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Malthus, a Meal a Day. Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Food and Love the (Population) Bomb.

As designers we give ideas a form and we transform them into things. We can’t certainly solve the world’s challenges, but what we can do is to create a concrete storytelling about them. A narrative.

Malthus is one of these tales. It is an in-home aquaponics unit designed for the next generation kitchen or living room. It grows one meal a day: a portion of fish and a side salad. Aquaponics farming is a technique that combines the cultivation of fish with the growing of vegetables. The fish provides rich fertilizer for the plants and in return, the plants clean the water from the tank. The fish and the plants co-exist in a symbiotic relationship.

Malthus is an appliance for the kitchen of the future that grows food right next to where you cook it. Malthus consists of a fish tank that holds 400 litres which can support more then 2kg of fish like tilapia, salmon, grey fish or carp. The water is pumped through three cultivated grow beds which filter the water for the fish.

Malthus is designed to optimize space and costs with indoor food production. The weight of the fish tank is comparable to the one of a full bathtub, its width is about the size of two small refrigerators. Its parts are made of elements available in most DIY stores.

[svg src="" width="400" height="565" style="display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right=auto;" type="embed" ]

Malthus #01 was built thanks to the collaboration of Ola Nilsson and presented for the first time at the 10th edition of NESS – Nordic Environmental Social Sciences Conference – Stockholm 14th -16th June 2011 within the context of the exhibition “Power Landscapes” curated by Po Hangström. The theme of the conference is also the theme of an art project where the invited artists (Katia Aglert, New Beauty Council, Cristine Ödlund) presented works on design as a tool for social and environmental engagement.

Malthus has a planned production limited to 100 numbered pieces. The first piece (Malthus #00) is the prototype currently running in our office in Zurich, thanks to Laura Vargalyte, our intern. The design and the production factors of Malthus have been made possible by the technical support of Andreas Graber from UrbanFarmers and Head of the Aquaponics project of the Zurich University of Applied Science who has introduced us to urban farming and to Aquaponics techniques.

A special acknowledgement goes to Stefano Massa for making things run smoothly throughout the project. This text has been kindly edited with the collaboration of Liz Henry Economou of Nuance Words.

[svg src="" width="400" height="565" style="display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right=auto;" type="embed"]
[svg src="" width="400" height="565" style="display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right=auto;" type="embed"]
[svg src="" width="400" height="565" style="display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right=auto;" type="embed"]
[svg src="" width="400" height="565" style="display:block; margin-left:auto; margin-right=auto;" type="embed"]


Related posts:

  1. Edge Park. Malthus Goes Venice. An Exhibition at Parco del Contemporaneo.
  2. ELIOOO. Grow Your Food. Or How to Go to IKEA® and Build a Device to Grow Salad in Your Apartment.
  3. UrbanFarmers Concept Farm Model Presented at TEDx Zurich.
  4. Fish from the Sky with Vegetables. Globe / Hedron a Rooftop Farm.
  5. Generic Architecture as Strategic Design for Rooftop Urban Agriculture: Aquaponic Farm in Basel for Urban Farmers.
  6. READYKEA an Exhibition Device for DADA New York II: The Revolution to Smash Capitalism.
  7. An Interview About ELIOOO, the Book About How to Grow Food Using IKEA® Furniture, was Aired on Hydrowshow, an UK TV Show About Hydroponics.
  8. Orto Perpetuo. A Year-round Edible Garden Module in Your Apartment. Urban Agriculture Survival Kit, Salone del Mobile, Milano 2014.
  9. Malthus’
  10. Italy Up in Smoke @ Milano Design Week



{ 29 trackbacks }

Malthus: The Next Generation Kitchen | eeko studio BLOG
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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sue Reddel 28/06/2011 at 20:57

Love this idea. Very, very cool.

2 joan 29/06/2011 at 16:12


3 gef05 30/06/2011 at 23:46

Fascinating concept. Obviously it’s still a pipe dream to get a meal a day from it, but I accept the concept and would like to see more ideas like this get developed. There’s an attainable end-product in there somewhere…

4 scarponio 01/07/2011 at 09:03

Well, you dream I eat! Malthus can produce easily 200g of fish and a portion of salad a day. This does not mean that it falls from a tree into your plate, there is work to do, but that is the food it can produce. Production factors comes from a research center in aquaponics and they are based on an average scenario. Most people would probably have an aquarium with decorative fish and only grow salad I guess, but still having tilapia, carps, salmon or grey fish is possible. Bon appetite!

5 Issy 02/07/2011 at 02:04

Fralnky I think that’s absolutely good stuff.

6 Ian Chavez 07/07/2011 at 12:46

Owsome concep, my dad and I are getting ready to make one by our own, wish us luck!

7 Olmo Axayacatl 19/07/2011 at 19:41

Very good work of design! ;)

8 juan cavalleri 20/07/2011 at 03:58

muy bueno este sistema llegara a URUGUAY SUDAMERICA?

9 Rahul Jani 21/07/2011 at 14:05

This is one of the most ingenious things Ive ever seen. Hats off to you guys. Brilliant!!!!!!!!!! :D

10 ROQUE ARGUELLO T 22/07/2011 at 13:08

muy buenos estos proyectos espero info a mi correo gracias desde colombia santmarta

11 CC 17/08/2011 at 11:38

CC license and PDF manual please…

12 scarponio 17/08/2011 at 11:58

All the site is in CC. The manual is not released because the project is still under development. It will come soon thought. ;-)

13 Mikey 20/08/2011 at 20:29

Careful folks ! There is a lot more to it than setting up a fish tank and planting seeds. The water quality needs to be carefully monitored for nitrates & nitrites and O2 levels. And then there is the algae issue. I built one just like this one, and it worked great for about 3 months. Plenty of lettuce & spinach, but then the fish started dying. Eventually they all died and I don’t know why. And 400 liters (approx. 100 gallons) would not (I believe) produce 200 g of fish a day. They will not grow that fast. I had better luck with hydroponics, but then you do have to purchase plant nutrients.

14 Carlos a f wey 22/08/2011 at 01:39

gostaria de ter o projeto para testar em minha casa quando tiver aprovado para comercialização comercial .
A ideia e revolucionaria
Parabéns Carlos wey

15 Elisa Montoya 24/09/2011 at 17:05

How can I get more information about this device? Could I buy it anywhere? I would like to install something similar in the countryside of Madrid

16 scarponio 26/09/2011 at 20:16

Hello there, thanks for writing. For more info you are more then welcome to write us at The project is under development, you could be a beta customer.

17 Mike H 31/12/2011 at 20:16

I agree with Mikey above. I set up an aquaponics system using gold fish. Also got plenty of lettuce & spinach, and I closely monitored the nitrates, nitrites, O2, but after 2 or 3 months the fish started dying. I never figured out why (they all died) so I switched to hydroponics. You do have to monitor the nutrients in the water, and replace the water every 2 or 3 weeks (sometimes I let it go a month) so there is a small expense for new nutrients, but it works.

18 Oelsen 03/01/2012 at 22:03

But it won’t work as a wholesale solution. You wrote already, it is only a meal a day, for _one person_. When advertising your solution, stress this fact, or you will hear the following critique:
A human needs 10 to 12 MJ/day. A window(2x1m) gets around 5 to 10 MJ/day, we here have half a year only 2MJ/window-day, the living creatures need energy too and we shouldn’t forget that this setup lacks seriously micronutrients.

Still, as a installation on high rise buildings or as a shade to capture the torrid insolation around a southern suburbian house it will be of use. And the fish look nice. Emphasize the nice look and that the salad tastes better!

19 taigawoods 12/05/2012 at 19:06

I want this thing!
When are you ready with testing?

20 scarponio 13/05/2012 at 07:04

Nearly done. Get in touch with me if you are really interested.

21 Cyrano 25/05/2012 at 18:58

Great idea, but, as with the dome, your ‘front page’ gives the impression of a developed product. Mikey sounds a needed caution: you have to have at least a year’s run to see the needs, costs, production, and solutions. The Story has to go around a cycle of seasons.

22 jim 18/09/2012 at 16:26

I would be interested in building one without the aquaponics. A very interesting design with thebuilt-in light source. I like simplicity of ELIOOO, but lack of light source limits it somewhat. Is it finished yet?

23 Antonio Scarponi 18/09/2012 at 16:36

Thanks! Some neon light is enough for leaf vegetables. ELIOOO is on the way: if you are interested please spread the voice!

24 arindam 01/09/2013 at 20:20

population bomb…?
We did a testing in rural areas. Commercial aquaponics is a viable option but till a plan need to be strategised to make it a fully alternative.

25 elsuirad 10/05/2014 at 09:26

This is one of the Great Ideas that everyone should do it in their own home especially those have spacious backyard.

I added your post on my site and even the entire site’s linked from my website.

Keep up the good (Best) work!

26 Mirm 11/05/2014 at 10:30

Soo… how many fish, say tilapa, would you put into the tank? Would you consider putting in some algae eaters as well to help with appearances? And what about re-stocking the fish – manual or via reproduction?

I’m also curious as to why some people are saying that the fish die off after 3 months… is that the lifespan of tilapa?

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