This self-sustaining planter + composter takes the work out of indoor gardening

To reduce their environmental impact, my parents have started composting their food waste. Great idea, but there are two small problems with their set-up: one, my parents aren’t gardeners, so the resulting manure is usually scattered on empty soil beds (which the weeds appreciate), and two, the composter lives in the backyard, which means they keep a plastic container on the back porch for their discarded orange peels and wilted salad (not the prettiest sight). Overall, the composter is not living up to its full potential, because it doesn’t suit my parents’ lifestyle.

Segue to the Sustainable Family Farm, a miniature composter and planter that is best suited for indoor life. When I saw this design, my first thought was Ah-hah, the perfect Christmas gift for my parents … in theory, since it hasn’t entered the market yet. A mini-composter isn’t a novel idea; in fact, you can make your own with a plastic jug, soil, and some worms. However, the Sustainable Family Farm sets itself apart in two ways: first, by integrating seamlessly into the household regardless of the members’ gardening/composting experience, second, by making gardening into a fun experience for the family.

The product accomplishes this first point by utilizing all the food waste in the household without requiring a lot of additional effort. All you have to do is dump your compostable scraps into the plant incubator and monitor your veggies’ growth. The amount of maintenance that goes into the gardening depends on the seeds you choose — and there plenty of low maintenance options, like basil or cilantro. The Sustainable Family Farm accomplishes its second goal, making gardening a fun activity with the power of smartphones. The planter features a companion app, which treats gardening as a game, showing the stages of plant growth as “levels” for your real-life veggies. If you were a teen in the late 2000s, you might remember the popular Facebook game, Farmville? Imagine that concept but in real life. Or, you know … regular farming. (Jeez, I’ve exposed myself as a phone-addicted city-dweller.)

The Sustainable Family Farm, I think, is one of the most accessible urban planter concepts I’ve seen. Its low maintenance process makes it as easy as possible for anyone to grow herbs or small vegetables. You just need to buy the seeds and worms to get started – the circle of life takes care of the rest.

This concept won the European Product Design Award in “Home Interior Products/Household Appliances” and “Design for Society/Design for Sustainability.” An earlier version of this design was also featured on Yanko Design.

Designer: Chaozhi Lin