Dec 20, 2017 | By Tess

Some of you may have already heard about Farmshelf, the New York-based startup that builds automated hydroponic systems to grow fresh greens almost anywhere. What you may not know, however, is that the company has relied extensively on 3D printing for the design and prototyping of its innovative system.

As the harsh realities of our globalized system take their toll on our environment, people have begun to turn towards more localized production, a move often supported and enabled by technologies such as 3D printing. On the food end of things, there has been a similar trend  marked by the popularization of home gardens and hydroponic urban farming spaces.

Farmshelf is a particularly promising startup in the field of urban farming as it has developed an automated hydroponic system that can grow fresh produce, such as greens and micro-greens, on site.

According to Andrew Shearer, the CEO and cofounder of Farmshelf, 3D printing played a critical role in bringing the company’s vision to life and enabled them to do it in record time.

“As a company, you can now look at 3D printing as a way to involve more people in the building process, and involve more in the prototyping and dreaming process, thanks to how easy it is,” he said.

The Farmshelf team used 3D design and printing technologies to prototype and test a number of different parts for its system, including custom plant pods and structural elements to see which would be best not only aesthetically, but for growing plants. In other words, 3D printing provided the team with a level of freedom that traditional manufacturing processes would not allow for, in terms of design and scale.

With a fleet of Ultimater 2+ 3D printers running in-house, Farmshelf also saw significant cost benefits, as it was able to turn out prototypes in a time-efficient manner without having to bring in a third party manufacturer. This meant that beyond the cost of the 3D printers, the company was basically only paying for the filament it was using to prototype custom parts.

“As we approached prototyping all of these parts, Ultimaker proved to be a great solution,” stated Shearer. “For all the different needs we’ve had, from prototyping to small batch, short-run production parts, this technology enabled us to push forward our timelines, and keep this company on the fast track.”

Moreover, the company says that without additive manufacturing technologies at their disposal, they would have been restricted to using off-the-shelf components in the Farmshelf system, which would have limited the function of the farming set-up as well as the ability to customize it for different clients.

“Or worse, we would have had to extensively machine parts using CNCs, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Having the Ultimaker machines really empowered us in our design process,” added Jaeseong Yi, product designer at Farmshelf.

The company has already made significant headway with its innovative on-site farming system and it even attracted the interest of chef Claus Meyer who cofounded two-Michelin-star restaurant Noma and now runs the Great Northern Food Hall restaurant located in New York’s famed Grand Central Station.

In fact, if you happen to pass through the Great Northern Food Hall, you would see one of Farmshelf’s 3D printed hydroponic system prototypes in place and could even eat microgreens and leafy greens it has grown!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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