In a cramped urban apartment or flat where every inch of space is at a premium for daily living, the micro-sized indoor garden has a a lot of value. There are a variety of small hydroponic gardens already on the market, but the latest newcomer, NIWA, has some unique features and functionality. The case is smart looking, sleek and modern, so unlike many hydroponic setups, you won’t feel compelled to hide it in the closet. You would lose some of it’s operational efficiency tucked away in the dark. You’ll have no problem putting this recirculating system where decor is usually most important – in your living room.

Designed to take full advantage of all available sunlight, NIWA has a base dimension of just 8″ (21cm) wide and 19″ (49cm) long. The perfect size for many windowsills where sunshine will be strongest inside any building. The enclosed environment is equipped with a light energy sensor that monitors what your crop needs, weighs it against what exists, and if found wanting, turns on the compact CFL grow light inside the unit to raise light levels automatically. However, if you set the garden where there is no sunlight at all, it will use more electricity, and may not generate enough light energy for whatever you’re growing to do well. Maximum energy consumption with light and heater running is reported to be 200 watts of power. I’m assuming that’s a per month energy use measurement, because the NIWA team didn’t stipulate that detail for me.

Smartphone Control: NIWA Micro Hydroponic Garden SystemThe crystal clear enclosure also helps to maintain temperatures and humidity inside the garden. Sensors control whether auxiliary heat or humidity is needed, and adjusts the indoor greenhouse environment on demand. Since NIWA is fully automated via WIFI it interacts with the Growot app on your smartphone, which works on both Android and IOS system phones. The app keeps you informed on what’s going on in the garden, plant growth, and alerts you to garden tasks that need to be taken care of. So, NIWA is interactive too.

Specs for what comes standard with the package includes things like a 80/125 watt compact fluorescent grow lamp in a standard E27 bulb holder, 100 watt heater, 120v brushless fan,  accommodates 110v and 220v power supply, and has a 5 liter reservoir that feeds and waters up to 6 plants at a time. I asked if the nutrients were included like they are with the little AeroGarden, and while they do have plans for packages that include nutes and seed, it wasn’t stipulated as part of the kick off units. That’s okay though, “seeds included” never covers the really cool stuff. It’s not like seeds are super expensive! Buying your own let’s you grow that favorite chili variety, or try your hand at raising some rare type of demure sauce tomato.

One of the neat things about NIWA is it’s ease of use and interactivity. It’s a unit that can teach anyone more about growing a crop successfully and efficiently. The perfect system for the new indoor gardener, yet those with more experience will no doubt find the online community of fellow NIWA growers enjoyable. While it was created to help busy urban dwellers grow fresh food in their challenging environment, the automated micro garden will also allow you to grow exotic flowers like orchids or medicinal herbs.

There are two sizes of the NIWA that will be available if their Kickstarter campaign that launches tomorrow on May 11th is a success. The Mini gives you enough height for herbs, lettuce, strawberries and other low-growing plants with it’s maximum plant height accommodation of  13″ (35cm). The Standard NIWA will be what most people will want so they can grow small tomato and pepper plants within it’s 35″ (89cm) tall growing space. Both sized units have the same footprint.

To learn more, visit the NIWA website. Since the Kickstarter campaign has yet to launch, check their FB page on Sunday where the link will no doubt be readily available. By the way, if you’re wondering how this new food-tech gadget got it’s name… in Japanese, ‘niwa’ means garden.

UPDATE: May 15…

The response to the world’s first smartphone controlled micro-garden system is pretty phenomenal. Aga from NIWA reports that they raised an incredible $28,000 in the first 24 hours of their crowd-funding campaign. Pretty awesome. And here we are on Day 5 of their campaign and they are already getting close to 50% funded with almost $42K pledged. Follow their progress or help fund this new food-tech startup here: NIWA Kickstarter Page.

Tammy Clayton

Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.
Tammy Clayton