Topic Progress:


  • Technique: aquaponics & hydroponics (1:00)
  • Environment: warehouses vs. greenhouses vs. the Farm Wall (3:25)
  • Small farmers attack niche and local markets. (7:00)
  • Most of our large farmers grow indoors. (8:25)
  • Other applications include hobby, educational, landscaping, restaurants, etc. (9:00)
  • Frontier applications, like growing in Antarctica or space, are extremely interesting and now possible prospects. (17:00)

This lesson will take a quick look at the different applications of ZipGrow. This is kind fun for me because I get to tell you about a lot of original people who are doing creative things!

Aquaponics and Hydroponics

ZipGrow Towers were designed in the context of aquaponics; the Matrix Media can handle serious solids loading and has a lot of specific surface area, etc. The towers function very well in aquaponic settings. Because aquaponics is more difficult than hydroponics, equipment that works well in aquaponics will probably work really well in hydroponics as well. (And the experience of growing with aquaponics sets you up well to manage a hydroponic system.) This is definitely true of ZipGrow.

We have users growing with aquaponics, and we have users growing using hydroponics.

Warehouse vs. Greenhouse vs. Farm Wall

We’ve had experience with each of these applications. We started with greenhouses, and our partners grow in greenhouses. We’ve also expanded to grow in our warehouse with center facing aisles. Something else that we’ve started, which has the potential for a very interesting business model is the Farm Wall market. If you saw the farm wall at the World’s Fair in Milan, that’s an example of what this can look like.

There are pros and cons to each of these environments.

  • Greenhouses allow you to get free light, but controls can be a bit tricky.
  • Warehouses tend to be a little more expensive but give you a lot of control.
  • Farm Walls are totally exposed but have the potential for new and unique business models.

(By the way, we’ll be doing courses on each of these things.)

Small Farmers

Most of the people growing with ZipGrow are relatively small farmers attacking local niche markets that the big guys have a hard time selling to. These people are passionate, engaged, and really innovative with the technology, the model, the distribution, etc.

Large Farmers

Most of our large farmers are warehouse growers. Usually, they’re in harsher climates. I expect that we’ll have more and more of these down the road.

Hobby Growers

A lot of hobby growers use ZipGrow in confined spaces because when you’re growing somewhere with space constraints you start thinking about growing vertically. You’ll see Tower Gardens, Mr. Stacky, VertiGrow, etc. that hobby growers are using to grow in limited space.


It’s encouraging to see the number of schools that are training people to grow. (We work with a few dozen educators and schools using ZipGrow.) The people that are being educated on this today will be running farms in twenty or thirty years.


Most of the landscape in cities is vertical; there’s very little left on the ground to deal with. ZipGrow has an advantage when it comes to covering that landscape because it’s suited to be mounted on vertical surfaces.


Restaurants want to grow more and more on site. This is interesting because it opens the door for small farmers to do service models with farm walls. This may include servicing or renting out a green wall, among other things.

This is great for small farmers because you can divorce yourself from the price of food. Whether or not your food is “cheaper” comes into the argument less, and the selling point of aesthetic value, which is more subjective, plays a larger role. This changes how farmers sell to restaurants, which makes for some interesting and beneficial arrangements.

Frontier applications

When I talk about frontier applications, I’m talking about growing in incredibly inhospitable places (like Antarctica!). This is happening! And it’s really cool; we’re excited to work on this. It’s not going to be a big money maker, but this is what we’re about: helping people feed their communities.

Space is another frontier (or should I say final frontier?) application that is a growing need, especially for this generation. To boldly grow where no [one] has grown before….

Upstart University

Upstart University