I first encountered Niwa at the first Maker Faire I went to, in 2014. I participated in their Kickstarter at about the same time.
At long last, after four years of getting more funding and going back and forth with the manufacturer, my Niwa has finally arrived at my house.
People are excited to see this, so let's take a look!
Instructions are taped to the top. There's also an assembly video, which will hopefully be clearer than my photos. This thin box in the top contains the clear Plexiglas sides.
Next layer down is the top of the unit, seen here from what will be the inside where the LED lamp screws in.
Below that, the bottom, complete with the growing medium called "rockwool" and the irrigation drippers. The pump was in a little box that I removed from the empty depression on the left. The edge supports are in long thin boxes on the bottom layer. I splurged on a Premium unit, so mine are aluminum.
Here it is halfway assembled. The tray at the bottom will contain water and pump it up to the drippers. In this way it much resembles the Aqua Garden Betta fish tank I once had. If this were an aquaponics system instead of just hydroponics, the fish would go in that lower tank (and the tank would be better outfitted as a habitat for fish). Some people actually asked about this possibility during the Kickstarter, but it was more than they wanted to handle at the time.
And here it is fully assembled! In Niwa's publicity photos there's always a plastic piece with holes in it that goes over the rockwool so that the space between plants is covered nicely, but I haven't found such a piece in my box. The Plexiglas is full of static electricity when unpacked and removed from its protective covering.
If you're thinking about getting one of these, or have ordered one and are anticipating its arrival, you should know that there are some other things you'll need that don't come in the box:
Niwa is planning on selling the latter 3 items in a bundle on their site, but until they do that, you'll have to track them down yourself. (EDIT: They are now selling the bundle. Keep in mind that no matter where you get the nutrient solutions and vermiculite, it's going to be way more than you need at first. No one seems to sell vermiculite in small quantities, so sharing expenses with a gardener friend who uses more of it might be a good idea.)
The first two things are for handling the rockwool, which you need to do during assembly, but also in order to plant the seeds.
I'll pause here; I'll wait on setting up the app and turning the thing on until my nutrient solutions arrive and I can actually plant things. In the meantime, I need to reorder my kitchen a bit, since the Niwa moved some other things out of the way.