In the future, we may really grow vegetables using our own equipment at home, especially salads, herbs, and tomatoes.
Like other interactive home growing systems we’ve covered recently (see here and here), the Niwa uses hydroponics and sensors to make it as easy as possible to grow vegetables right in your kitchen. It creates an enclosed an environment, and of course, everything is controlled by a smartphone. In this case, you can monitor temperature, watering and lighting levels, and follow growing plans for each type of plant and growing stage.
“The idea was born out of a frustration with our inefficient globalized food system, and from firsthand experience growing up in a region that’s one of the world’s top producers of vegetables,” said co-founder Aga Nazaruk, in an email.
“Almeria [in Spain] is the largest producer of tomatoes on Earth with greenhouses visible from space. Everyday, 2,000 trucks would leave Almeria to deliver vegetables to all over Europe. Why do vegetables have to travel so far?”
Nazaruk developed the Niwa with her friend Javier Morillas. See their Kickstarter pitch below:
As you would expect, Niwa’s campaign comes with the normal messages about reducing food miles, and having fresher, less polluted food at the ready. Nazaruk says the standard size can produce “3 to 5 tomatoes a week, 2 to 3 peppers and can do plenty of salad and herbs.”
It certainly looks well-designed–something you might actually want in the kitchen–and the app seems sophisticated. For example, it will ask questions about your plant, like “Can you see flowers?” If the answer is yes, Niwa will then start on a new growing program and adjust all levels accordingly. There’s no need for a degree in horticulture to get things moving.
The cheapest Niwa kits are currently going for $249, with larger versions costing more (for $999, you can have your name inscribed on every unit sold). That doesn’t seem likely to pay for fresh vegetables all year round. But we’ll have to see what the final product actually looks like. It ships in early 2015.