The future of urban agriculture is up for grabs. With 81% of the U.S. population now living in urban and suburban areas, many first generation farmers are working to bring agricultural activities into the city. Startups and investors are getting involved, leading TechCrunch to declare recently that AgTech is the New Queen of Green.
In an effort to empower more of these urban farmers, Bright Agrotech is launching a turnkey vertical indoor growing system called the ZipFarm™.
We research, design, test, redesign and retest our high quality, American-made vertical growing products. Dr. Nate Storey and the Bright Agrotech team are committed to helping large commercial and small hobbyist growers alike grow more with less.
Unlike a lot of gloom and doomers, we’re very optimistic about the direction our food system is headed. Multi-national news conglomerates like to focus on huge monoculture farming operations and the drought and despair they are experiencing as of late. We focus on the small, upstart farmers. The ones creating a real impact, no matter how small it may seem. These are the folks figuring out the new food model and learning better ways to feed those around them.
While the media likes to pander to the fearful and freaked out, we try to share stories of innovation, hope, and small-scale successes.
It’s important to remember that change usually doesn’t take place (i.e. almost never) on a large scale. Change and innovation come from the bottom. From the guy tinkering in his garage. From the chef growing greens in her kitchen. From the unconventional farmer growing incredibly fresh herbs on his apartment building’s roof.
These relatively non traditional farmers and innovators may be small today, but they’ll be the ones feeding us tomorrow.
How does your innovation work?
The ZipFarm is a vertical hydroponic system consisting of a Light Rack (1) to holdLumiGrow LED lights (3), and three individual ZipRacks (2) outfitted with ZipGrow Towers (4).
The entire growing operation fits under the Light Rack, a 6 foot X 7.6 foot (or 9.6 foot) X 18 foot steel rack. Where other systems must fit into facilities hundreds of feet long and scale by huge areas, the ZipFarm can be scaled in these small units.
The ZipRacks are on wheels, making the racks easy to move around your space. One person can move several ZipFarms in just a few minutes, making maintenance and cleaning easy. All plumbing is connected with quick-connect fittings, which require a just a simple hand movement to connect and disconnect, so adding ZipRacks is a quick and simple affair.
The ZipFarm uses hydroponics, a soil-less growing technique, and delivers the perfect nutrient ratios to plants via water. The water is mixed in the main sump tanks, and an optional add-on may be selected to control pH and nutrient levels automatically. Unlike many indoor growing system, the ZipFarm uses vertical growing planes. This increases production by square foot while keeping labor costs down.
Do you have current users or testers?
The relationship between farmer and consumer has grown too distant. The Upstart Farmer movement revolves around the passion of hard working farmers committed to growing healthier food for their communities with ZipGrow technology.
Upstart Farmers are driven and collaborative commercial vertical farmers growing hydroponically (i.e. without soil) with 50 ZipGrow towers or more and belonging to the Upstart Farmer network.
These farmers are:
Commercial food producers
Growing food using innovative and efficient techniques
Transparent, local farmers
[Becoming] expert hydroponic growers
Making an impact and a living by growing with a purpose
What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?
Our company is almost more of a design company than a manufacturing company in a lot of ways, because we try to solve problems with every piece of equipment that we create.
We try to take something that many people are intimidated by or feel is complex and [we] simplify it. Being in the United States, in a place where there is not enough water, much of the time we focus on water conservation as well.
Part of our core philosophy is making healthy food more available to everybody. Much of that comes down to where it is grown and how far it travels from the producer to the consumer. We think that the outcome of this is essentially democratizing agriculture and giving more people opportunities to farm no matter where they are located. The end product of this is that we end up looking at cities and urban environments pretty often when we’re trying to find new places to grow and new ways to grow.
We also gained widespread recognition for the USA Pavilion at the 2015 World’s Fair, where ZipGrow technology was used to create the world’s largest food-producing living wall.