Building symbiosis between man and nature

Spring is a compact automated growing environment that empowers anyone to cultivate a huge range of fresh produce in the home. More than simple appliance, Spring serves as a probe into ways in which we can live more symbiotically with nature. With a world of unsustainable farming practices, record high obesity rates in the West and huge amounts of food waste, it is clear that our relationship with food and its production is broken. The unit therefore also symbolically represents the extent of this disconnect.

The concept of Spring was developed based on the foundations put forward in our manifesto for the future of food production.

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Future scoping

As for most of my recent projects, the process started with a general investigation into a variety of topics (technologies, sciences, arts, culture, fashion, agriculture, materials…). Bits of information, trends and signals were then mapped as part of the ‘future scoping’ phase. This was followed by in-depth research, which included the creation of reference and inspiration boards. Considering a growing global population and climate volatility, we decided to focus on the future of food and agriculture. Our research, resources and contacts led us to look at this topic particularly in the context the home within the ‘developed world’.

Growing plants is difficult

In order to understand what plants need, what makes them happy and what helps them taste delicious, we grew them, a lot of them. We lost many in the process, and many got weird diseases, but our experiment taught us a lot. We also built an advanced research food computed created by MIT’s OpenAg group, and through an iterative process, developed the final design of the unit.

A pump and a fan

Spring combines a hydroponic system and a controlled environment to create ideal growing conditions for a diverse range of produce. Using Nutrient Film Technique, the unit system distributes water and nutrients to the plants. We merged the reservoir and the growing space to make the design compact and to stabilise the root zone temperature. Using a heater, fan, humidifier, and a custom LED grow light, the unit regulates temperature, humidity and light cycles to ensure that the plants grow strong and healthy. Spring also monitors pH and nutrient concentrations to ensure water quality.

A unique diversity

By regulating climates, the unit can grow a wide range of produce including cucamelons or pink oyster mushrooms, but also alter the nutritional properties of those (for example with vitamin D enhanced mushrooms or low potassium lettuce). Users can control the unit through their phones, where they can also order plants and nutrients through a subscription service.

Future vision

Diversification is key to the future of a secure food system as due to harmful industrial agricultural practices such as mono-cropping, 65% of the world’s agricultural land shows signs of overuse and degradation. By networking Spring with other growing units of different sizes, production can be scaled and diversified. With the integration of such systems in the home, the very idea of the home is then challenged as it becomes a literal living space.

Project in collaboration with Edward Brial and Gabriel Brückner. Read our food manifesto here.
2016 | Royal College of Art