How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes

June 1, 2013 by

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Hey apartment and small space dwellers, here’s an easy DIY compact hydroponic indoor farm system you can make with repurposed off-the-shelf IKEA storage boxes.

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ELIOOO is not a product, it’s architect and designer Antonio Scarponi’s cleverly conceived and designed instruction manual that teaches any urban gardener how to build, operate, and maintain a choice of six variously sized and configured indoor hydroponic farms–from a small windowsill herb planter to a large mobile vertical garden.

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The Zurich-based designer’s interest in new ways of utilizing what we already have, rather than producing new things, led him to design with readily-available IKEA products,available almost anywhere in the world as well as online, offering easy access and the ability to calculate the cost.

After a successful Indigogo crowdfunding campaign last fall, Scarponi spent several months completing the design manual which is now available for purchase as a book or an eBook.

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Three sizes of IKEA Trofast containers and lids are available in white and four other colors.

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Why Hydroponics?
Scarponi chose hydroponics for its ecological, practical, and design benefits. Hydroponics (growing plants in water instead of soil) uses 90% less water than traditional soil systems, requires little space, and makes growing easy by giving users full control of the required plant nutrients at each growing stage.

Busy on-the-go urbanites can appreciate too not having to worry about watering the plants. Scarponi, however, makes it clear that ELIOOO is not intended as a how-to guide to hydroponics or urban farming, rather a DIY design manual for building simple hydroponic growing systems using IKEA components.

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Non-Circulating and Circulating Systems
With informal hand-drawn step-by-step illustrations and handwritten text, ELIOOO demonstrates how to combine and adapt a a number of different hydroponics techniques for easy home use. For growing small aromatic herbs, the non-circulating ELOOO #4 module can host up to four pots on a windowsill, kitchen counter, or tabletop. The larger non-circulating #8 module holds up to eight pots and, using IKEA Antonius wall uprights and brackets, can be configured as as a green wall for easy vertical farming in any room.

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To accomodate larger leafy greens, tomatoes, eggplants, or cucumbers, the circulating hydroponic ELOOO #30 can host up to 30 plants, ideal for larger-scale indoor vertical farming. This particular system consists of three connecting grow trays attached to two wall uprights over a 25 liter reservoir whose lid holds a grow tray with another seven pots. Although the circulating designs require electricity to power the pumps, they can instead be operated by photovoltaic panels available at most hardware stores.

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Mobile Vertical Gardens and Desk Farms
As I love multi-functional design, I’m intrigued with the ELOOO #30 system’s design possibilities. It’s possible to integrate the components with kitchen or other furniture, or combine modular units to form several vertical farming columns. Don’t want to use up a wall? Grab some heavy duty castors and two boards to create a mobile indoor urban farm ready to roll out of the way or outdoors.

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For the office, grow food on a desk farm. Over fout stacked large reservoirs, place a tabletop, then cut out an opening into which you insert an ELIOOO #8. You even end up with some leftover area for stashing little garden tools.

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Veteran IKEA Hacker
ELIOOO is not Scarponi’s first go at designing with IKEA products–he’s a veteran IKEA hacker. For a 2008 design competition, he unveiled Rikea, a foldable trolley and temporary shelter concept for flea market vendors. In 2011, Scarponi developed UrbanFarmers, a startup concept for rooftop aquaponics farms. This endeavor was soon followed by Zoroaster, the forerunner to what is now ELIOOO #30, and the design that sparked his idea for creating this how-to guide for creating multiple hydroponic systems using the same elements.

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“As a designer,” explains Scarponi,”I give ideas form and transform them into concrete things.” Describing himself as “apolitical,” the designer acknowledges that his ideas can’t solve the world’s problems, but he hopes with concepts like ELIOOO, that he can create a narrative about them that will engage and inspire.

Interested in some other IKEA hacking projects? Here’s a vertical garden that doubles as a room divider; a compact kitchen with built-in gardenpendant lights made from repurposed garden pots and IKEA light element, and a window herb garden. For more cool ideas, visit IKEA Hackers, a site dedicated to the art of IKEA hacking.

The ELIOOO manual is available from Amazon, and as an eBook from iTunes.

About ELIOOO’s designer: Antonio Scarponi is the founder of Conceptual Devices, a Zurich, Switzerland research and development design and architecture firm. He studied architecture at The Cooper Union in New York (my alma mater!) and at IUAV University in Venice, Italy from which he holds a PhD in urban design. In 2008 Scarponi was awarded the Curry Stone Design Prize and in 2012 year he was nominated for the Katerva Sustainability Award. You can follow him @scarponio

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared here on Urban Gardens. Feel free to repost, but please mention the source and link back to this article.

 

47 Comments »

  1. HEALTHWatch2020 said:

    How much bpa, bps, and phthalates would the plastic leech into the soil if any?

    — June 2, 2013 @ 23:42

  2. Thomas Lee Meade said:

    Ever thought about aqauponics? You can get rid of all of the chemical additives and fertilizers. Just putting fish in the bottom can help this cool project be a little more “green”.

    — June 3, 2013 @ 14:53

  3. How to Make An Indoor Hydroponic Garden Using IKEA Storage Boxes - Plant Care Today Pingback said:

    […] How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes […]

    — June 16, 2013 @ 07:00

  4. Todd in Michigan said:

    I haven’t read, but they’re possibly food-grade plastic. FDA approved, if that means anything anymore.

    — July 22, 2013 @ 12:38

  5. Farm Kitchen Blends Micro-Agriculture and Design at London's 100% Design - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] organic produce in and around the home often in small countertop containers using traditional and hydroponic methods—offers an opportunity for self-sustainability and control over what we […]

    — October 29, 2013 @ 16:58

  6. JOF - Revista de ciencia gratuita - Ikkaro Pingback said:

    […] http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2013/06/01/how-to-build-indoor-hydroponic-gardens-using-ikea-storage-… […]

    — November 15, 2013 @ 08:21

  7. Rebecca said:

    Oh! You know I waited this entire article thinking it was aquaponics. I’m reading I’m like “Uh-huh… and fish… annnd…fiiissshh…” No fish!

    — January 12, 2014 @ 19:51

  8. How to Start Your Own Hydroponic Garden | Greener Living Today Pingback said:

    […] gardens require 90 percent less water than traditional […]

    — January 27, 2014 @ 06:41

  9. sabrina said:

    Very cool, but ebook is not available in US and the Amazon Kindle version has everyone complaining about the hard to read unchangeable font. Maybe more design effort needs to be spent on the digital book…

    — January 30, 2014 @ 13:03

  10. DIY Hydroponics with Supplies from IKEA - Homesteader Haven Pingback said:

    […] DIY Hydroponics at Home. […]

    — February 2, 2014 @ 21:00

  11. 10 Pinterest Indoor and Outdoor Garden Finds Pingback said:

    […] how it is placed between city windows and surrounded by rusted buoys. There are many options for building your own indoor vertical garden, but this one looks particularly […]

    — February 3, 2014 @ 23:10

  12. Links Worth Reading – Hydroponics, Symmetry, a Food Styling Battle, and More | Impromptu Kitchen Pingback said:

    […] IKEA furniture to make a hydroponic garden is kind of […]

    — February 6, 2014 @ 04:02

  13. realist said:

    this will get brittle in a couple of months with the sun shining on it. Not worth it.

    — February 16, 2014 @ 13:46

  14. llor said:

    no you can’t. Fish take a lot of extra work to get the “chemistry” right. Such an uneducated comment.

    — February 16, 2014 @ 13:47

  15. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Lol!

    — February 17, 2014 @ 13:53

  16. IKEA hack | Tuin in de stad Pingback said:

    […] Zoals deze hydrocultuur tuin voor binnenshuis […]

    — March 4, 2014 @ 10:32

  17. klisetron said:

    Ever have an aquarium? … ya know … with fish? there is no chemistry, just let the nitrogen cycle complete and get established, like an aquarium. The plants will eat up the nitrites and nitrates, similar to adding live freshwater plants to an aquarium. Come to think of it, wouldn’t hydroponics require more chemistry knowledge, to balance N-P-K with PH etc.?

    — March 5, 2014 @ 01:17

  18. Kristi Speed said:

    Look up earth ships and you’ll find a lot of people who cycle their plant water through a fish pond.

    — March 5, 2014 @ 02:07

  19. 10 Fab Pinterest Indoor and Outdoor Garden Finds | PicturesDotNews -the LifeStyle Magazine Pingback said:

    […] how it is placed between city windows and surrounded by rusted buoys. There are many options for building your own indoor vertical garden, but this one looks particularly […]

    — May 24, 2014 @ 13:19

  20. Keith Lyons said:

    You are a smug asshole to come across with that as your initial response.

    — July 11, 2014 @ 02:26

  21. Robin Horton said:

    Good point!

    — July 11, 2014 @ 15:23

  22. Robin Horton said:

    Play nice everybody.

    — July 12, 2014 @ 02:02

  23. Robin Horton said:

    It looks like we’re both a little late to this discussion:)

    — July 12, 2014 @ 02:03

  24. Keith Lyons said:

    Yeah, but I just still had to reply. I believe you should teach before judge, but I clearly judged here lol. Or…I guess I taught. Taught him that we all think his comment makes him look like a “smug asshole”

    — July 12, 2014 @ 02:48

  25. Best LED Grow Lights & Indoor Grow Kits: Buyer Guide & Reviews - Growdacious : Growdacious Pingback said:

    […] or herbs, a shopping trip to Ikea may be the most economical first step. Check out this wonderful hydroponic indoor growing plan based on Ikea storage […]

    — October 21, 2014 @ 08:41

  26. 10 Fab Pinterest Indoor and Outdoor Garden Finds | Pictures.Dot.News – Global Magazine – World, Breaking News, Current Affairs Pingback said:

    […] how it is placed between city windows and surrounded by rusted buoys. There are many options for building your own indoor vertical garden, but this one looks particularly […]

    — December 17, 2014 @ 23:01

  27. 13 Mobile Gardens To Move You - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] 9. How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes […]

    — May 1, 2015 @ 02:28

  28. Abdul naeem shahid said:

    Really it is nice hobby those loves plants and it is eassy way to promote new teconology

    — August 17, 2015 @ 15:53

  29. Growing Vegetables Indoors Twenty-One at a Time - Urban Gardens Pingback said:

    […] popular indoor gardening system of the DIY variety. It’s an IKEA-hack called ELIOO whose main components are off-the-shelf IKEA storage boxes. The indoor farm system is completely […]

    — November 6, 2015 @ 19:10

  30. Keith Lyons said:

    I would use darker tubs to prevent mold growth

    — November 8, 2015 @ 03:30

  31. Emma Peel said:

    Exactly. Glass or ceramic or clay for me. No way no how plastic of any variety

    — February 18, 2016 @ 19:46

  32. Emma Peel said:

    Nope. Does not mean a thing. Plastic is plastic

    — February 18, 2016 @ 19:47

  33. El comienzo de nuestra historia cultivando hidroponicos - Hippies de Land Rover [HdLR] Pingback said:

    […] Descubrimos que este sistema (hidropónico) es muy conveniente por que no necesita de espacios grandes, las plantas crecen mas rápido (50% más rápido), y además el medio es menos propenso a desarrollar enfermedades en las plantas. Encontramos un libro en internet, fácil de leer y entender que describe detalladamente como construir un sistema hidropónico en casa con productos de Ikea (LINK). […]

    — March 15, 2016 @ 05:21

  34. Urban gardening is about to get easier | Prudential Realty Pingback said:

    […] Now, as it turns out, people have hacked other IKEA products into hydroponic gardens long before the company came out with their own. So for anyone interested in an even more DIY option, check out ELIOOO. […]

    — March 18, 2016 @ 05:14

  35. Ikea Garage Storage Systems Pingback said:

    […] How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes […]

    — March 28, 2016 @ 13:09

  36. How to Grow Food In Your Apartment · Four Walls by Rentler Pingback said:

    […] you’re a more advanced DIY-er, this amazing hack uses Ikea items to build a tall multi-level hydroponic […]

    — March 30, 2016 @ 11:55

  37. Dennis Franklin said:

    WATCH YOUR LANGUAGR “CREATIN” GOD IS WATCHING!!!

    — March 31, 2016 @ 02:26

  38. Doug_Thomson said:

    Yes, actually I have had both fresh and salt water aquariums and they can attest that they are neither simple nor maintenance free – in fact, they are a lot of work if you want living fish and plants. A contained environment simply does not work like a natural one. Nice thought, though.

    — October 1, 2016 @ 20:54

  39. Scary_Monsters said:

    No, plastic is not just plastic.

    — October 29, 2016 @ 13:54

  40. Jeanette Equellochee said:

    Do I need grow lights?

    — November 2, 2016 @ 11:37

  41. froman1960 said:

    Hydroponics require a lot of extra work to get the chemical and ph mixture right. After the water is used up you can’t dispose of the water down the sink or in an area where it will drain into the city’s drainage system as it will cause the city water or the lakes to develop algae. Hydroponics isn’t all they say it is. They never tell you the bad parts of it. You have to really dig deep to find it. And please, don’t ask me to give you the link. You can find it if you really want to know. I found it last year and read up on it and then moved on.

    — May 12, 2017 @ 14:16

  42. froman1960 said:

    You could if you like but it looks like the basic idea is that you can put them on or near your window to get natural sun.

    — May 12, 2017 @ 14:20

  43. froman1960 said:

    This is nice. He gives you the basic idea and then it’s up to us to imagine more. Like me, I would make shelves with miniature wooden picket fence look for each one and that way the ugly tubs are hidden and the sun does not cause algae. But I would choose the dark opaque tubs too. Algae will start to grow on the lids. Paint each area different bright colors or just make the background look like a small house with windows. Wow. The ideas are bursting in my head.

    — May 12, 2017 @ 14:24

  44. Indoor Hydroponics said:

    This is a great tutorial for what it is. In practice, however, I would caution against using pumps and pipes in an indoor installation. The risk for a leak and water damage is too high to justify the benefits. You will be much better off using a basic deep water culture method where there is no water movement.

    — September 14, 2017 @ 14:24

  45. How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes – Urban Gardens – The Wandering Coalition Pingback said:

    […] How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage Boxes – Urban Gardens — Read on http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2013/06/01/how-to-build-indoor-hydroponic-gardens-using-ikea-storage-boxes/ […]

    — April 8, 2018 @ 12:05

  46. planter boxes ikea – Aluminum Custom Planters Pingback said:

    […] How to Build Indoor Hydroponic Gardens Using IKEA Storage … […]

    — May 15, 2018 @ 00:16

  47. How To Do Hydroponic Gardening | Mountain View Orchids Pingback said:

    […] can purchase a window-mounted system for your garden, or you can use readily available items and re-purpose them into something […]

    — March 25, 2019 @ 18:58

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