispensers or construction pallets.

Even the monitoring systems use those “true conquests of industrial design” that have somehow landed in our rubbish, like water pumps from car windshield wipers, water valves from washing machines and water pressure sensors from dishwashers.

Software to reconnect with nature

The electronics are pretty amazing- re:farm boards can sense light, temperature and humidity and control several water pumps and 220V lighting-, but Hernâni stresses that the software is equally important.

“The software is much more than the control of the garden. It’s what can help you reconnect to nature. The software tells you at what point you
are on the planet, what climate you have around you, what times of vegetables are nearby, what are the best adapted to your climate.”

In this video, we visit Hernâni’s rooftop garden in Cambrils, Spain where he shows us re:farm’s latest monitoring prototype, his no-maintenance
hydroponic system, his vermicomposter (an urban farming essential) and motherboards from refarm workshops in New York, Beijing, Barcelona and Buenos Aires.

Hernâni also gives us a peak at the latest re:farm which will be built on top of ruins of the Roman circus in Tarragona, Spain (dubbed Circus re:farm).