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  • 05.28.14

This Redesigned Cap Turns Any Water Bottle Into A Vegetable Garden

The Petomato allows you to actually grow tomatoes inside any plastic water bottle. “When the fruit ripens, it’s kind of shocking.”

As a gardening-obsessed college student in Japan, Takuya Hasegawa wanted to figure out how to help more people start growing their own food–even if, like many people living in crowded Japanese cities, they didn’t have a yard or much room inside their apartment. He was studying aquaponics, and decided to make the smallest aquaponic garden possible: A system that could grow tomatoes or peppers inside a single water bottle. The Petomato was born.

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The kit itself is fairly simple–a regular bottle cap is replaced with a small tube that holds the plant and a fibrous core that draws water inside–but it takes a few more steps than an ordinary garden. You have to follow a regular routine of changing and fertilizing the water, prune the plants so they can fit inside the tiny space, and even hand-pollinate your tomatoes so they can bear fruit.


Still, it’s simple enough that anyone can start to build a small vegetable garden in a kitchen or living room. “Hasegawa ultimately designed it so it was easy for anyone to enjoy growing tomatoes hydroponically with no previous skills,” says Laura Engel, vice president of Kagan Unlimited, the company that recently brought the product to the U.S. “It’s something anyone can do if they have a windowsill that provides sun.”

The resulting plants are fairly impressive. “The fact that you can actually grow tomatoes in a water bottle surprises people,” Engel says. “When the fruit ripens, it’s kind of shocking.”

When the product was first introduced in Japan, it was an instant hit, selling half a million units the first year. “I think there were a few reasons for the success–Japan has a dense population and less access to outdoor gardening, and vegetables are expensive there,” says Engel. The company also made a series of over-the-top videos with a costumed friend singing love songs about tomatoes, which had some viral success.

In the U.S., it’s been a little slower to catch on, but Engel has hope, pointing out that it’s perfect for anyone living in small spaces or cold climates who wants to have fresh food at home. And it’s one way to reuse a few of the billions of PET bottles that tend to end up in landfills.

“I think Hasegawa wants to save the world one bottle at a time,” Engel says.

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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