To find many of the best things in life, you have to know where to look. INFARM is no exception to either part of this maxim, falling into both the “great” and “hidden” categories. Fortunately, I have been here before. Last time around I was one of a number of slightly troubled looking lone people wandering around on Glogauer Straße armed with GPS activated smartphones, searching for friends and the promise of hangover obliterating brunch and a coffee / Bloody Mary / craft beer (delete as appropriate, but also know the correct answer is all three). You will find INFARM inconspicuously tucked away in a Berlin courtyard within a courtyard. Quietly growing. And this place is a lot bigger than brunch.
When asked who they are, the INFARMers first response is “family”. And I suppose this is perfectly fitting when you consider that this business - this tailor and re-tailored concept and system - has been rolling through evolutions for around two years now, but the first existed in the living room of their old Buchstraße apartment.
It didn’t even begin as a business, but as an experiment in finding a balance in life; bringing the advantages of self grown food from the countryside to the city, and this manifested first as an indoor system, growing salad herbs. They found themselves pleasantly surprised by how easy the process was, and by how great everything tasted.
From the living room, the system/business evolved to a studio location, then again into a minifarm installation in an airstream trailer at the Prinzessinnengarten where visitors could build their own microgreen yoghurt salad bowl. From there the farm moved on to Markthalle Neun where they started selling grow-your-own kits to the public. After one year, plenty of reading and countless evolutions of their system, IMFARM finally took root in their current Glogauer Straße location.
Has your work on INFARM changed any of the choices you make in your personal life?
What is personal life?! There is no personal life – everything merged: work, family, private - all together. [When shopping] you become much more picky, you eat less – the more you know, the more bad things you know as well, and that’s a problem. But in a way there’s not so much choice, and that’s what we’re trying to create, trying to create the choice.
What does sustainable urban living mean to you?
It’s our motivation for all of that. I think it’s how you define sustainable – it’s such an overused word these days, but I think it’s quite simple. It’s something that allows itself to exist forever. That’s it. That’s what it means for Earth so I guess that’s what it means for us. If we’re a sustainable culture or society or human being, we will exist forever until the sun explodes and we die.
How much do you consider where you source your clothing from?
It’s the same thing basically – it’s being aware what you consume. It’s kinda like food… it’s exactly the same when you think about it: not so much choice. We did a trade market like swap clothing event here, it was amazing – we had like, 10 tons of clothing left at the end that we contributed to the refugees at Ohlauer Straße.
What’s up next for INFARM?
We cannot tell you! No, there’s a lot of things, a lot of ways where we want to go. It’s an interesting vision that I think is bigger than indoor farming, but indoor farming is the medium. Practically, our next step is we’re working on a product so you can grow things at home – green vegetables and chilis and roots, and this will happen next year.
After the interview proper, Guy walks me around the space and shows me more of the INFARM in action. We tour the main indoor greenhouse “lab” and I’m treated to various tasters direct from the indoor terraces, and a wealth of information and education; from the different levels of water submersion employed at different growth stages, to the reason why leaves with the darkest pigmentation have the highest nutritional value (just as human skin tans in sunlight, what we perceive as a beautiful colour on a leaf is actually the plant's device for protection).
The team also have their own woodwork room where they custom build to their needs, and a 3D printer to make any components for the lab farm that the world hasn’t already made available through some other requirement. After the informal tour, Guy shows me the beautiful new home growing kit they have developed with food packaging innovators Tomorrow Machine that is about to roll out. Using agar jelly as a nutrient base for the seeds means that anyone can become an INFARMer in moments, and reap the tasty benefits of two years of experimentation. Viva la (R)evolution!