Michael Currin wants people living in concrete jungles to become more food independent, so he developed a smart appliance to do just that.
Homefarm is a South African start-up that, thanks to Michael’s vision, developed a hybrid hydroponic unit that grows microgreens and microherbs.
Michael, who has an electro-mechanical engineering background, was inspired to develop the unit as part of his master’s thesis, while he was studying in the UK. So he’s a pretty smart guy.
“I wanted to get people to embrace a subsistence mind-set. Homefarm came about because I envisioned an automated product that would make eating fresh, nutritious food accessible on a daily basis,” says Michael. “I also wanted to cut out waste in the food supply chain – to save water, and cut out packaging and refrigeration.”
According to Michael, the unit is a lot more efficient than traditional forms of agriculture, and it’s programmed to control climatic parameters like temperature, light, and water.
Homefarm uses florescent lights that mimic the sun (known as grow light) – it’s the same light that’s used within indoor hydroponic systems. The grow light is programmed to turn on and off in alignment with the day-night cycle, and a micro-climate (temperature, humidity and water) is automated through an app.
It’s subsistence farming meets Mr Robot: all you do is plant the seeds, which are non-GMO and come in Grow Mats (hemp ‘carpets’ that act as soil), and make sure that the water tank is topped up every 10 days or so.
The app will also notify the user when it’s time to harvest, as well as give links to recipes on how to incorporate the microgreens into different dishes.
From basil to wheatgrass, Homefarm can grow up to 80g of crops per week – while only using 1.5 litres of water per week and 18 kWh of electricity per month. So it’s a very green method of growing greens.
Speaking of, um, green, Michael is hoping to offer Homefarm – the 420 version.
“We’re looking into cannabis; it’s now legal to grow and smoke in the privacy of your own home. So we may potentially come out with a parallel product that is specifically designed to grow marijuana.”
To make a machine as sophisticated as this you need the right space with the right tools and machines. Somewhere with a CNC milling machine for the patterns, a milling machine for vacuum-forming the components, and a laser-cutter for the outside cladding. Somewhere like Made In Workshop.
“It’s a pretty relaxed set-up,” adds Michael. “You can just arrive with your material, get it onto a machine, spend an hour there and leave, so the flexibility of it is really great.”
“I don’t know what we would have done without Made In Workshop,” he adds. “They even helped us through the development, and now they’re helping with the manufacturing process. The makerspace has been invaluable to us.”
Homefarm units can be viewed at blu_line kitchens in Bryanston and Easy Life Kitchens in North Riding. To find out more or order a unit online (order-for-manufacturing), visit the Homefarm website or contact Michael on firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in creating your own revolutionary product? Contact Made In Workshop on 087 701 4156, or take a look around at 65 Maria Street, Fontainebleau.