The bits and chips behind Niwa
Many of you were asking what is the technology behind Niwa, so we decided to write a blog post and explain exactly how Niwa actually does its magic.
The product you see now is the culmination of a two year long journey of constant iterations, improvements, multiple prototypes, many failed attempts, search for the components, the right suppliers, but all the more, an ongoing work with agricultural experts. Lets talk about the bits and chips behind Niwa.
Meet Niwa – and its brain of an experienced farmer
As you know Niwa, is a combination of hardware and a software working together to take away the hassle of gardening as you know it. It creates the perfect growing environment, waters and feeds your plants and allows you to control it all from your smartphone. But how it does it do this? Keep on reading:
The most important part of Niwa is its brain – a powerful ARM M3 microcontroller loaded with custom made software which gathers years of experience and knowledge about how to take care of plants. It has all the knowledge of an experienced farmer, so you don’t need to worry about when to water your plants or what is the ideal temperature to get more juicy tomatoes, Niwa knows. Cool ha?
This microcontroller is situated right inside the Niwa enclosure and its constantly gathering data from the multiple sensors spread across the device like: temperature, humidity, light level and water level. This set of sensors tell Niwa what’s going on at every moment and the actuators will give your plants all they need to grow strong and healthy.
Depending on the status and the feedback from the user, the brain also controls the following:
- Lamp: Niwa senses the amount of light your plants receive along the day, it it’s not enough it will automatically turn the light on to compensate the needings of your plants.
- Heater system: Many plans like to be warm, especially vegetables. Niwa watches and adjusts the temperature and humidity constantly to keep conditions ideal for your plants.
- Fan: Niwa incorporates a fan for perfect ventilation so your plants can breathe and keep the humidity at its ideal level
- Watering pump: Because hydroponic crops have to be watered very often, Niwa will adjust the irrigation cycles depending on what is growing inside. It will not only water the plants, but also feed them with the right amount of nutrients.
Niwa is based on hydroponic technology – a soil-less way to grow. There are tonnes of benefits to hydroponics and a lot of them are reasons we use them. See this infographic for more details.
As you can see, its like having an experienced farmer taking care of your plants. Niwa is also connected to Internet, so you can control it all through the app whenever and wherever you are. But that’s not all…
Smart feedback loops for increased performance
Every different plant has different needs, plus, the same plant will have different needs during its life at every stage. Depending on the plant, there can be up to nine different stages. The key therefore is to identify which stage the plant is at and reproduce the ideal conditions for it at this particular stage. That’s exactly the job of Niwa’s brain. To achieve this, Niwa needs feedback. A significant part of this feedback come from the sensors, but it still needs your feedback; remember, you’re still in control of the experience and your plant is a living creature! So in order to know which phase your plants are accurately, the app will ask you simple questions like “Can you see flowers?”. If you answer “yes”, a new stage is triggered. In this example, it would be “flowering stage” and a new setting is loaded. This setting contains the following variables:
- Watering cycles
- Light needings
- Ideal temperature and humidity
- Ventilation cycles
The brain will manage the actuators to fulfill these settings. This way, your plants are always in the best conditions to grow strong and healthy.
Just tell it what you want to grow
We have developed a number of programs already, so you can just tell the app what you want to grow and it will load a specific settings for the plant. We’re constantly developing new ones, but there are millions of different plants and maybe you want to experiment. That’s why you can create your own “growing recipes” with your own custom settings. Advanced users can even control Niwa in fully-manual mode.
In the current model, you can grow plants up to 23” (58cm). We are working on new form factors and on a new tray to grow root vegetables, like carrots… yum!
Are you excited to have your own experienced farmer at home and grow fresh produce? We are fast approaching pre-orders through Kickstarter. Be sure to sign up to be the first to know when we’re ready!