Botanium: Urban Gardening For All
Small scale hydroponics isn't new, but usually, it's a choice between ugly and cheaply made units or full-scale DIY projects. Botanium combines a simple system with great aesthetics to make the best no-fuss, single plant hydroponics setup we've ever seen.
Urban gardening can be a thankless task. Over and under watering can kill fragile plants, and if you are out of town for any stretch of time, it’s game over. There are home hydroponics kits available, but they tend to be poor quality or require some serious DIY commitment.
Botanium is an automatic, aesthetically pleasing, home hydroponic system which claims to solve both problems. Does it work? Is it worth the €69 (around $77) price? Is it possible for even a career plant killer to finally grow coriander? That’s what we are going to find out today.
What Is Botanium?
Botanium is an all-in-one hydroponics system for growing small plants. The focus here is on herbs, chilies, or small fruit plants like tomatoes or strawberries. Comprising of two stacked plastic units, Botanium combines a lower level for water and growing nutrients and a top layer for the growing medium and seeds. The two halves slot together, connecting five watering nozzles at the top to the pump in the bottom tank.
The project was successfully funded in five days on Kickstarter in 2017, and the first units were shipped later that year.
What’s In The Box?
The Botanium unit is made of hardened plastic measuring 250 x 136mm (that’s around 10 x 5.5 inches), which is available in a variety of colors. The electronics are sealed in the bottom of the unit, and a small pump is affixed to the inside of the bottom of the tank. A small transparent flute on the side shows the water tank level.
It runs at 5A via a two meter USB cable which connects to the provided 5V 1A wall plug.
You also get a box of the growing medium made of porous stone, a 25ml bottle of growing nutrient, the power adaptor, a quick start guide, and a manual. The kit doesn’t come with seeds, but they are available from Botanium for another $4, or you could buy your own locally.
Getting Set Up
Setup is easy, as the quick start guide gives clear instructions. I’d done a little research on hydroponics in the past, so to see how intuitive the guide is I decided to let my partner set it up. Getting started requires a quick rinse of the growing medium, before filling the tank, adding drops of nutrient, and adding the seeds.
Botanium requires no special equipment or tools, and within a couple of minutes, it’s ready to go.
One thing to note, the guide specifies a set amount of nutrient to give, but the Botanium blog highlights differing amounts required depending on whether you are growing herbs, chilis, tomatoes, or strawberries.
Once set up, put it in a sunny place and plug it in. The watering system kicks in, and that’s it. No soil, no worrying about how much water you should give or how often. Every three hours the pump activates, and in time you’ll have the plant of your choice growing.
The top half lifts off, so when the water is getting low, you can pour away the old, and refill it, adding new nutrients. Note that if light levels are a problem in your home, any non-incandescent bulb will work for growing plants indoors.
Life With Botanium
I am in a unique position to review this project. My partner is a keen gardener who, like many, has no space to do so in a city. I, on the other hand, am a terrible killer of plants, but do have experience with hydroponics and microcontrollers. I’ve built a similar system on a larger scale in the past, so I was interested to see how an all-in-one solution would work day-to-day.
In short, the concept of “set it and forget it” is entirely accurate. We live in a tiny flat, so the noise of the pump was a potential concern, but even in the dead of night, you don’t hear the pump, only a light trickling as the water runs through the growing medium. According to Botanium, the unit uses around five milliwatts per day, so power consumption is not a worry either.
Botanium is a Swedish company, and the aesthetics reflect this. One of the selling points of this kit is that it embodies “Scandinavian Design.” I’m not the most aesthetically minded person, but I find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t look good in any modern household. The plastic doesn’t feel or look cheap, and even the box it comes in has a pleasing floral design.
Does It Work?
Nice aesthetics and design don’t mean much if a product doesn’t work. One of the odd constraints of this review is that plants need time to grow. Getting a long term analysis of Botanium is impossible in this context.
That said, in the 11 or so days it has been since Botanium arrived several healthy small coriander plants have sprouted. Hydroponics as a whole is much more forgiving than traditional soil-based indoor gardening, so this isn’t much of surprise. So far, around a third of the water has been used, so over a month between refills seems likely.
There is no screen or app, and this is a good thing.
After all, the idea of this thing is that it looks after your plant with little input from you. Sometimes the best things in tech are invisible. If it weren’t for the cord you’d be forgiven in thinking Botanium is just a modern looking vase.
Should You Buy A Botanium?
Botanium is targeting people who want herbs, chilies, and fruit without the time or space to grow traditionally. If you love having fresh herbs to cook with or suffer from plant killing hands, Botanium will be perfect for you.
To many, this will be worth the €69 euro cost for a Botanium. It isn’t a one use gimmick either. This is a fully fledged, tiny hydroponics system that you can use again and again.
Yes, you can build your own system from scratch for much cheaper, and cheaper pre-built systems do exist. Those who already grow plants in soil may not see the point in the extra cost.
For ease of use, aesthetics, and most importantly, a truly hands-off growing experience regardless of space and light, Botanium is a near perfect product.