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Team:  ECOARíA (Rice University, USA) and ARTos House Cyprus

Title:    Portable Farms – The Ecology of Air and Water Optimization for Urban Growth 


"Aeroponics is an advanced process of growing plants without soil. Instead, the roots are suspended in air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist providing them with greater access to oxygen, which results in healthier plant root stock and significantly faster crop growth rates. Combined with environmental sensors and controllers allows for optimized growth, minimizing the usage of minerals up to 1/3, using up to 98% less water and zero pesticides (compared to conventional agriculture). As a closed system, it can be deployed for vertical farming, eliminating the need for vast fields and removes the variability of weather which means you can grow anywhere, any time of the year, including cities, removing the need for storage and transportation. Aeroponics can mitigate issues like soil and water pollution from excess fertilizer and pesticides, water evaporation which increases the greenhouse effect, large carbon footprint of agriculture while creating a sustainable, high quality and incredibly nutrient produce."


  • Challenge: Identification and proof of need within the SDG(s), stakeholder groups and geography chosen. 

    • Food has been a major issue worldwide and more specifically to places where poverty exists. Also, it’s important to produce food where is needed to reduce our environmental footprint by reducing transportation, water demand and refrigerated storage and increase the quality of nutrition.

  • Innovation: Has this been done before for this particular issue, geography and stakeholder groups? What makes your proposal unique?

    • Our approach aims to popularize the technology and make it available and affordable to the communities and provide food independency.

  • Scale of Solution: Is it local, regional, national? Is it scalable? Is it feasible?

    • The research and prototypes is directed towards scalability so the devices can be used at a local, national and international level. 

  • Impact: What size and duration of impact will it have? On what groups of stakeholders? Is it measurable, replicable and scalable?

    • The design approach to this specific research startup is to function in a LEGO philosophy. Plug, add and play. It can have remote controlling, servicing, and programming of the system. The impact is measurable especially after the first year of the operation, testing and finetune the system. Stakeholders can be considered less privileged communities, refugee camps, isolated communities and places where water is not easily available especially now that climate crisis is progressing faster than we expected.

  • Sources of funding: Who will provide funding? What are the sources of public, philanthropic and private capital?

    • Funding is basically from self-financing, crowed funding and possible funding programs. After finalizing and testing the prototype, investors will be approached including governmental departments.

  • Investment Return and Risk: What are the risks for each type and level of capital (e.g., private capital, public financing, philanthropy). What are the likely returns for private capital? 

    • It’s well known that there is a great need of systems that can support food production with limited usage of water. Countries in north Africa and Middle East showed interest on aeroponics systems and are willing to proceed with testing it in real local conditions. One of the risks is that the quality of water in certain areas, does not have the quality which the system needs. Another risk is that traditional monopolies in the food chain might add obstacles in giving this systems to communities if not supported by local authorities. 

  • Timing: When will the impact be realized? What is the payback period for applicable sources of funding? 

    • The most complex part of the system, which is the hardware and software for the control system, is already done. Now what is needed is to manufacture some parts that are related to temperature control. With some financial support the system will be tested on microscale level and estimate and measure the impact. The results be scaled up and simulated in real scenarios and social challenges. The payback period is based on the business model which will be decided. For example, if the price will be externally low then payback will take more time. If a private company though would invest and not donate funds for using our system for producing food then the payback period would be 13-16 months of operation ( for supporting minimum 2000 customers per month) 

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