Topic Progress:


  • Vertical farming is a “cool” but currently unrealistic model for colossal operations. (0:27)
  • “Making big things small” is my approach to scaling. (1:10)
  • Stratified vs. horizontal growing affects many growing variables. (2:58)
  • It’s all about the economics! i.e. – the money! (6:05)

In this lesson, we’re going to address some of the myths and wrong ways of thinking and reset the framework for thinking about vertical growing.

There are a some really fun ideas out there about these big vertical skyscraper farms; doing agriculture in huge, expensive buildings. While this is an awesome goal to shoot for in the future, it’s too much to work towards right now. If you start too big, you don’t make progress. When we developed the ZipGrow Tower, our goal was to create a fundamental part to use as the start of a framework and then to scale that small idea into a big idea.

I’ve always been in the business of “making big things small.” This might look like taking a huge industry and breaking it down into small communities in order to network, share information, and feed locals.

For those skyscraper farms, this means looking at a colossally huge operation and seeing the place where that skyscraper farm starts: the unit on a small farm, started with a small amount of capital, operated by one person, that is scaleable.

Another part of this is understanding the technique that will work best. To do this, we have to knock down a wrong idea about vertical farming:

“Growing vertically is just about using space more efficiently, and we can do that by stacking traditional techniques.” Wrong.

When you go from a traditional environment to the environment of a skyscraper farm, you’re dealing with a completely different set of variables. Humidity is different. CO2 is different. Circulation is different. Heat is different. Pests are different. Monitoring is different. Nutrient delivery is different. And each of these is more complicated to deal with.



Since you’re essentially trading simpler operations with space use efficiency, you better make sure that the economics work out. (In other words: complicated management means higher costs. So how do we make sure that vertical plane production is worthwhile?)

  • We get even better space use efficiency
  • We make air circulation, humidity control, temperature regulation easier
  • We give the operators good visual access
  • We reduce labor needs

This is what was behind that fundamental unit that we were creating: the ZipGrow Tower.

I want to be clear here: I think that the skyscraper farm will happen. Eventually – a hundred years from now, maybe. But right now, the idea is still a seed that has to grow. We need to scale into the skyscraper farm.

Upstart University

Upstart University