Waterfall Farm lifts vertical farming to new heights
Waterfall Farm lifts vertical farming to new heights
It lifts vertical farming to new heights
Transform light into life
These two paragraphs explain
the essence of the invention
And reinvents the traditional family farm
What could possibly be more important in this age of growing food insecurity?
It's the biggest agricultural innovation since the plow
Each plant-growing module
cascades into the
It's made in Iceland... how cool is that?
So go with the flow...
Nutrient fluid is cascaded into the top of this 32-foot tall farm (3 hydroponic towers are hung onto a single wooden mast). Each tower is comprised of 15 plant-growing modules that are removably hung in vertical formation so that nutrient fluid cascades through all of them. Fluid draining through each tower's lowest plant-growing module can be either discarded or recycled back to the top. Preferably, a compost-tea bioreactor is used to brew and pump the nutrient fluid (see further below).
Waterfall Farm's plant-growing towers
The farm's grow-module hoist
The "elevator-pole" is a drill-driven forklift that enables you to easily hoist and hang plant-growing modules onto any of the mast’s hydroponic towers. A Wi-Fi camera mounted on the pole’s moving hoist-arm enables you to easily see, engage and maneuver modules while standing at ground level. Velcro on the pole-stabilization arm located at the top of the mast enables secure operation as well as hands-free tending of the lowered plants .
A hybrid suburban farm
Next-generation Urban Farmer
It can easily scale-up for commercial farming
And Waterfall Farm isn't just for small-scale homesteading
The examples below show a 6 x 6 grid of masts; each mast has 14 plant-growing modules hung up each of its 4 sides. Since each removable plant-growing module typically contains 5 or more plants, over 10,000 of them can be cultivated on this small footprint (less than 1500 square feet).
Like the bicycle, Waterfall Farm solves a fundamental ergonomic problem
To make optimal use of land and water, urban farms must grow vertically; and since a vertical farm's productivity is directly proportional to its height, the system should be as tall as possible. By eliminating the need for ladders or scaffolding to access upper plant growth, now even back-yard gardeners can safely and comfortably farm on very tall towers. The drill-driven forklift enables growing-modules to be moved easily up and down tall towers... so the productivity of small gardening spaces can skyrocket .
It really does "Lift vertical farming to new heights", and it's not just about increased productivity. The ergonomic comfort of tending its crop is optimized because each plant module is delivered to the user at ground level and held at their ideal height for hands-free tending of the plants. No more repetitive bending and stretching!
It's also the lowest cost system imaginable!
The best metric for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of a vertical farming system covering a given area is its cost per unit volume of irrigated root mass. The factors listed below are what enable Waterfall Farm's tall towers to grow plants more economically that other systems.
1) It's an easy-to-assemble DIY kit that's designed for typical urban farmers. These typical householders assemble their Waterfall Farm from a compact kit of machined parts that form the elevator-pole's moving mechanism (its winch and forklift shuttle). The kit also includes enough plant-growing modules to furnish a 3-tower farm like the one shown at the top of this page (50 hanging grow-bags are included in the base kit). Also included in the starter kit are enough hardware and plumbing to build a 12-tower farm and irrigate them. The hardware kit is compact so it easily shipped to end users.
To construct their farm, the user supplies their own cordless drill (used to drive the elevator-pole), as well as their own action camera and smartphone (used for remote viewing pole of the module-lifting arm). Locally-procured lumber is used to assemble, the tall tower-supporting masts. The side of existing buildings can be used to support the towers; freestanding towers can also be anchored in concrete piers (like fence-posts) or used as structural elements in large greenhouse structures (as shown further below)
When you consider the fact that the un-farmed urban land on which it is built is virtually free and the tall towers contain an unusually large volume to irrigated root mass EDITING TEXT HERE IS STILL IN PROGRESS
Inspired by nature
Here's the ergonomic problem that our drill-driven forklift solves
Even these low-height systems force users to climb and stretch
But as systems get taller, the difficulty of providing access to their crop increases
As in any tall warehouse, efficient use of space requires some kind of lifting device
Motorized systems can solve that ergonomic problem but they are complex and expensive
The stabilization-arm is this invention's key enabling feature; without stabilization at its upper end, the very tall elevator-pole would exert enormous leverage on the user, thereby making it impossible to easily maneuver the pole and transport its attached modules. The mast's stabilizing arm shown here can be used in these 3 modes of operation:
Mode 1: This image shows the top of the elevator-pole being held close to its projecting stabilizer arm. The side of the wooden stabilizer-arm has a patch of high-strength Velcro on it that sticks to corresponding patches of Velcro on the front and rear sides of the elevator-pole. The user at ground level can easily engage or disengage the Velcro by turning the pole; the two smooth sides of the pole can also be leaned against the arm to provide some level of stabilization support during docking maneuvers with the plant-growing modules.
Mode 2: Once the drill-powered winch has lifted a plant-growing module off its tower-hook, the user can pull back on the pole while twisting the pole 90 degrees to to engage the Velcro and swing the captured module out of its tower formation (see drawing #18 here).
Mode 3: Once the plant-growing module has been swung away from the tower, the drill-powered winch is used to slide the module down the stabilized pole without fear of it toppling over. When the plants arrive at ground level they can be tended hands-free.
Open-air freestanding farm
Side-supported, open-air version
With supplementary lighting
Guy-wired greenhouse version
Click on images for a better view
These CAD images illustrate how the mechanism works
This 32-foot tall Waterfall Farm has 15 modules hanging on its south, east and west faces to form 3 hydroponic towers. To understand how hydroponic fluid cascades through a tower and is then recycled back up through a ground-level reservoir. See drawings #2 and #3 here.
Below are drawings and photos that clarify each of the three major components that make up a Waterfall Farm's growing mechanism:
1) The elevator-pole and its drill-driven winch
2) The plant-growing modules and their hoisting arm
3) The mast, growing towers and elevator-pole stabilizer
The plants growing on a tower are cared for and harvested at ground level by using the elevator-pole to hoist or lower their plant-growing module as needed.
To minimize its weight and cost, the elevator-pole is powered by a cordless drill. The drill turns a pole-mounted winch that spools a cable. The spooled cable runs up to a masthead pulley, then down to an elevator-sleeve that is hauled up and down the pole.
This image shows the hoist-cable coming up from the winch below and then down from the pulley above. It then attaches to the elevator-sleeve for hoisting the forklift arm.
The elevator-sleeve slides easily along the pole using sealed ball-bearing rollers and the sleeve's hook-tipped arm reaches out to lift plant-growing modules on or off the series of hooks that are attached up the mast to form three towers of cascading modules.
The WiFi camera located on the hoisting arm transmits a real-time view of the arm's hooked tip as it approaches each of the tower-hooks. Drawing #5 here illustrates how a smartphone provides a real-time navigation display as the pole and drill are manipulated by the operator.
By using the WiFi camera and the pole-stabilizer (see #3 below) it's easy to transfer any module so that it hangs on either the elevator-pole or on one of the tower's hooks.
1) The drill-driven winch
2) The plant-growing modules and the elevator-pole's forklift shuttle
3) The elevator-pole stabilization arm
Vertical-farming has never been this easy!
To better understand how it works
Waterfall Farm is currently patent pending in CanadaA PCT patent application will be pending soon for other IP jurisdictions
We are seeking commercialization partners worldwide
Browse the patent drawings
Read the patent application
Waterfall Farm is an ingenious solution
No matter which way you look at it
Now even a modest bungalow can
include a productive family farm
Waterfall Farm enables total decentralization of food production
Some rough update videos
It's an uplifting tool
How to farm with it
To understand how the plant-growing modules are used in this basic urban-farm configuration, read "Plant-cultivation strategies" on page 7 here. The simplest farm is essentially a constant-loss watering system that relies on the fertility of the soil contained in each module. Upgrading to a more sophisticated hydroponic system involves simple modifications to the plumbing system that enable re-circulation of the nutrient fluid through a sterile and highly porous growing media. Instruction videos covering all aspects of how to assemble and use this new farming tool will be posted here for product launch.
The plant-growing modules used to form a tower are typically inexpensive "flower-pouch" bags which are well-suited to growing plants in this geometric configuration. Image #3 above illustrates how each plant-growing module can be packed with garden soil that has a "back-channel" of highly permeable media such as Perlite (to insure good drainage). Simply running a garden hose to the top of the tall tower will enable a municipal water supply to directly irrigate the crop. Typically, the flow of cascading water is limited to a slow trickle and discarded as it drains from the lowest module, thereby providing reasonably cost-effective, constant-loss irrigation. The productivity and crop quality grown by this this drain-to-waste "water and soil" system can be substantially improved by implementing two optional configurations.
Option 1: Conventional hydroponic recycling
Collecting nutrient fluid as it exits the bottom of the lowest plant-growing module and then pumping it back up for recycling down the tower is common practice for vertical farming systems. Recycling chemically enriched hydroponic fluid through towers of sterile growing media is the methodology used by this high-performance vertical farm made by Plenty Unlimited Inc. The robotic Plenty system is analogous to a self-driving car whereas Waterfall Farm is analogous to a bicycle.
An added benefit of using a soil-based growing media is that crops grown in a soil-based tower can be sold as high-value "Certified Organic" produce. Plants that are hydroponically grown in sterile media (such as the Plenty system) cannot legally be labeled "Organic" (they can however be labeled as "Vertically grown", "Pesticide-free" or "Non-GMO").
Option 2: Using Compost-tea Bioreactors
The "drain-to-waste" garden soil methodology illustrated above is described in detail on page 8 in the application. The compost-tea brewing bioreactors described on page 9 have perfect synergy with the tall towers. An air-compressor is used to perform two synergistic tasks:1) Air is bubbled through "compost-tea" to enable the brewing process to proceed optimally.
2) Once the tea is fully brewed, air pressure is used to pump the nutrient fluid up the very tall towers.
These Compost-tea Bioreactors enable hyper-organic plant growth