A Deeper Dive – How are Vertical Farm School Programs Changing Education?


We’re getting an amazing response since posting about our efforts to cultivate aquaponics vertical farm school programs (read it here). We are receiving a lot of questions asking about vertical aquaponics.

People want to know why we feel vertical farm school programs are the right choice for them.  

Rather than hiding our answers in one-way email responses, we decided to collect the answers and post them for all to benefit from instead!

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farms were originally conceived as massive skyscrapers stacked with floor after floor of indoor controlled environment growing.  

aquaponics-apartments
I’d live there

Farms like these have been slow to come to life, as technology is just now starting to catch up with the visions of green towers dotting our cities.

Apartments with a fish tank/pool on every floor? Yes.
Apartments with a fish tank/pool on every floor? Yes.

Now vertical farming has come to mean something more than just these skyscraper farms.  

Vertical farming can be any number of different technologies that lets us grow multiple plants in the same square foot by growing out of the soil, up and down in columns.  

For countless aeons, farming has really just taken place on the ground, horizontally.  

The most vertical we got was an apple orchard!  

In fact, there are only a few historical examples of vertical farming, but what examples they are!  

I’m thinking about the Hanging Tower of Babylon, a legit world wondes that used vertical farming and aquaponics in its construction.

Now this wonderful technology is making a comeback.  

ZipGrow Tower at a farm
ZipGrow Tower at a farm

Amazing companies like Bright Agrotech, who we are grateful to be partnering with in bringing vertical farming to schools, are doing amazing things with their innovative ZipGrow towers.  

These vertical towers allow anyone to easily grow vertically in just about any sized space.

Vertical Farming with ZipGrow towers and others like it can increase production per square foot by up to 600% compared to in-soil agriculture (source).  

On top of that, ZipGrows can be used indoors in controlled environments.  

Maybe we are only a few years before every apartment building is growing with bountiful vertical towers!

Why are we focusing on vertical farming in classrooms?

Bottom line?  I would love to live in a city dotted with massive green, living skyscrapers.

But before we get our own vertical farm apartment buildings, we need more people studying and working on vertical aquaponics in school!  

Vertical Farm School Programs - DIY System
Download the aFrame blueprint now and get a video of me building one in under 10 minutes!

We are dedicated to bringing vertical aquaponics to schools in order to empower today’s students to become tomorrow’s farmers.

Alongside aquaponics and smart sensor technology, vertical farming will be the major technology to bring farming into the 21st century.

Aquaponics teaches biology and chemistry, but growing with vertical farms of the future will also provide students with insightful lessons into physics, structural engineering, and industrial design.

Vertical aquaponics also easily fits in any classroom.  

Plus with our aFrame, teachers can use their existing fish tanks and convert them into vertical aquaponics systems in just a few minutes.  

You can download a free blueprint of our aFrame system that you can easily build yourself.  Download your pdf blueprint here.

We have done other forms of aquaponics in schools and it is extremely effective, but we feel that the ease of use and implementation of the aFrame vertical aquaponics, utilizing the ZipGrow tower, makes it perfect for schools.

What are the types of vertical farming?

There are many types of vertical farming, with two broad categories.  Heads up, the wording is a bit tricky.  

First, there is horizontal-vertical farming, or growing in horizontal trays that are stacked on top of each other.  

This method is very popular with hydroponics, and includes the standard hydro method known as nutrient film technique (NFT), which consists of a horizontal gutter system.  

Horizontal Vertical Towers from VertiCrop
Horizontal Vertical Towers from VertiCrop

The gutters are filled with plants and a nutrient solution flows through the horizontal gutters.  The gutters can be stacked vertically for more planting density per square foot.

Then there is vertical-vertical farming, or growing in towers.  

The ZipTowers from Bright Agrotech are leading the industry in vertical-vertical farming.  

This method of growing is becoming more popular because it leverages the natural force of gravity to move water more efficiently than pumping it to multiple horizontal levels like in horizontal-vertical farming.

Whichever category you choose, vertical farming can be done in many ways.  

Some people are trying to make soil work in vertical farming, but this is difficult.  

ZipFarm Vertical Vertical system from Bright Agrotech
ZipFarm Vertical Vertical system from Bright Agrotech

Hydroponics has been the most popular method so far for vertical farming because it is easy to pump a nutrient solution vertically to drip down through the towers.

For the same reason, aquaponics is a strong contender for vertical farming.

In fact, we have made our focus vertical aquaponics. We specifically choose vertical aquaponics because we feel it has the best potential over the long term.

Are there downsides?

A small number of people expressed a few concerns regarding vertical farming. That is completely understandable. So I wanted to do my best to address them here.

Some readers asked whether the disconnection from the soil will further remove our connection with the earth and our food.  

This is a natural concern. Especially considering for perhaps the first time in human history, we are breaking the bonds between food and soil.  

I argue that with vertical aquaponics, we may actually grow closer to our food.  

Now we can produce food right in cities. So there will be much more opportunity for urban dwellers to know their local farmer and visit a local farm.  

And because aquaponics is a natural ecosystem, produce growing vertically is just as organic and truly natural as a soil plant.

Only time will tell if vertical aquaponics catches on in time to provide food for our swelling populations.  

With any new technology that stands to radically shift a fundamental part of our daily lives, there is always some hesitancy in the beginning.  

Vertical farming in schools will introduce our children to this technology early in their education. This learning will be relevant for years to come in today’s classrooms and tomorrow’s job market.  

Interested in bringing aquaponics vertical farm school programs to your area?  

The aFrame is an easy, affordable vertical farming system that can go in any classroom.  

Our aFrame actually converts any existing fish tank between 20-60 gallons into a vertical aquaponics farm. All in just a few easy minutes!  

Click here to learn more about how you can use the aFrame to bring vertical aquaponics education to a school near you!

Know someone who might like to bring aquaponics to their school?

If you know someone, share this blog with them!  

We’d be grateful if you did, and I’m sure the school will thank you many times over!

Educators, Join our mailing list for even more resources and guides to bring aquaponics to your school or classroom!

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