And it’s automated with environmental and nutrient control on your mobile device. You can grow up to 160 plants on a footprint of just 2′ by 5′ with a robotic vertical farm you build yourself. The design won Best In Sustainability Class at the 2014 NY Maker Faire, so you can count on this being a step ahead of the average DIY indoor garden design.

If you’ve arrived looking for the secret to growing a whole lot of food in a system that costs you $20 bucks, this isn’t what you wanted… though it might be exactly what you need. It’s impossible to grow that many plants in any hydroponic system that requires under pocket change as an investment. The electronic parts for the robotic control will run you about $150, and the PVC pipes and other assorted hardware needed to complete the two-sided vertical growing space and the stand cost the inventor roughly $350. However, every penny you have to invest is for the system and the ability to check the status of your garden, and control it remotely – which means you save the added cost of snazzy finishes, packing materials, boxing, branding, and advertising, along with the labor needed to make all that happen at all the businesses involved in bringing a commercial indoor farm to a garden shop shelf near you.

You get a lot more bang for your buck when you’re not floating profit and loss, and payroll for a bunch of other people. On top of these benefits is the fact that this is a well planned out project. All you have to do is procure the materials and follow the highly detailed building and programming instructions. How cool is that?

This robotic vertical garden doesn’t require a bunch of hard to find items. All you need is common hardware store parts for the structure, and the electronics pieces are also available from many places in most countries. Naturally, you will need to add important indoor garden things like sufficient, efficient grow lighting, fans, and perhaps a grow tent, a CO2 burner, or other critical elements, depending on how serious you are at becoming a super successful indoor grower.

It’s nothing stylish, though I suppose you could paint the PVC and get rid of all the lettering they stamp on the stuff, but that just increases costs, and may even decrease how safe your homegrown food is to eat, or even affect it’s flavor. Still, there is no guesswork involved from start to getting your crop planted and growing. It’s not just a concept – Paul at BLT Robotics has it perfected and growing food for him reliably. The troubleshooting is already done, this is version 2.0 of the Robotic Urban Farm System.

Plans and directions to build your own RUFS vertical farm are available in two places, and there is a forum on the BTL Robotics website so you’re not just left on your own to make it happen. You can get some assistance from Paul, or other members of the growing community of people working on building their own, or already growing with this system.

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One more benefit is that you could use this farm outdoors in summer and take advantage of the free sunshine, then move it inside for the cold months so you can enjoy fresh zero-miles food year around.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton