With This Foolproof Smartphone App, You Can Grow Fruits and Veggies Indoors

A few clicks on the Niwa, and you’ll turn into a gardening pro.

Patricia Dao is a regular contributor to TakePart. She is a Los Angeles–based serial tech entrepreneur and managing director of the nonprofit Girls in Tech–LA.

With all the controversy around GMOs and pesticide-infested foods, eating fresh and organic produce daily is easier said than done. Not everyone is blessed with a green thumb and the knowledge to grow a garden, not least are those who live in the city, with little outdoor space to work with. Alternatively, city dwellers can pick up tomatoes and herbs from their local grocery stores, but the premium costs on certain organic products can burn a hole in a family's grocery budget. A new technology company called Niwa hopes to solve the problem.

Niwa is marketed as the world's first smartphone-controlled plant-growing system. In a home-friendly 35-inch-high plant incubator (27 inches for the mini), the Niwa creates and controls the ideal environment for your plants to thrive in. "Just tell the app what you want to grow, and it will load a specific set of preprogrammed settings, making sure your plant has the perfect environment to grow," says Javier Morillas, Niwa CEO and cofounder.

Plant a seed from your favorite hydroponic-based produce (tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, basil, strawberries), tell the Niwa smartphone application what you planted, and watch the hardware use its sensors to adjust to the ideal temperature, humidity, light, and water cycles. For those who dislike the mess of soil, the founders have implemented hydroponic technology, which feeds a plant its nutrients directly from water. No soil needed.

The brain of the system contains software loaded with the knowledge of experienced farmers who have worked closely with the Niwa team to ensure that a perfect growing environment is constructed for every plant type. Although the plant incubator can work on autopilot, the app allows you to enter feedback. You can, for example, let the system know your observations, such as if flowers are blooming yet. The app then relays the information to the incubator and adjusts any growth settings and climate changes needed. Born with a green thumb? For more experienced gardeners, the app allows you to design your own climate settings.

The founders are looking to the Kickstarter community to raise funds for the first consumer batch of Niwa devices. The campaign is gaining momentum, with pledges starting at $199 to secure your own Niwa. With 23 days to go, the Niwa team has reached more than 75 percent of its pledge goal. Estimated delivery date is set for May 2015.

Whether you're looking for a cool interactive way to teach your kids about gardening or want one less thing to worry about when you go on vacation, the Niwa is on the right track to paving a healthy and efficient way for families to consume their daily dose of fruits and veggies. 

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