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Hey Folks! I'm starting to hash out the plans for a hobby system in which space is a bit limited. I saw the zip grow towers and thought they were intriguing. Has anyone tried them? If so, what do you think? And how do you catch the discharge water at the bottom?

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Sorry if I'm not visualizing this right, but two strips at 2 7/8" X 1.5" makes a block 5.75" X 3" right? Oh wait, do you fit them along each other in a T rather than a rectangle matching the side widths?

Not understanding 5 3/4" outside edge going down a 4" tube but I know I'm missing something...

Quick napkin calculation: 4" tube has an area of 12.57 in squared, and 5.75" X 3" would take up 17.25" squared (plus not be round), so I figured it would take some squishing to fit down the tube right?

No, if you look at my first post, there are photos attached. The two strips of media together make a square column that is 2-7/8" x 3" x 39-1/2" and easily fits inside of a 4" drain pipe with very little resistance. It also does not need to be round, ZipGrow towers certainly are not round.

Here's another photo.


I get it so the cuts are actually 1 7/16" width per strip, which doubled makes it 2 7/8" X 3" block right?

No, two pieces of 1-1/2" x 2-7/8" together, makes a 3" x 2-7/8" square.

Gotcha! Thanks for your patience :)


Is it possible to post and update picture of a plant full grow from your copy version of a zipgrow? I am still purchasing some zipgrows because I think for live sales they would work the best (inside a whole foods), but I'd like to see your end product if you have full grown plants. And any other pointers growing from them?

Max Gfx said:

Here's the tower a coupe days after being planted with starter plugs. The plug is just deep enough into the Matala filter media to get a steady supply of water/nutrient and the top of the plug rests all the way up against the slot in the planter. As you can see, even though the plugs are inserted horizontally, the plants automatically correct themselves in a few hours and bend towards the light source. So, while it might not be as pretty as an actual ZipGrow tower, it is easily just as effective and functional.

Robert did you fix your input side of plumbing? I'm thinking along your lines of buying the media separately to build more longer versions on my own (I am not space limited). post some pics if you have a full grow plants working. Your pic almost looks exactly like a zipgrow system.

Robert J said:

Mine are pretty simple.  I found a fencing company willing to sell me 5' - 4" PVC fence caps, and after an exhaustive search with my limited knowledge, I surrendered and bought my media from Nate.  I followed his basic installation instructions, but am fixin to do some re-work on the input side of the plumbing.

 Sorry for the side view...  As I said, yours are much more elegant.  Also should add that the loopers did a LOT of damage.  Just recovering now.

I'm releasing a PDF soon that has full plans and pictures of my towers and upside down tomato planters with plants in full growth. The towers are now covered in aluminum foil tape and look much more sophisticated. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think plants growing out of a slot in a silver round tube is more visually appealing and more impressive than plants growing out of a slot in a square fence post sleeve...Another point in my favor is that an existing ZipGrow owner told me that he prefers my design because of the added void space in the tower that prevents it from turning anaerobic even if the media were to get clogged up...It's all in the marketing, I guess. I am providing free open source plans, while somebody else is running a marketing campaign to apparently recover the costs that the University of Wyoming paid to apply for a patent on a vertical growing method. I'm not in it for the money, unlike the rest of the permaculture people. You don't start global movements by charging people for a ticket to ride, and you definitely don't do it by charging people 10 times what the ticket is actually worth.


I've talked with Nate a lot and actually did some blog help for their company. They are as open source as you can get, but they are a business and in business to sell a well researched system they made. Unlike a hobbyist he spent 3 years documenting his research. Any business person patents something new that might be copied, manufactured, and sold by another business. Plus, from what I've seen an aquaponic hobbyist spends $$$ on aquaponic growing - so I don't think $67 for a zipgrow tower is expensive like Vlad mentioned earlier (I got to work with Vlad in person in California for Viridis - that's a whole other story about capitalism and the complete opposite of Bright Agrotech). 

I'm building out a large system right now. I've been to Bright Agrotech's high tunnel with all their zipgrows and was super impressed. So far I haven't seen any real growth from these copy towers even the ones with their media. I suppose it depends on the inputs.  I plan to grow primarily hydroponically with organic fertilizers. I think AP is cool but such a hassle and more risky commercially. I don't know that much and maybe one day I'll know better. Post a link to your .pdf once you get a chance. I was really impressed with your own idea design. Your price cost is exactly where I want to be to be profitable but I want to see real plant growth, inputs, weather. All factors of course. Anyway awesome job!

Since I'm a Linux geek, I see open source the same way that the FSF does. Any time a patent is brought into the picture, it's not open source anymore (a'la MP3 files, GIF files, PDF files, etc, on and on). Disclosing information doesn't remove a patent and make something automatically open source.

Nothing against Nate or Bright Agrotech, but the University of Wyoming is the actual patent applicant and the patent is only on the method, not the device itself. If I were to try and sell these planters assembled, I'd have lawyers representing the university of Wyoming on my door step in less than a week because it infringes on the patent that they've applied for.

Murray Hallam and various Hydro pot growers posting videos on YouTube are who I'd have to credit first since that's where I saw these concepts originally emerge (which likely explains why the patent is only pending). I just posted my concept in response to what I saw somebody else doing to encumber this old concept with a patent.

The PDF will be available soon. But, take my word for it. Growing vertically in a media of random plastic wicks long predates aquaponics and the ZipGrow tower. The only difference between my design and the first hydro tower that I ever saw is that I'm not using polyester batting, I'm using pond filter media with a near infinite biological surface area.

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