Water is a fundamental resource of life, it is an essential element to grow plants and produce food.For the year 2030, scientists have predicted a 40% shortage of water supplies and 4 billion people will be living in high water stress areas. Therefore we might not be able to support greeneries and private gardening in the future.
There are alternative ways to get more water. But solutions of today are often complicated and require lots of energy. Harvesting water from humidity is a good potential direction as humidity is accessible almost everywhere. But how could we do it in an environmentally friendly way?
Aero is a water harvester created for urban gardening communities. Equipped with innovative technology, Aero is able to absorb water molecules passively with polymer coated cotton membranes. When the membranes are full, twisting motions are applied and the water gets squeezed out like from a towel. Water is stored in the bottom of Aero and gardeners can access it any time.
Aero harvests water in an environmentally friendly way as it is powered by its own solar energy. It can store enough energy to work night and day, producing up to 200L of water per day. That is enough water to supply 50m2 vegetable gardening. If the community lacks water, they can connect several Aero units together to match their gardening needs.
To reduce water waste, Aero is connected to smart dosing feeders which automatically deliver the right amount of water for the plants when it is needed. Aero keeps track of water consumptions and can suggest better ways to use it. You can set up you individual watering plans and always be aware of how much water is available.
It is easy to use Aero as you can interact with it directly on sight or through your gardening application. The magnetic connection system ensures your gardening hose is secured and will not be moved while you are gone.
Aero is part of a service that enables an effortless watering process with focus on gardening. The device communicates with the maintenance company and the landlord when checkups are required.
Aero was a 10 weeks collaboration project with Gardena and Husqvarna Group at Umeå Institute of Design, in the north of Sweden. In a team of 2, we explored solutions to empower urban gardening in 2030.
To get a better understanding what is required for urban gardening as well as its restrictions, we conducted research in Malmö, south of Sweden, to talk to specialists and to explore the variations of gardening, like vertical walls and rooftop gardening. Locally, we were visiting Umeå's gardening community in Ålidhem and observing specialists who maintain greeneries in the parks.
During the research we got to understand the user's needs and community aspect that is connected to gardening in an urban setting. With these insights we started to adjust the focus of our project to the main problem: water access.
Especially in Umeå, where we visited the gardening community in Ålidhem, it was obvious that water access was difficult due to the volunteer basis of this gardening system. Questions like who is responsible for watering the plants and who takes care when the owner is away, were fundamental for our focus. We wanted to create a solution which provides constant water access at any time of the day for gardeners to share amongst themselves.
Combining our field research with desk research, we decided to gain water out of air. Our main inspiration for this method were the already existing fog nets, which collect the fog dew on their strings and guiding the water molecules with the help of gravity down to a collecting base.
Based on our research findings we started to develop first initial ideas on how to provide and produce water coming from natural resources. While diving deeper into the world of biomimicry, we found varieties of technologies which are impersonating the water collecting features of animals by playing with hydroponic and hydrophilic materials.
We decided to work with polymer coated cotton pads. It is a unique material combination that scientists have recently discovered and is believed to have various implementations in the future. Due to super-hydrophilic properties, material attracts water molecules from the air passively. When the cotton membranes are full, water can be mechanically squeezed out and the process cycle starts again.
As the harvesting process requires mechanical movement, we started to explore shapes and motions to deliver the ideal combination of a visually expressive but subtle design at the same time. We wanted the attention to drawn onto the core of the device, which we translated into the squeezing motion of the cotton pads. The overall form and shape factor of Aero is driven by the functionality of the harvesting process and the needs of the rooftop gardening.
As our project is packed with features and thoughts, we created a short explanatory video. This combination of elements translates the effortless usage of Aero and the beauty of gardening.
Community gardening is very important, as it promotes the sharing aspect and strengthens the bond between people. People love to do gardening. It is a fulfilling activity and can be a source of fresh fruits and vegetables. The awareness of what we eat and where the food comes from is becoming stronger and it is predicted that greenification and city gardening will become a standard in the future.
Aero allows local communities to be more independent in water stress areas. It allows people to grow their own food and enjoy gardening in the city setting in an affordable and environmentally friendly way. It allows to start the gardening immediately almost anywhere, as it doesn't have to be connected to existing power grids or external water supply.
- Polymer coated cotton membranes
To absorb and store water, Aero is equipped with sustainably produced cotton membranes coated in a polymer film. Through this method the cotton pads are able to store up 350% of their own weight. By twisting the membranes to squeeze out the water, the flow of the water molecules is emphasized and translated into visually expressive motions.
- Powered air flow
To support the collecting process, an powered air fan pulls the humid air through the device core where the water is extracted. Air is filtered from the dust particles by the filters on the top of the Aero.
- Solar panels
Aero is powered by its own solar energy. To insure enough surface area there are 2 types of solar cells installed. Amorphous silicon cell disks at the top and semi-transparent solar panels embedded into the glass shell. Collected energy during the day is used for the squeezing motion of the cotton membranes.
- Magnetic hoses
We needed to re-design the watering hoses because Aero serves group communities. To make sure they stay in place, the magnetic hose connection ensures they are locked onto the water container. For detachment, Aero recognizes the owner and gives a light signal which hose is available.
- Smart watering system
For keeping track of the water consumption, smart dosing feeders are connected to Aero. This enables to create adjusted watering plans for the gardeners' needs.
SERVICE and OWNERSHIP
There are various potential business plans for Aero depending on involved stakeholders. An ideal scenario proposes collaboration between manufacturer (Gardena), service provider, landlord and end users - community gardeners. The landlord of a residence can purchase Aero directly from Gardena or rent it out from a service provider that would be in charge of the maintenance and installation process. The harvester could be placed on a rooftop and shared amongst the residents for free or through a membership deal, depending on landlords or local government regulations.
For the maintenance a third party is notified by Aero. This system empowers the simplicity of watering for the user and lets them focus on the most important thing: the plants.
Aero can be a scalable solution. There is a smaller version of Aero under development. It would be targeted towards individual gardeners and for placement on private balconies.