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2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team Living Window
2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team Living Window

Meet the New Urban Farmers 


“This is only the beginning of bringing more smart, capable people into the food system automation realm.”


Team members: Stevie Taylor, electrical engineering; Talya Naftali, environmental science; William Lau, electrical engineering; Cristian Gonzalez, marketing; Ivan Segura, mechanical engineering; Christian Orellana-Bauer, art; Anthony Bruno, electrical engineering; Shoshanah Bernhardt, computer science; and Elizabeth Gartner, civil engineering

1. Where did you get the inspiration for your Cleantech Challenge invention idea?

When Stevie Taylor watched a video called "Humans Need Not Apply" by CGPGrey on Youtube, the idea trickled into her mind that while automation of almost all the world's jobs could be a scary thing, it could also be a good thing. Why do humans really need to work at 40+ hour week jobs? To get food and shelter. If we could provide those things using automation, we wouldn't need to work. If we want extra things like shoes and phones, sure work a little for some money for that, but for the absolute basic necessities, there isn't a technological reason that we can't fully automate it. It's only a matter of time and effort. After paying for the initial automation, it could be an entirely self-contained system that feeds someone indefinitely! We are far away from that dream —  it is quite obviously a long-term goal — but this invention is the first step in that direction. I believe we have to work hard to automate food first, because if any other large industry is automated before the basic necessities are, then we are going to have another Great Depression on our hands. See "Humans Need Not Apply" for all the terrifying details.

2. As you prepare to pitch your idea and show off your prototype at TechFest NW in April, what are you most excited about?

Beginning this process! Stevie and Talya, among the other members of the team that are excited about such a cool project and agriculture and automation, have been obsessed for years about fixing the broken food system of this country and the world. TechFest NW is not only a very cool event, but for us it's the beginning of our Living Window leading the way to our path for a better food system for everyone.

3. Who are your Cleantech Heroes? Who do you look to for inspiration?

Farmer Greg from the Urban Farm Podcast and Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening. Both of those men on their podcasts and blogs speak, interview, and write about resilient, regenerative gardening and farming techniques and food systems. There is so much to learn from them and the (absolutely amazing!) guests they interview. It is nonstop inspiration to hear what is being done by all these incredible people and how we can do it too!

4. Tell us about your team: How did you meet each other and how do you work together?

Talya and Stevie met at a party and ended up spending hours talking about food systems and agricultural system resiliency until they both knew they wanted to work on a project together! Will and Stevie met in class and just worked so well in labs that it was natural to work on a bigger project as a team. After that Stevie recruited like crazy to build the rest of the team, she found the best people responded to personal recruitment (like running into Ivan in an elevator and just chatting until he joined the club or Elizabeth from a math class or Shoshanah from a club leader's lunch) or to talking to classes (Anthony) or newsletter blurbs talking about the project (Ruby, Christian, and our new marketing student joining the team soon). We have a lot of people helping with many aspects of this project! We work together great! At times it is stressful when some of us get overwhelmed with all we have to do outside of this project, but we've been good at communicating and working together to get things done through the hard times.

5. What’s the one thing you want the Cleantech Challenge judges to understand about your innovation (that will ensure your team will win the competition)?

That this is only the beginning of bringing more smart, capable people into the food system automation realm. This project is not just an automated greenhouse in a wall. It's about normalizing the idea of everyone growing their own food no matter their skills at gardening and bringing that into the home. Even more than that in the big picture, this is to push the priority of food resiliency forward. To choose the Living Window as the winner is to choose food automation as the priority worth pushing to the top of the list. This project is about choosing priorities, and we have chosen to focus our tremendous talents towards the one priority that humans absolutely cannot live without: food. The Living Window is the beginning of our vision to make a resilient, clean food future.