The Grow Wall by HydroFlora

What if we could grow plants by using our food scrapes, creating a model of circular agriculture? This is exactly what the Grow Wall is doing.

Words 

HydroFlora

Geneviève Sicotte

Images

HydroFlora

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What is a Grow Wall?

The device combines a hydroponic garden with a vermicompost to grow plants from food waste.


The nutrients required for plant growth are extracted from a compost containing hundreds of worms; worms break down the food waste and turn it into nutrient rich castings (in effect, worm shit!). Water flows from a reservoir through the vermicompost once a day, absorbs the nutrients and makes them available to the plants.

How does it work?

The grow wall operates on a continuous flow hydroponic Dutch bucket system. This arrangement is comprised of a reservoir and multiple buckets containing plants, interconnected by an automated irrigation system that filters through a vermicompost. It operates in two distinct cycles: the compost cycle and the plant cycle. 
 
The compost cycle enriches the water circulating in the irrigation system with nutrients in the vermiponic compost bin. The cycle occurs once a day for only a couple of minutes, during which water is directed into the vermiponic compost bin so that it filters through the compost and thereby extracts the nutrients contained in the castings of our ever-productive earthworms.

Two filtration apertures in the bottom of the vermicompost bin drain the water from the bin and return it back into the Dutch bucket system water reservoir. The nutrient enriched water cycles continuously between the reservoir and several grow buckets. The buckets contain clay pellets that soak the nutrient solution, which is then taken up by the plant’s roots wrapped around the pellets.

To ensure that our plants and worms always receive enough oxygen and to prevent anaerobic conditions within the system, an air pump is connected to the reservoir which saturates the nutrient solution with oxygen. Our compost is regularly “refreshed” by the food waste of campus eateries. 

Theoretically, the continuous flow Dutch bucket system is self-sustaining. In practice, it needs to be checked regularly to verify that the water level is adequate, the irrigation system isn’t clogged, the compost bin is draining properly and the pumps are functioning without a hitch.
 

What grows there?

The grow wall is populated with both edible and aesthetic plants. For edible plants, we planted a papaya tree, tomatoes, mustard, a banana tree, a pineapple and sunflowers. We chose bamboo, angel’s tears and a spider plant to beautify the wall’s look.

To ensure that our plants receive enough light, we installed fluorescent lights that operate on a timer. If you walk past 4th Space at night, you will see that the lighting illuminates the otherwise dark space and looks remarkably cool! 
 

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Come Visit the Grow Wall! 

We want our installation to serve not only as an educational exhibit but also a place where students and visitors can sit, study and lounge. Come admire HydroFlora’s concrete sneakers and relax comfortably in the embrace of our beautiful plants!

We are a community of social entrepreneurs based in Montreal, Canada.

Our organization dedicates time into researching sustainable alternatives to intensive farming practices and promoting civic engagement through educational workshops with all members of our community. Our main goal is to educate the community on hydroponic practices and to promote urban agriculture.​ We believe investing in alternative agriculture practices is a crucial step towards sustainable urban living. By spreading awareness about hydroponic practices and its benefits, we hope to shed more light on this underdeveloped sector.​ Our core team is made up of students and graduates from a highly diversified ethnic and educational background.

We encourage anyone interested in hydroponic growing to become involved with HydroFlora.

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