Among all of the new hobbies picked up during the COVID-19 lockdowns, gardening has to be one of the most popular. Felix Wieberneit from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London imagined a way for U.K. citizens with a limited amount of indoor space to build their own vertical garden and is now making the design free for anyone to download.

The HECTAR team standing in front of a hydroponic garden.

Described as an open-source hydroponics unit, the HECTAR vertical farm is designed especially for interiors to help more people grow healthy food from home. Sponsored by multinational technology company Huawei, the unit is inspired by open-source electronic and 3D-printing companies. Open-source describes a type of computer softwarethat’s released under a special license made to be accessible to the public. HECTAR has since been selected as one of 25 companies in the Imperial College Venture Catalyst Accelerator, a competition for local entrepreneurs.

A HECTAR unit full of plants, with a person standing next to it on the right.

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It looks like a simple shelf, but the innovative hydroponics unit can grow a whopping 120 plants confined to a space the size of a cupboard. Even better, the design is fully modular and can be built using standard parts found in almost any hardware store. Wieberneit hopes the free plans will educate and empower regular people to grow their own food at home, without relying on pricey smart growing systems or seed subscription services. In theory, the unit can save users money in the long run as they cultivate their own edible plants like arugula, lettuce or herbs.

A close-up of leafy green plants.

Plans include an instructional video, a bill of materials and suggestions on where to find the parts. There is also a dedicated forum where users can ask questions if they get stuck or connect with others. The plans officially launched on March 16, and the company is still looking for U.K.-based beta testers to try the designs out for themselves. Those who are interested can download the plans from the HECTAR website, linked below.

+ HECTAR Hydroponics

Images via HECTAR Hydroponics