Homegrown fruits and vegetables might seem like an impossibility in a small apartment, but students at MIT are working on a way to garden successfully indoors with the help of technology -- namely, with your smartphone, and with an indoor microfarming system called SproutsIO.
This soil-free or aeroponic system consists of units that spray a nutrient mist periodically with the help of sensors, which are conveniently controlled by a smartphone app. The minimalist, white and silver units are equipped with lights and even cameras, so you can check up on them via Facetime when you're out of the house (and if you're feeling like a "helicopter gardener").
Creator and MIT grad student Jenny Broutin Farah explains on FastCo.Design that the idea was to streamline the DIY process and the vargaries of food-growing into something simple yet suitable for small urban spaces:
Right now, you go to a DIY hobby shop or hydroponic store, and then read 20 blogs to figure out how to jerry-rig a home-growing system that looks like its piecemeal parts came from Home Depot. It's like this weird science project in your home. We wanted to make something where you don’t have to do all that legwork.
And this system can be quite resource-efficient; according to Broutin, SproutsIO uses 98% less water and 60% less fertilizer than conventional methods, and one can produce six times the amount of food than grown in a similarly-sized pot of soil. Units can be placed separately in different parts of the home, to maximize whatever space or sunlight is available. Restaurants would also benefit from using a system like this to grow local ingredients for their dishes.
It's a different ballgame from your ol' community garden or automated backyard greenhouse; nevertheless, a system like this would give users much more control and insight into what they are eating. SproutsIO is currently being beta-tested and will be sold commercially in about a year; you can check it out in person at the 2014 Student Showcase at the the MIT Museum, or sign up here to be a beta-tester. Find out more information over at the SproutsIO website.