Topic Progress:


  • Discounting your own labor limits your ability to scale because you have an artificial labor cost. (0:30)
  • Most of your farm’s economics center around labor and the cost of labor. (3:00)
  • How ZipGrow Towers tackle the problem of labor (4:49)
  • Eliminating barriers entry (7:15)

Labor is a consideration that you absolutely have to factor into a commercial system.

A lot of growers will discount their own labor on the front end, which isn’t great because it makes it hard for you to hire people – and hard for you to scale. You want to start right off the bat understanding what labor costs mean for your model. To do this you also have to understand that when you’re growing more densely, you deal with needs like pest control and monitoring more intensely, and you deal with them using labor.

As I designed the ZipGrow Tower, I discovered that a good design could answer some of the issues that can arise with labor in addition to accomplishing these other goals. This made me start asking some questions:

  • What if we can set it up so that the greenhouse came past the laborer?
  • What if we set it up to be automated?
  • What if we set it up like a manufacturing operation?

Of course, to accomplish any of these, we have to start with something that we can afford. So we started small and created a tower that could eliminate a lot of the processing. After that, we can create things like the ZipFarm, which can be rolled around. This means we need less labor.

One response to this is, “You’re creating fewer jobs on the farm this way.” But I will say that without this, people are barred from entering the industry, meaning that no jobs are created on that farm, and also that if we allow our labor practices to be inefficient, then we’re creating busy-work jobs are jobs that are tedious and unpleasant. We are willing to create a few quality jobs than no jobs at all, or a bunch of bad jobs.

If we really believe in local food, the labor problem is a problem that must be solved.

Upstart University

Upstart University