Vertical Farming - How to grow your own food tower
Updated: Jan 11, 2021
Vertical farming is a trend that agriculturalists are confident will stick around and it is definitely favoured by Steven Maxwell in Vancouver, BC. The goal of the method is to produce more crops with limited space. As a result, it has become common practice for city and urban farming and has gone beyond the occupation of traditional farmers. This shift however, is a positive one as vertical farming is said to be the future of humankind. That alone is enough reason for you to get a head start on your green thumb and build your own food tower. If you have limited space and wish to optimize your crop yield, a tower garden is a viable solution. Designed primarily with stackable growth pods, food towers allow you to have the garden you need without investing the traditional time and expen
ses. They are equipped with their own irrigation systems and nutrient reservoirs to keep the focus on maximizing growth potential.
How to build your own food tower
As a beginner, you may purchase stackable growth pods at your local home and gardening centre. You may also purchase a vertical farming kit online from retailers such as Amazon. The brunt of the growth work is in selecting the right conditions to optimize growth.
Home gardeners (or farmers) have the benefit of an extended growing season—year-round. So, making a tower garden is fruitful. They don’t typically require much space (take up 2-3 ft) and you have the option of starting small and expanding as you become more comfortable and familiar with the growing process.
Because food towers do not have growth conditions that you would normally be afforded when outdoor farming, there are a few factors to consider before selecting your growth system. For example, you must consider lighting. How will your crops receive light? It is common practice for some vertical farmers to use natural lighting, but for much bigger tower systems, some units may require T5, T8 or T12 fluorescent grow lights, incandescent bulbs, or LED grow lights. Some of these lighting options also have kits that require extended setup. Be intentional about selecting lighting that compliments the space you are in.
Another important factor to consider when choosing your system is irrigation. How do you plan on hydrating your plants? This will depend on whether your tower system is soil-based or aquaponic/hydroponic. If you want to use a soil-based system, you will have to develop a regular watering system and an irrigation reservoir. You will also need to ensure that you are regularly fertilizing your crops, respectively. Aquaponic and hydroponic systems require materially different methodologies. You will need tools such as a pH meter, a water pump, and specific gear to ensure the crops are getting the appropriate nutrients.
Once you’ve decided on the right stack pods, lighting, and irrigation system, you may select which crops you would like to grow. The best plants to grow in a food tower include: Swiss chard, kale, lettuce, collard greens, spinach, and pak choi. Other viable options are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, leeks, chives, chamomile, mint, thyme, oregano, and rosemary; this list is not exhaustive. You might want to grow fruits in your food tower, but this is much more challenging. The main issue is pollination. One way to mitigate that is to grow self-pollinating plants such as beans, strawberries, and peppers—otherwise, you will have to do your own pollination. Vertical farming expert, Kathleen Marshall, advises that for plants such as melons, cucumbers, and squash, which have male and female flowers, you should use a paint brush or a cotton swab and brush the inside of the male flower (the one with a slender stem instead of a “bulb” under the flower) to load it with pollen. Then dust the pollen onto the pistils of the female flowers. This will need to be done every 2-3 days until you start to see fruit developing.
Cleaning your system is just as important as building one. Once you have a successful crop yield and you have removed plants and crops, you most clean the system with soap and hot water before re-using. Further, ensure that you conduct weekly maintenance checks, which include water levels, keeping roots away from the pumps, checking nutrient levels, and cleaning all pump filters where necessary. You should also adjust the growth tower in instances where your crops may not be receiving sufficient light.
Why is growing your own food tower beneficial?
As mentioned above, vertical farming is the future of agriculture for both producers and consumers and its benefits are just as sound.
Due to the engineering initiatives of vertical farming, conservation is a welcomed by-product. For example, a tower garden saves a lot of water. Statistically, “farmers can grow crops with 70 to 95 percent less water than the amount required for conventional farming methods.”
Extensive food source
As the world’s population continues to grow, food scarcity is at the top of the list for agricultural concerns. Vertical farming is one method to curb mass food production to more manageable and reliable provisions. In addition, it has been predicted that in 30 years, most of the world’s population will live in urban communities and methods for growing food will need to meet those community demands. Tower gardens will play a significant role where traditional methods of farming will prove ineffective.
Organic food consumption
This benefit is perhaps more on the nose, but still important. It is a material fact that organic foods contribute to healthy living. However, due to the cost of farming and retail, it is inaccessible for most of the world’s population. By building your own food towers, you can control your access to organic food consumption, as vertical farming does not use chemical pesticides.
Reduced occupational hazard
Tower gardens eliminate the potentially harmful encounters farmers usually have with heavy farming equipment, diseased-ridden areas, and exposure to poisonous and harmful chemicals.
Vertical farming, while beneficial, is not seamless. Some challenges to this model of farming is the lack of natural pollination, which has been essential to traditional farming, and the technological interface that is required for successful crop yield in food towers. Maxwell Capital views this more as an opportunity as opposed to a problem. In fact, we would love to team up with entrepreneurs who have clear and actionable ideas on vertical farming reform.