Imagine cutting the lettuce for your salad straight from your own home garden. It's a romantic idea IKEA has introduced as an easy-to-assemble hydroponics package—no backyard required.

“How it works? Just keep an eye on the water level. That’s all,” the site reads. No need to get down and dirty.

This indoor garden utilizes the science of hydroponics. It's a way to grow food without soil, just minerals and nutrients. It sounds like a new concept—something out of science fiction—but Dickson Despommier, emeritus professor of microbiology and public health at Columbia University, explains hydroponics have been around for quite some time.

“[B]ack in the 1930s some agronomists in the United States and in Europe also, sensing a need for an alternate way of growing food learn that plants will actually grow without soil. If you supply the right nutrition in a water environment, so the term hydroponics came into vogue then. During the Second World War hydroponics played a big role in the South Pacific.”

Even in the dead of winter—so long as the plants are supplied with the right climate, light, and nutrients—you can have a farm-fresh salad. The advancements of these systems allow urban apartment dwellers to grow and maintain their own small garden. And the IKEA kit, in particular, allows everyone to get an introductory lesson in what it feels like to grow and provide their own food.

 Many apartment dwellers may sympathize with Britta Riley's remarks in her Ted Talk. “[T]here are days when I palpably feel how much I rely on other people for pretty much everything in my life,” she said. “And some days, that can even be a little scary.”

Riley brings up an interesting point, as urban populations continue to rise over the next few decades, creating sustainable food sources has become an increasingly urgent topic of discussion. Home hydroponic systems may become part of the solution. After all, shipping a salad from your window to your plate is much more efficient than shipping it from across the country to your grocer.


Photo Credit: IKEA

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker