Vertical Micro-Farming

I was at Cal Poly Pomona the other day and saw this interesting display. The school has several small farm plots that demonstrate innovative or new practices, from hydroponic lettuce to intensive mini-orchards and now this strange setup. They sell the produce at the adjacent farm store. From looking at it I can tell that this setup is meant to utilize vertical space and grow vegetables in a small footprint. Water drips down from the top, irrigating multiple plants on its way down. The plants are not only stacked vertically, but radiate around the central axis, maximizing horizontal space as well. In this photo they are growing hot chili peppers. I also saw basil and sweet peppers and there were others I can’t recall right now. I’m inspired to try to build one at home, since I’m always running out of space for my plants.

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  1. I find these planters particularly interesting for us urban homesteaders who have very limited space. But I have to wonder what the production yields are on a larger scale like that in the photo, versus other in-ground intensive growing systems. There seems to be a lot of empty ground space between those towers in order to keep them from shading each other.

    Also, That AgroTower website hosts on it’s home page one of the most easily recognized doctored photos I’ve ever seen. They show an AgroTower brimming with dozens of disturbingly uniform strawberries. Oh wait! Those are all clones of at most 3 real strawberries that they’ve just rubber-stamped around the photo demonstrating their photoshopping “prowess” whilst also showing their lack of ability to grow more than 3 strawberries on their own strawberry towers.

    • I recently saw some at a park near my home and they had real strawberries growing in them. They looked healthy and were producing fruit. The area I live in is a major producer of strawberries (on large farms, in rows in the ground).

  2. Personally, I think that looks unfriendly and sterile. Not at all the welcoming wildness of a raised bed in full production.

    I’d also wonder what kind of production they can get from those containers.

    • Hope that you can see that this is in its infancy and has far reaching benefits for small spaces or individuals corner spaces. To make the change you just need to envision it and make it personally better the way you see it can be utilized or changed to its betternment.;)

    • I have vision of raised beds going vertically as terrace around an old tree or tower making a mini hill with a pond at the bottom which could be for water retention and soil holds a lot of rain water and if channelled correctly it could be sustainable.

  3. any guesses what kind of material the boxes are made of? i think something like this could be used as an interesting wall in a yard, if you wanted to go through the effort of rotating them once a day or something to that effect.

  4. By looking at them, I believe they are made from some kind of molded foam. I would guess they are an agricultural product made for this kind of use. But I’m sure there are things that could be repurposed for this if we think about it. Any kind of plastic cup that tapers at the bottom would work. Next time I’m out there I’ll try to ask more questions and take an updated picture so we can see if there are really peppers growing on them.

  5. The boxes seem like Styrofoam to me. I have the exact same setup in my yard (three towers with just two boxes each, for growing tomatoes). The local hyrdroponic farm where I purchased them (Urban Oasis), has the exact same setup as shows in the photo above. They grew all kinds of things this past season.

    Important to note is that the containers are not filled with dirt, but with coconut coir, or some other suitable medium. And then you feed the plants a couple times a day (depending on temperature, weather, etc.) with a hydroponic mix, and not just water.

    Small systems like can be purchased that come with a few towers, a pump, hoses, etc.

  6. Hey, just noticed this post! I helped set this system up. The containers are from Verti-Gro in Florida. They have a lot of good information on their website and are very helpful if you have any questions.

    Depending on what you’re growing, the yield can be much higher than utilizing horizontal space (something like at least 6 times what you would get in the field). Also, this is a major water saver because the water gets directly to the plants. The styrofoam in the Verti-Gro pots, in particular, is very strong and long-lasting.

    About the spacing on these…the centers are wider because this area is meant to be used as a U-Pick for the Farm Store. We wanted to make it easier for people to navigate, especially when the pots are overflowing with produce. Another cool thing is that the whole tower spins!

  7. There is a strawberry you pick utilizing the same principle near the finger lakes and they do very well and have extended their season they also grow flowers and vegetables as well. This is an awesome set up and vertical farming is the wave of the future although they did not use these type of conatiners verti-gro it was exactly the same.

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