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Urban Agriculture Inventors Meet in UNIPOLI Tampere
Vertical Pocket Rack for Growing Plants Saves Space

The innovation service of Tampere University of Applied Sciences and the entrepreneur service of Tampere University of Technology brought together in UNIPOLI, as third participant University of Tampere, inventors interested in urban agriculture of those three universities. This co-operation resulted in a 1,5 metres high, vertical rack of plant po(cke)ts. It can be used to grow different lettuces, herbs and other plants, such as sweet peppers.  Several pocket racks form a wide indoors plantation which can be put together next to walls or windows.

Markku Oikarainen, Leena Köppä, plant pocket and Joonas Tähtinen.
A vertical rack of pockets offers a new solution for growing plants indoors. The rack holds several pouches which serve as pots for e.g. Asian mint, Romaine lettuce, rosemary, lemon balm and thyme. From left, innovation advocate Markku Oikarainen (Tampere University of Applied Sciences), business liaison officer Leena Köppä (Tampere University of Technology) and entrepreneur Joonas Tähtinen (Virtaustilat Ltd.).
High resolution image (1,56 Mb)
Photo: Kalle Heiska

Upright hanging plant pockets are especially good for indoors planters. The pocket racks make growing plants easy and save space. Pocket racks add elements of nature into interior decorating and can be used to provide local food at its best. A small 1–5 watt pump lifts nutrient solution to the highest plant pocket from which it flows to lower pockets and continues cycling. In plant pockets, nutrient solution "rinses" small roots, a method called hydroponics.
The inventors of pocket racks received assistance in product development from the innovation services of Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Tampere University of Technology. They helped with picking up ecological materials and making manufacturing choices, as well as mapping possibilities of marketizing the idea. The idea was developed into a simple, nature friendly design product, which can easily be sent by mail as a starter pack for those interested in urban agriculture.
This fast and nimble development process of pocket racks was funded mainly privately. The most common financing options for product development were deemed too slow.  The idea was also assessed by the Pirkanmaa Product Track team of Foundation for Finnish Inventions. Later, a collateral by Finnvera has been applied for, as well as funding from the local Centre for Economic Development (Ely).
A starter pack for urban cultivation contais all that is needed for planting: a rack and pump, pockets, substrates and nutrient pipes. It costs 100–200 euros depending on the height of the rack.
At the moment, the developers examine possibilities to start production e.g. in a small Zambian co-operative, in addition to Finland. Preorders will be taken by a crowd sourcing site ( in July–August 2013. The aim is to cover the expenses of producing the first set of products and starting the business.
The potential market for pocket racks is global, since there are hundreds of millions of urban planters. Spots suitable for food production are in great demand especially in dense cities.  A vertical pocket rack is an excellent new solution for indoors planters in cities.
Urban agriculture is often considered as allotments only. There is lot of space in cities. Eventually several authorities are beginning to explore ideas of indoors plantations as well as cultivation in parks, courtyards and roofs. At best, urban agriculture could augment ecological recycling locally by composts.

More information:

Virtaustilat Ltd.
Joonas Tähtinen, entrepreneur
Tel. +358 50 336 6752
Tampere University of Applied Sciences
Markku Oikarainen, innovation advocate
Tel. +358 40 826 7615
Tampere University of Technology
Leena Köppä, business liaison officer
Tel. +358 50 568 5352

Feel free to use all news. Photographs copyright Kalle Heiska.

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