Do you ever get frustrated when you see out-of-country labels on produce at the store when you know those plants could be grown locally? If so, Javier Morillas, founder of Niwa, feels you. Niwa, a fully automated, connected and responsive hydroponic growing system features custom-made software that knows what plants need and when they need it.
Morillas created the smartphone-controlled at-home hydroponic gardening system after watching thousands of trucks filled with produce exporting food out of Almeria, Spain, his hometown. “I started wondering why produce production had gone that far from the consumer,” he says. “The answer I found was because we just can’t grow them ourselves; the lack of time, space, conditions, or skills, made this impossible. As a technology lover, I decided to start using technology to make the whole process simple and to enable everyone to grow their own food wherever they are."
Almeria is the largest producer of tomatoes on Earth with hydroponic greenhouses visible from space, Morillas says. He began to work with agricultural experts to discover how to take advanced growing technology and put it in hands of the public. "After two years of research and development, multiple prototypes and trials we finally created Niwa."
Morillas recruited a multidisciplinary team with expertise in different fields, such as software development, and agricultural and marketing. So far, the app can control watering cycles, light, temperature and humidity, and ventilation cycles. "The hardware is connected to the Internet and there is a smartphone app that sets the right growing variables according to your chosen plant,” he says. “Just tell the app what you want to grow and it will load a specific set of pre-programmed settings, making sure your plant has the perfect environment to grow. More seasoned growers can also use the system for incubation and experimentation.”
So far, the indoor, hydroponic gardening app can help people grow:
- Vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, pea, lettuce, cabbage, lamb´s lettuce, spinach, and celery.
- Fruits, such as strawberries.
- Herbs and medicinal plants, such as basil, mint, parsley, salvia, chamomile, and coriander.
- Flowers, such as daisies, violets, petunias, and tropical plants, such as orchids, begonias, and more.
The first round of systems will have a few, custom-made programs that will help gardeners grow tomatoes, peppers and herbs. "We hope our community of experienced growers will start creating their own programs and sharing it with others so, soon, everybody will be able to grow truly anything that fits,” he says. “Although you cannot grow root vegetables, such as carrots or potatoes, we are already working on a custom-made tray so you can soon be able to enjoy that, too.”
Niwa recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help prove the system's concept and finance it, too. “Developing hardware requires many more resources and involves much higher risk than any other type of business," he says. "Kickstarter helps us to see whether there is demand for this particular product and to get it off the ground with the help of the people who believe in our vision, and want to see it become a reality.”
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