This hydroponic garden designed to ‘show off’ in your living room

Rise Gardens helps gardeners raise delicious and nutrient dense produce at home

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No bugs, no slugs, no squirrels digging up the bulbs.


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There’s much to recommend indoor hydroponic gardening, even now, in the midst of summer.

Hydroponic gardening is a way to grow plants in water, rather than soil, feeding them with liquid nutrients and sunning them with LED lights. A new player on the market has upped the indoor game by combining the technology of a useful app to help monitor your garden — recommending when to add water and nutrients for your specific combination of plants and their age — with a set-up that is attractive enough to fit in like furniture in a home.

“I wanted (the system) out where you could show it off and I wanted it to look good,” says Hank Adams, Rise Gardens’ founder and CEO, calling it “a beautiful system.”

Rise Gardens are attractive, with a sense of modern simplicity.
Rise Gardens are attractive, with a sense of modern simplicity. Photo by Sandy Rosencrans /Postmedia

Adams, who began gardening while growing up in Colorado, is now based in the Chicago area. He retired from an entrepreneurial career in sports technology and decided to see what he could do to improve people’s access to healthy, nutrient-dense produce.


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“We took the technology of big indoor farming and shrunk it down to consumer size,” he says. “It has resemblances to stacked vertical indoor gardens. That’s what ours does — it circulates the water in a similar fashion.”

Rise Gardens uses a more complex combination of nutrients and pH management than many other consumer-oriented systems on the market.

“We use three-part nutrients, we measure and manage your pH levels, there are lots of sensors on the device to help you dial in your water levels. We built our own lights. It’s modular — you can swap out the tray lids, you can add accessories to the tray lids to let larger crops grow or binding crops grow up the back of your system. We have a micro greens adaptation coming out.”


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The app contains a bank of information on all the plant seeds available through Rise Gardens, along with videos on how to operate the system and recipes for produce. Rise Gardens offers a subscription program with home delivery of seeds and plant food. Rise Gardens come in large and small format gardens — the Family Garden (from one to three levels, starting at $899.99) and the Personal Garden (a table-top format, $499). The Family Garden with two levels is the best seller, and almost a third of customers go on to upgrade with another level for a larger garden.

Curiously, Canadians make up a good percentage of Rise Gardens’ customers — it’s an online store and Canadians can shop in Canadian prices at


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“I think part of it is the fact that I had similar climate considerations as the northern part of the United States does, which is a short growing season,” Adams says. “I think there’s a certain sensibility in Canada around healthy food and good food. To be able to get nutrient-dense, chemical-free food that doesn’t have a lot of food miles — I think the environmental aspect of it also probably appeals to the Canadian market.”

Here are five things Adams says can be surprising to know about hydroponic gardening.

Fast Food

Hydroponics is really productive. It’s really fast. The reason for that is you’re controlling the environment the plants are growing in. We send you nurseries with your garden (where you plant and germinate the seeds before moving the tiny plant into the larger garden). The humidity dome makes seeds germinate faster. We also tell you to put them under your garden lights, because you’ll have a guaranteed 16 hours of light with our system. You can control that (with more or less time). If you’re going with greens, there’s no reason you can’t go with 24 hours of light. Some plants are diurnal, where they need a little dark — plants like tomatoes need some dark, they can’t be with 24 hours on. Everything is exactly how the plants want it, so you get really fast growth.


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Tasty Produce

Something that struck me was how tasty the food is. I think I may be influenced by some of the early hydroponic systems out there. These novelty systems — plastic, a little light, a squirt of a nutrient in there, don’t do anything with pH. You get stuff to grow, but it tasted kind of weak. It didn’t taste like real basil. Well, the arugula and the basil in our system — it’s really flavourful. It’s because we do it right — we do manage your pH, we do give you three-part nutrients, so we get the full complement of macro and micro-nutrients. And they get really good light. So it’s tasty produce. And that might surprise people.

Nutrient Density

Lettuce, and a lot of plants, lose nutrients as soon as you harvest them. Lettuce will lose about half its nutrients, particularly the water-soluble vitamins, in the first 48 hours. (At grocery stores,) it’s about a week old before you even buy it. When you grow with us, you harvest it when you’re ready to eat it. When you’re ready to make that salad, go over to your garden with your scissors, clip it into your bowl and you’ve lost none of the nutrients. It’s really nutrient dense. I think people don’t realize just how much we have compromised with our industrialized food system.


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On the chemical side, there are organic pesticides. You may have an organic farm, but you may have blow-over (from a neighbouring farm). We’ve had loads of issues with listeria and e-coli coming out of organic farms. These aren’t pure production environments. For better or worse, you’re dealing with an outdoor growing environment. Whereas in our case, there are no pesticides, no herbicides and no fungicides — unless you put them on.

Creative Growers

People do all sorts of stuff with our gardens because it’s fun to experiment. There’s something on the order of 20,000 edible plants, and we get 95 per cent of our vegetable varieties out of 30. They’ve been picked because they’re uniform, they transport well, they don’t bruise, they shelve well on the grocery store displays. But they’re not picked for taste or nutrition. I want to help fix that. We sell blank seed pods — we want people to experiment. We’ve been blown away by what people have grown. This one woman grew a Chinese cabbage and she had a picture of her son holding it — it was tip to tip almost twice as wide as he was. That grew in our system?! It was gorgeous. I get so excited when people try different stuff because I want us to get back to multi-culture crop, fresh, hyperlocal, nutrient-dense food. That’s really what’s best for us.



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