The market for more visually appealing indoor hydroponic (and aquaponics) kits is growing. This isn’t a new topic, and one I’ve covered a few times before (indoor pioneers, or this one on Japanese innovations, for example). But with the marketing splash made by IKEA recently and some of the innovations as products are tweaked, it’s time to have a look again. And please do let me know your thoughts on the visual/décor aspects, cost and general efficiency of these growing kits!
Amazeballs or horse meatballs?
First-up, let’s look at IKEA’s offering. I’ve used the UK site for the IKEA product range, as sadly the Singapore one is pretty weak for indoor gardening kit. As you’d expect from IKEA, what you get is simplicity at affordable prices. The most expensive kit is £187, or a post-Brexit bargain of US$246. For this you get a three-tiered platform capable of housing 45 pots, a growlight, a nursery tray and grow-kits. Not bad. My question, and I caveat, I do not own this kit, is having done similar home-made experiments in UK light conditions, are their lamps on each level? If so, that would represent a great bit of kit.
It’s not the world’s most aesthetically beautiful design, but tucked away in a kitchen, conservatory, or even a bathroom, and flowing with yummy green things, I could see it working.
Back in the Grove
Next up is Grove Labs, profiled previously with their very sizeable unit. Well, they’re back, and the new product is interesting indeed. The large refrigerator model has been replaced with something that is part educator, part aquarium and part farm. I can see the appeal to those with families particularly, and don’t think it’s a coincidence kids are used more in the marketing photos.
Technically using the fish makes it aquaponics, but as the fish they’re recommending (some lovely images below) are not really your edible kind, it’s more of an aquarium that adults and kids alike will get pleasure from meditatively observing. In case you're wondering, from left to right we have: neon tetras, Cory catfish, white cloud minnows, guppies and female betta fish.
Atop the aquarium is a nice deep box with a higher light ceiling than some other products that should let you grow some of the taller home crops – think chards, kales, tomatoes, rosemary etc. This is important if your intention is to go beyond salad leaves and herbs, which generally are the limit of some of the other home kits. This does make the unit sizeable however (see here) and it’s not cheap, with prices starting (depending on your choice of wood finish) at $4,200. That said, I think Grove have cleverly recognised their product is one that businesses wanting to improve their green-print and schools wanting to educate about sustainability and urban agriculture might splurge on.
I don’t have the money, home or geography (US product for now) for this, but I can see the appeal.
Land of the rising fun
My beloved Japan, scene of many regular visits, is up next. Like Grove, some of the previously profiled companies have been refining, innovating and expanding their offerings.
U-ING has a great range from lower- to higher-end products, topped by the Green Farm Tower (image on the right). If you want to have a look at an English language site selling (when not sold out!) the tower, have a look here. The price seems to vary, but a quick search of eBay found the tower going for just over $3,000 and the basic cube starting from $161.
What comforts me about these products is the Japanese appreciation of economy of space, for those of us without sizeable homes. Furthermore, U-ING make other white goods, like refrigerators, so they have a track record in manufacturing. Aesthetically I could see it going well in homes with a modern design feel.
Finally – and this is no means exhaustive, just a sample of what’s out there – it’s back to the very Japanese and cute Akarina range. These products are firmly on the ‘looking nice and providing functional lighting for your home’ end of the spectrum, with IKEA’s focus on utility at the other end. But who said growing at home can’t be a style choice!?
I do like the look and feel of these products, but would personally go for more utility first. However, if pressed by a generous relative frustrated at my “I don’t need anything” standard response to “what do you want for [Xmas/birthday]?” questions, I might point them to this range. Especially as, for the Japanese products, it’s the most international (retailing in the UK for example). These products aren’t cheap, with the rather funky UFO-style grow bowl (called Akarina 01, image on the right) at £170.00 (US$224), but I guess design has a price.
Over to you…
Of this small sample, which would you go for, and why? Always good to hear the perspectives of others, and please also do link to other similar indoor growing kits, products and ideas.