Modular hydroponics farm wins element14’s Vertical Farming Design Challenge

15 participants used technology to create indoor, IoT-enabled gardens and harvest crops

A hydroponic “Modular Farm” project has been named the winner of element14’s Vertical Farming Design Challenge. The contest invited 15 engineers to create sustainable, IoT-enabled indoor farming solutions that can translate to industrial food production practices around the world.

Created by element14 member Jose Marques of Portugal, the “Modular Farm” features a simple, modular automated system to facilitate the indoor growth of fruits and vegetables. Based on hydroponics, Jose’s design employed a water-based, mineral nutrient solution (in place of soil) combined with a web-based monitoring system and renewable energy source.

The “Automated Green House” project from Michael Ratcliffe of the U.K. came in second place, and James O’Donnell of the U.S. placed third for his “Vertical Hydroponics Farm.”

Dianne Kibbey, Global Head of Content and Community, element14
element14 congratulates Jose and all of the other finalists who participated in the Vertical Farming Challenge. The response to the competition has been overwhelming and we could not be more impressed with real-world applications and results of the submitted projects.
Dianne Kibbey, Global Head of Content and Community, element14

Jose’s project earned him the top prize – a military-grade portable solar power kit, the Nest® Learning Thermostat™, a Wurth Elektronik Energy Harvesting Kit featuring the EFM32GG Giant Gecko M3 Kit from Silicon Labs and a $250 donation to the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF) in his name – all valued at $2,000.

Michael will receive a foldable solar panel, Nest Learning Thermostat, and $250 donation to the AFV in his name, and James will receive a Nest Learning Thermostat and $250 donation to the AFV in his name. All of the challengers who completed their projects will have $100 donated to the association in their names.

The “Modular Farm” project was chosen by a panel of expert judges, including Simon Leuz, distribution sales manager at Würth Elektronik.


Jose showed a great approach to vertical farming, with step-by-step building instructions and detailed explanations. His ‘Modular Farming’ project truly hits the target of what we thought the outcome should be.
Simon Leuz, distribution sales manager at Würth Elektronik

Entries were judged on originality, innovation, technical merit, and the resulting crops. Participants used kits of IoT-enabled technologies from Silicon Labs and Würth Elektronik. to build their projects, with support from experts at Green Spirit Farmsand the Association for Vertical Farming who helped guide challengers though the indoor growing and harvesting process.

The Vertical Farming Design Challenge is part of a broader Engineering a Connected World initiative from the element14 Community. Part of the initiative included the Engineering a Connected World survey and report which found, among other things, that consumers globally view agriculture/food production as one of the primary areas where technology and innovation should be focused.

To view content from all 15 Vertical Farming challengers, or to learn more about the award-winning, element14 Community of design engineers and technology enthusiasts, visit http://www.element14.com/verticalfarming.


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