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Ikea's Space10 lab grows food of the future

Space10, Ikea's innovation lab, previewed an indoor, hydroponic food growing system that's three times faster than traditional methods.

Ikea/Space10
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Space10's Lokal farm is a hydroponic prototype that grows food in nutrient-rich water under LED light. 

Ikea/Space10

Could we one day be programming our produce? Ikea thinks so. During September's London Design FestivalSpace10, Ikea's Copenhagen-based innovation lab, previewed Lokal, an experimental indoor farm initiative. Ikea, well known for its flat-pack furniture, looks to solve real-world issues with a system that allows people to grow and harvest their own food indoors without sunlight or soil.

The prototype of this vertical mini-farm is built as a hydroponic system. Rather than soil, crops grow in water filled with just the right amount of mineral nutrients. Using stackable trays and a climate-controlled box, Lokal grows vegetables under modified LED lights that allow year-round indoor growing at a rate three times faster than traditional methods. While the speed alone is impressive, Space10 also estimates this method uses 90 percent less water. The method also creates less waste and eliminates the need for soil or sunlight as part of the growing process.

Packed into a space-friendly design, Space10's farm hopes to offer solutions for food problems resulting from climate change and inefficient global food production.

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Chef Simon Perez offered London Design Festival attendees a sampling of salads made with Lokal microgreens. 

In addition to the speedy, hydroponic system, Space10 say the next step is introducing sensors and connecting the data with the Google Home. Smart sensors would measure and control the environment, while learning over time how to optimize crops for healthier and faster growth. With sensors that learn and create data, it's possible we might one day ask our smart assistant to grow more basil or tell us when to harvest lettuce.

During the six-day pop up in east London's borough of Shoreditch, chef-in-residence, Simon Perez and his team served more than 2,000 complimentary salads. Visitors had a choice of three dishes made with hydroponically grown microgreens and locally-sourced ingredients. Each dish also included a salad dressing made with spirulina, a kind of microalgae. Space10 then surveyed 100 people about taste of the food. Impressively, 90 people said their salad was "delicious" and only one person didn't like it.

Space10 say the purpose of the prototype was to test how Londoners felt about food grown hydroponically and whether they liked the taste of the microgreens. Ikea and Space10 plan to continue experimenting with the hydroponic system and teaching the world about sustainable food.