waterfarm_20080724.jpg

Equal parts hydroponic garden, aquarium, and interactive art, the Farm Fountain is an experiment in self-contained, indoor ecosystem design created by artists Ken Rinaldo and Amy Youngs. The idea is that you can raise edible fish and cycle their waste nutrients through a hanging garden which filters the water before returning it to the aquarium.

Their 4th generation Farm Fountain is currently on display at the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand until January 2009. From the Farm Fountain website:

This project is an experiment in local, sustainable agriculture and recycling. It utilizes 2-liter plastic soda bottles as planters and continuously recycles the water in the system to create a symbiotic relationship between edible plants, fish and humans. The work creates an indoor healthy environment that also provides oxygen and light to the humans working and moving through the space. The sound of water trickling through the plant containers creates a peaceful, relaxing waterfall. The Koi and Tilapia fish that are part of this project also provide a focus for relaxed viewing.

The plants we are currently growing include lettuces, cilantro, mint, basil, tomatoes, chives, parsley, mizuna, watercress and tatsoi. The Tilapia fish in this work are also edible and are a variety that have been farmed for thousands of years in the Nile delta.

A Basic Stamp program controls the pump mechanism, allowing the plants to be watered at regular intervals for a set period of time. Depending on available natural light, supplemental lighting can be provided by a combination of fluorescent and grow-spectrum LED lighting, switched from a standard light timer. Ken and Amy worked out a lot of the details during the construction of their 3rd Farm Fountain design (pictured above) and they’ve assembled a how-to instructional gallery which you can use to design your own Farm Fountain system.

There are a lot of external inputs required to keep the ecosystem healthy for a long period of time including fish food, PH and nitrate monitoring, and general gardening tasks. Once you’ve gotten accustomed to it, though, it’s probably not much more work than maintaining a lawn, and a lawn can’t give you tomatoes in the middle of winter.

Farm Fountain – a sculptural ecosystem you can eat