Vertical Garden Online speaks with Spanish product designer Xavi Rius and learns how computers can provide precise control of nutrients to hydroponic gardens. Rius also touches on the problems of being a start up and using crowdfunding . And of course he explains his new vertical plant growing furniture, Citysens.
Xavi Rius: When I finished my phD back in 2012 I decided to start a new business based on the research Ihad conducted on the use of sensors to monitor hydroponic systems. Editor Note: the research identified an easy to use computer-operated system to monitor the necessary nutrients for a plant’s optimal growth. The system utilised Carbon Nanotubbe-Based Ion Selective Electrodes. Ion Selective Electrodes have not been used widely to date because they are too complicated to control. Please refer to following PDF for further details. Poster_Campus_Nobel_XRR.
When we asked first clients about this new technology the answer was that first they wanted to solve a much more simplier problem: they wanted to enjoy plants without restrictions from time, space or knowledge. That is why we came up with the idea of the Citysens garden.
Hopefully, in the future, we will integrate technology on our Citysens garden so clients can further enjoy their garden at home or in their office.
Vertical Garden Online: What plants are best suited to the Citysens
Xavi Rius: I can assure you…[the following] plants – Areca palm, Anthurium, Aglaonema, Calathea, Guzmania, Mint, Oregano, Pennyroyal, Pothos, Sansevieria, scandens, Spathiphyllum, – have been working fine in our system for more than 12 months in the Barcelona area (Mediterranean climate).
What are the plants that work in hydroponic vertical gardens in UK, US or Australia? Are there many differences?
Vertical Garden Online: all the plants you mentioned I have either grown, or seen growing, in Australia and the UK. I do know that the variety of house plants available in the UK is much greater than in Australia. The UK has some fabulous trailing plants that would look rather sci-fi in Citysens.
Vertical Garden Online: Can edibles be grown in Citysens?
Xavi Rius: Yes, please refer to Green Aromas plant family http://citysens.com/en/citysens/plants/green-aroma and our initial studies with tomatoes
Vertical Garden Online: I understand your product was on a crowd sourcing platform – Indiegogo . You did not raise the money – now what?
Xavi Rius: The feeling we have now is bittersweet because we have not reached the economic goal we set for the crowdfunding, but we are very happy to have had the support from more than 170 backers and several professionals interested in our product.
We have learned a lot about how Citysens can go ahead and we already have several ways on how to improve the product and the project to make it viable. Therefore the Citysens team are determined to continue with the project. Next 3 months we will be working on improving the product and cost structure so we find the way to start producing the new Citysens garden, which has to be appealing for wholesale partners and clients too.
Vertical Garden Online: Any comments about crowdfunding – its usefulness, how to run a good campaign, etc?
Xavi Rius: Sure! Many comments! Most important ones are the importance of building a big community before starting the campaign and the importance of the strategy (goal, reaching media, cooperation with community, etc). I will be happy to help anyone who wants to launch a crowdfunding campaign on vertical gardens 🙂
Vertical Garden Online Are you designing any new garden related products? If yes can we learn about the ideas?
Xavi Rius: We are focus on reach the market with our new product. First clients already gave us lots of ideas about future products, I wish we can contribute with many solutions for people to enjoy more nature in the cities around the world.
Xavi Rius: In my opinion, maintenance is still a big barrier for the general use of vertical gardens. All vertical gardens look gorgeus the first week but weekly maintenance is needed to keep them beautiful, specially green walls. What is your opinion?
Another observation is that many products are appearing that bring technology to the caring of plants (click&grow, aquafarm, koubachi). In my opinion this technologies and new products are here to stay as long as they merge with mobile technology. Do you agree?
Vertical Garden Online Technology is where the future lies for vertical farming, vertical gardens and the DIY growing systems for home users. We need ways of reducing water consumption and ensuring that indoor lighting solutions are not cost prohibitive. We also need to make fool proof systems where irrigation systems do not fail – maintenance needs to be easy and affordable.
Do these solutions really need to be linked to mobile technology? I don’t think it is necessary but its a nice option to have. I can see the benefit for commercial scale vertical gardens and vertical farms.
Xavi Rius In Europe, more and more people aged 30-40 are interested about vertical gardens and new ways to interact with plants (DIY, mobile tech, etc). What is the most interested people in Australia?
Vertical Garden Online: Yes agree 100% with your statement regarding people’s increasing desire to interact with plants. That is why gardenbeet.com (UK online store) was started in 2009.
Airplants and terrariums are also part of this trend.
Plant wearing is another trend.
I returned to Australia in 2012 and I have noticed that indoor plants, kitchen gardens, airplants, terrariums and vertical gardens have become even more popular in Australia than in the USA or UK.
In 2007 vertical gardening was unheard of in Australia. At the same time the style was growing momentum in the USA. Now Australia has the greatest Google search for the term ‘vertical garden’. I must say I was surprised when Greek architect, Petros Boskos, mentioned in his article that vertical gardens are not that well known about in Greece. Refer to Boskos article
In principle we like Citysens. Its a beautiful object to have in the home. It is difficult to assess the viability of the system without having used it. We look forward to trialling the system when they arrive in Australia.