Explore Vertical Farming Techniques

As available land gets taken up by development, innovative farmers look to the sky with vertical farming techniques that have minimal footprints while producing plenty of food.

  • A vertical farm is the highlight of the US Pavilion at the Expo International in Milan. The wall is made from almost 1,500 individual zipgrow towers and totals nearly 10,000 square feet. It features 42 different vegetables, grains, and herbs grown from seed supplied by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Thanks to the US State Department for inviting us.
    Photo by Quint Smith at Expo Milano
  • Guests enter the pavilin from an entrance facing the main walkway at the Expo International in Milan. One entire wall of the pavilion is made up of the vertical farm which is open to the outside. As guests travel through the pavilion they experience an immersive story of the history of food in the United States. We are so excited to see our seeds representing America.
    Photo by Quint Smith at Expo Milano
  • Basil bathed in a blend of red and blue LED lights awaits harvest inside of the Spring Ups storage container in west Brooklyn. Basil makes a particularly suitable crop for urban farming because of its high value in small quantities.
    Photo by Quint Smith at Expo Milano
  • Zipgrow towers adorn the light fixtures inside the US Pavilion at Expo International in Milan. Each tower receives a good dose of light from the tower in front of it in the installation. Those plants are all from Baker Creek Seeds.
    Photo by Quint Smith at Expo Milano
  • The US Pavilion’s crop wall is a 9,250-square-foot (860-square-meter) vertical farm that grows 42 different varieties of vegetables, grains and herbs. It represents a highly integrated approach to agriculture. The grid structure of the pavilion makes visual reference to President Thomas Jefferson’s Land Ordinance Act of 1785, which created the gridded patchwork system of property division that defines the American farm belt. The variegated patterns created by our plants tell a story of food production for the future. While still organized on the grid system, it suggests some of the most sustainable land-use strategies, such as intercropping, multi-cropping, companion planting, and contour planting.
    Illustration courtesy www.RareSeeds.com
  • The crop wall is a highly engineered system with 1,494 individual 4.3-foot (1.3-meter) high planting rows in a trademarked technology called ZipGrow Towers. For our pavilion’s display the crop towers are grown in a greenhouse until they mature. Then they are installed on the wall to create a beautifully colored and textured surface. Farm sponsor Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has provided seeds of many varieties of dark leafy greens, grains and herbs. Selected specifically for the US Pavilion’s vertical crop wall, these plant varieties suggest opportunities for a healthful and delicious diet. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is dedicated to the preservation and protection of seeds as a source for future generations.
    Photo by Quint Smith at Expo Milano

“I guess everyone has crazy brothers and sisters. I know I have. Stan, by the way, has taken out a patent on an invention of his called ‘Botanical Bricks,’ which are simply plant units capable of being built up to any height, for quick landscape effects, the vertical surfaces covered with flowering vines, or the like. He thinks that the idea has great possibilities for such things as world fairs, city yards, indoor gardens, and many other projects. I think perhaps he has got hold of something, and have written him for more information. He certainly deserves a break.”

— A letter from the brother of Stanley Hart White

Stanley Hart White, the father of vertical gardening, certainly was on to something. An influential landscape architecture professor from the University of Illinois, White’s “Botanical Bricks” would lay the foundation for this technologically innovative movement. White’s 1939 vertical gardening patent was indeed visionary. Still today, vertical gardens evoke for many a futuristic, sci-fi technology fit for a colony on the moon. Perhaps this explains the hint of skepticism and amazement in E.B White’s letter. The basic principles of White’s concept can be seen in most modern vertical garden designs. He envisioned a steel structure of any shape and size with a soil-less growing medium that would serve as a living wall.  This basic concept gives rise to endless interpretations, from permanent green walls to mobile vegetable towers. Sadly, White never brought his Botanical Bricks design to reality.  However, his ingenious idea laid the groundwork for many to come. 

While White patented the technology of vertical growing, Patrick Blanc, a French botanist, brought the brilliant idea of green walls to a fantastic reality. Blanc’s vertical gardens marry scientific innovation and stunning artistry. Blanc focuses on lush tropical varieties to create an exotic vertical dreamscape. The first installation of Blanc’s career was at the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris in 1988. Blanc continues to dazzle the urban landscape with his verdant artwork.

How do we bridge the gap between the futuristic art installation and feasibly feeding the booming urban population? Bright Agrotech is a Wyoming based company dedicated to bringing cutting edge urban farming technology to a practical level. Their Zipgrow vertical gardening towers are designed for simplicity in growing vegetables with limited space. Bright Agrotech founders Nate Storey and Chris Michael understand that eating local, growing your own produce, or just getting a bit of garden therapy in a city can be next to impossible. With mile-long community garden plot waiting lists and many community garden plots charging rent, many hopeful urban gardeners can find themselves at a loss. Zipgrow towers are designed with simplicity in mind. They can be used in the home, warehouses, storage containers or used as a green wall outdoors. 

While working on his masters degree focusing on vertical gardening, Nate Storey observed that most four- sided growing towers were experiencing loss of light on at least two sides at one time. His Zipgrow towers are unique in their one sided design which makes for healthier plants with better light exposure.

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