IKEA has launched its new indoor gardening product into stores, bringing home hydroponics to a larger market (+ slideshow).
The Krydda/Växer series allows consumers to grow their own plants and vegetables inside, without soil or sunlight.
It works through two interlinked systems: first seeds are placed in the Växer’s moistened stone wool starter plugs. Once they have sprouted, the plugs are planted into Krydda pots, where they are hugged by water-retaining pumice stones as they mature.
Units can either be placed in a windowsill to take advantage of natural sunlight or affixed to a specialised low-energy LED lamp to enable cultivation anywhere, at any time of year.
This type of product is a first for IKEA, as it moves towards a more sustainable vision for the interiors market. Related storyWe’ve reached “peak home furnishings” says IKEA sustainability chief
The company’s senior product developer Ronnie Runesson was inspired to develop the range while living in China. Having grown up on the rural Swedish island of Öland, he considered how food cultivation could be reintroduced into the lives of city apartment dwellers.
“What we wanted to achieve was finding a solution so that our customers could grow their own herbs and vegetables 12 months a year,” said Runesson.
“Whether you live in the northern parts of Sweden in the wintertime, or if you live in Singapore, China or North America, wherever you are you should find a solution at IKEA.”
The project saw his team collaborate with agricultural scientists in Sweden to develop a hydroponic system that would work on an extremely small scale, while remaining affordable and easy to use.
“The challenge was to make growing plants in a hydroponic system simple, so that anyone could succeed,” said Helena Karlén, lecturer at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. “We were also very interested, not only that they grow, but also the taste… they should taste good, very good actually.”
The chosen cultivars include varieties of herbs, lettuce, pak choi and chard, and take about seven weeks to mature.
While similar products already exist, Krydda/Växer’s ease of use and price point – combined with IKEA’s global reach – could mean that small-space, indoor gardening becomes far more widespread.
IKEA’s sustainability chief Steve Howard recently acknowledged that, even though the company plans to double its sales by 2020, “we have probably reached peak stuff”.
Recognising the growing consumer demand for healthier, more sustainable ways of living, the company is focusing on a new model of a “circular IKEA” where customers are encouraged to repair and recycle their goods.
The launch of an indoor gardening product speaks to the same strategy. However, scientist Karlén sees hydroponics stretching beyond the environmentally conscious middle class to everyone affected by urbanisation.
“When thinking of the developing countries, this kind of cultivation system is very important,” she said. “Then it’s not just for fun, it means that you can have the possibility to grow something that is of importance to your diet. Perhaps selling some of it to gain an extra income, meaning that livelihood gets easier for a lot of people.”
UK pricing for the Växer nursery starts at £5, while the Krydda pots retail at £16 for the single-tier model.