Spring - Compact Growing Environment

Spring is a compact growing environment that empowers anyone to cultivate fresh produce in the home.

"Eating is an agricultural act" (Wendell Berry)

With a world of unsustainable farming practices, record high obesity rates in the West and huge amounts of food waste, something is wrong with the way we produce and process our food.

Looking at contemporary urban lifestyles, we found a strong desire for people to grow their own food, however a lack of space and time results in this need being ignored and unresolved.

This is why we designed Spring. By confronting people with the growing process and the provenance of their food in a simple and convenient way, we seek to rebuild what we see as a fading relationship between us and what we eat.

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User Friendly Hydroponics

Spring combines a hydroponic irrigation system and a controlled environment, allowing anyone to grow a diverse range of produce.

Climate controlled environment

Spring regulates temperature, humidity and light cycles to ensure that the plants grow strong and healthy, using a heater, fan, humidifier, and a custom LED grow light. The unit also monitors pH and nutrient concentrations to ensure water quality.

Hydroponic system

Spring distributes water and nutrients to the plants using the Nutrient Film Technique. We merged the reservoir and the growing space to make the design compact and to stabilise the root zone temperature.

Promoting Diversity

By regulating climates, Spring can grow a wide range of produce including cucamelons or pink oyster mushrooms, but also enhance nutrition, 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.

Design Process - Future Probing & Signal Mapping

Connecting signals and trends and create future scenarios.

Signal mapping

The ability to assess the most promising context of an innovation is an important advantage in the ideation process. We collected all the different areas of interest and mapped them out on a quadrant map from weak to strong signal and local to global. Strong signals with a global impact tend to be the most obvious and this space is probably already crowded, however, if a signals is still weak but has a global impact it presents a great opportunity for innovation.

Future Scenarios

Future Probing offers completely different pathway into a design brief than other than, for example, the Problem Solving approach. Asking yourself "What if ... " questions opens a vision of a future with a whole range of design problems that cannot be anticipated in the present:

"What if fertile soil became a rare commodity?"

Following the direction of current trends far into the future can generate novel ideas. This method was developed and thought at the Royal College of Art by Jack Mama and Clive van Heerden of vHM Design Futures

Future Vision

By networking Spring with larger growing units, we can easily scale the amount of produce we grow ourselves or diversify the way in which our food is produced.

Diversification is key to the future of a secure food system, due to harmful industrial agricultural practices such as mono-cropping, 65% of the world’s agricultural land shows signs of overuse and degradation. We see Spring as one of many alternatives to a damaging status quo.

Project Details

This was the final year group project of the Global Innovation Design Masters Programme at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College, London. It was complete in a team of three including Edward Brial, John Bertolaso and myself.