In the hustle and bustle of the big city life, it’s often difficult to find the right time and place to grow plants. For many of us, the idea of growing food at home is ambitious since it is time-consuming and expensive. It is even harder for working couples: when they are away, there is no one to take care of their plants and water them at regular intervals.
“That’s why we designed an innovative urban planting system,” Arun Raj, Founder of Mumbai-based startup Enverde, told e27. “Our product Altifarm has the space for all you want and the smartness to keep it going. Even while you are away for a few days, Altifarm does all the heavy-lifting, so that you can sit back, relax and harvest when its ready.”
The startup was established in 2014. According to Raj, the idea behind Altifarm is to let people enjoy the benefits of growing food/gardening at home with least amount of effort.
“Majority of the people living in apartments are devoid of the pleasures of gardening due to the limited space. Some grow herbs on window-sills or balconies; however, the hectic pace of life does not give them time to tend to plants and often they give up when plants die due to under/over watering. Altifarm is meant for such people,” he said.
Raj explained that Altifarm enables people to grow a wide variety of herbs, vegetables, and fruits with a grow area of one square metre spread over four tiers. The modular/flexible design enables them to use Altifarm in five minutes, out-of-box — no tools or expertise required for assembling.
Plus, the mobility and grow-light expansion packs allow consumer to use Altifarm indoors or outdoors and facilitate easy relocation. “Forget daily watering hassles with the Altifarm’s self-watering system. Plants decide their own water intake, hence no need to worry about too much or too little water. Altifarm replicates the habitat nature provides for plants; with no recurring subscription or electricity requirements, it is easy as growing in a yard,” he elaborated.
Unleash the rooftop farmer in you
As seen in the main picture above, there are four tiers with collective area of about 1 square metre or about 10 square feet. The steel frame has a nice powder-coated finish with rust protection. Each of these tiers are height adjustable as plants grow taller. There is a black inner tray, which holds the growing medium with these wicking cones, which are immersed into water in the reservoir pockets in the outer tub. As plant roots draw water, the medium in the cone acts like a wick and passes up more water.
This works through natural capillary action, and no electricity is required. This lets plants decide how much water is needed and takes away the guesswork in watering, so there is no more under-watering or overwatering. The design allows for oxygen circulation below inner tray and the holes pass it to the roots.
“Plants grow faster and healthier with better root oxygenation. Water is topped up through the cyan spouts (see the above picture) and the white cap prevents insect breeding in the water bellow. All the user needs to do is top up occasionally looking at the floating indicator in the transparent tube – typically once in a week. Handles on both the ends of inner tray allows for easy removal for replacing soil etc. The white overflow tube in each tier helps to drain excess water if kept outdoors in the rain. This way, Altifarm consumes up to 80 per cent less water,” he further explained.
You can use garden soil with manure or compost, soil from a shop, or go soil-less by using coco-peat medium with nutrients along with water. Use seeds, saplings or transplants.
Now, if you don’t have a sun facing balcony or window or have long winters, Altifarm offers an optional grow-light pack. These are professional grow lights (same as ones used in grow farms) with IP65 water resistance rating and great optics. “Custom-tuned for Altifarm with right wavelength recipe, it lets you grow any plant through any stage – seedling, tissue development, flowering and fruit growth – all the wavelength is given at right intensity for complete independence from sunlight. There are total of six LED light bars per set, two each for lower tiers and one each for the upper layer. These are connected in series through daisy chain connection through a timer which can be easily programmed. No tools or expertise is required and it assembles in 20 minutes.”
The optional mobility pack gives a set of four wheels to replace the feet. There is a concealed circular wheel inside that allows you to move Altifarm from room to room or to lock it in one place. The optional greenhouse pack brings a custom greenhouse (with a roll up door for easy access) for extreme weather.
The key features are that as plants are grown in tiered fashion, one does not have to bend over — ideal for elderly, who often engage in gardening and thus easier plant care and inspection. With the lower-most tier elevated from the floor, there is no water retention or dampness. With flat rear side, it sits snugly close to wall, taking minimal space in the room. Integrated handles on tiers (pockets on both sides) for easy lifting or handling. Terraced cascading design lets in most amount of sunlight. Shade loving plants could be put towards the rear side of each tiers. Taller plants like tomato and chilli could be placed in the lower 2 tiers, while shorter herbs like mint, spinach, lettuce etc could be on the upper tiers.
In early February this year, Altifarm launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo and has received pre-orders for about 300 units which are worth US$110,209 from over 35 countries, mostly from the US and Canada, by the time the campaign ended on March 15.
“We have achieved three times of the target we set on Indiegogo, and have started production in full pace now. The design of Altifarm is simple yet trendy, which makes it an aesthetic utility product for urban households. Altifarm enables people to experience the joy of gardening and enjoying straight-off-the-farm produce. It helps people rekindle their bond with nature and be one with it. Altifarm is a positive step towards self sufficiency, self reliance, nutrition, and food security,” Raj told e27.
Raj runs a boutique industrial design studio Primusdesign which designs and develops products for the clients in multiple domains (such as appliances/electronics, consumer durables, FMCG, bio-medical, engineering etc.).
Image Credit: Altifarm
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