niwa hydroponics

Is the Future of Food Growing in Your Smartphone?

We have been asked to join conversations on WIRED Innovative Insights and add to a discussion of the future of food. Here is the article I have written and which has been originally posted on WIRED Innovative Insights here. Enjoy


Is the Future of Food Growing in Your Smartphone?

Once upon a time society spent a huge amount of its time living and working on farms and caring for the land. As we’ve moved into urban centers, most of us have become completely disconnect from our food, knowing little about where it comes from or how it’s grown. The time we once spent on the farms has been replaced with time spent in front of a screen, particularly on smartphones. But what if we could connect these two seemingly polar situations? Is the means to reconnect with our food staring at us from the screens of our smartphones?

The Grow Your Own Movement

In the last few years, huge groups of city dwellers across the world have been taking back their connection with food. The grow your own food movement has flourished, with people digging up their gardens and moving into once dwindling allotment spaces. The reasons are varied- to gain independence from the industrial food movement, to make healthier food choices free from pesticides, environmental concerns, or simply the enjoyment of gardening and the feeling of being reconnected to nature.

Moving Indoors

As the movement becomes more sophisticated, it’s no longer all about getting dirty in heaps of soil. In cities starved of space, there’s plenty of enthusiasm about urban farms using aquaponics and hydroponics. Having transformed the industrial food world, hydroponics demand a lot less space and fewer resources like soil and labor. The movement has also begun to move indoors and a number of indoor home hydroponics systems have appeared on the market. While the majority of these systems are limited to small plants and culinary herbs, none are yet to address the larger problems of knowledge and time. Users still need to understand the basic needs of plants and growth cycles, which requires time and effort- things most city dwellers don’t have. For smart growth systems to be truly smart, they need to take this hassle away.

Smarter Growing Systems

In response to this challenge we built Niwa, a smart growing system to help busy city dwellers manage the whole growing experience from their smartphone.

niwa hydroponics

niwa hydroponics

Niwa is an automated, hydroponic system that controls climate variables and light cycles, automatically giving your plants the perfect environment to grow, and watering and feeding your plants when they need it. Because Niwa has the knowledge of a huge number of plants stored in her system, no green thumb or horticultural knowledge is needed. The system also remedies the problem of time. It connects to the Internet, which means that via the smartphone app you can manage and monitor the experience from anywhere, anytime with a touch of your screen.

The Bigger, Greener Picture

The beautiful thing about this idea is that the integration of hardware and software solves the knowledge and time problems, opening new growing frontiers and bringing advanced growing intelligence to anyone’s fingertips. By reuniting ourselves with our inner farmer while keeping in touch with our outer app-based world, these new systems are becoming part of a bigger idea to change the way we eat; an aim to unite the disparate worlds in which we live and promote a more traditional connection with nature. In the future we could see the world of apps transform the world of gardening and food production.


The benefits could be astronomical. By transforming indoor spaces into edible spaces, we could free up land used for crops and cut down on food miles to help the environment. There’s also the benefit of taking back control of what we put on our forks, knowing exactly what is being put into our plants to make them grow. While fully sustainable living might still be a somewhat distant future, spending so much time on our phones could perhaps bring us that one step closer.

Aga is a relentless entrepreneur, a passionate foodie and a fitness freak. A business mind behind Niwa, she dreams about building business which can truly make a shift in how we see personal food production, inspire and empower other to grow their own food.

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