Recent Bright Agrotech Articles

Here’s What We’re Doing at the National Heirloom Expo

Here’s What We’re Doing at the National Heirloom Expo

As we say often here at Bright Agrotech, it’s time for a new generation of farmers to wake up and smell the future. People have more power than they know, and they should start using it to make changes in our food system and for their own health.
It’s time to get away from large-scale monocultural factory farms with their waste and lack of transparency, susceptible to devastating drought and mishandling of our fruits and veggies.
The immediate future is all about utilizing our existing underutilized spaces to grow the food we need to feed ourselves. It’s about It’s about decentralizing our food production to reduce fragility and increase access to better food options for everyone.
The good news? The future is here.

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Mistakes Could Be The Best for Experiential Learning

Mistakes Could Be The Best for Experiential Learning

What if a lack of experience was a help rather than a hindrance?

It would force the educator and the student to stop thinking in hypotheticals to solve problems, fix mistakes, and help others. We’ve seen this exciting new face of experiential learning surface in many classrooms, like those of Oliver Schinkten, Michael Paoli, and Kevin Savage. Each of these educators has had an interesting journey since beginning with their classroom gardens to the present time.

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The Next Generation for Galactic Farms

The Next Generation for Galactic Farms

You may have heard of Jeff Pernell’s ‘Space 200‘. The compact, seismic-ready, mobile aquaponic system was built last year for the University of Montana.
A few weekends ago I had the chance to meet Jeff Pernell, its’ creator, in person. Since the Space 200 Jeff has developed his business – Galactic Farms – even further.

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A Week at Bright Agrotech: ZipRacks and Pull-Ups

A Week at Bright Agrotech: ZipRacks and Pull-Ups

At Bright, we love our team. Despite our fast-paced and at times hectic work week ,we have a lot of fun together. This week Halle and I returned from the Roadmap to STEM Con, we pinned a few cat memes up in the office, put up a Farm Wall, had a pull-up contest, and the entire team tested out a mobile hydroponic system.

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Fable: From Farm to Table – Welcome a New Upstart Farmer!

Fable: From Farm to Table – Welcome a New Upstart Farmer!

It all started with an avocado.
Tired of the mysterious, wilted produce typical of the produce aisle in chain grocery stores, Tom Deacon, a film editor in New York, started rooting out avocado pits on a whim. A few months later he had a fleet of young avocado trees growing in the dead of winter, and an idea began to grow.
At the same time, farm-to-table restaurants began to shine brighter and brighter as beacons of transparency, and soon the mass-produced grocery store produce had taken on a drab tone that Tom could not justify.

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Scientific Innovation​ and the Roadmap to STEM Con in Wyoming

Scientific Innovation​ and the Roadmap to STEM Con in Wyoming

The world is changing.
Alternative agriculture is especially important to our students these days.
Why? Because the world is changing. It’s changing everywhere and all the time. From population growth, to the responding resource scarcity, and of course the complex changes in communication and business.

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Welcome Amaryllis Garden Greens, New Upstart Farmer!

Welcome Amaryllis Garden Greens, New Upstart Farmer!

Having raised four sons and been involved in sports her whole life, Anne Marie understands what a positive impact sports can have on the development of young world citizens.
“The arrival of my freight farm has sparked an interest into our food system, how it’s produced, [and] where it comes from. What is local really? My customers want local- real local. They want to know who is growing the food they are eating, they want to become more conscious, want a leader. ”

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The Evolution of the ZipGrow Farm Wall Design

The Evolution of the ZipGrow Farm Wall Design

In 2012 we started a journey to creating the best living wall of plants in the world. We’ve made a lot of progress. Here’s a slideshow of our progress!   In 2012, we had an idea.After seeing the beautiful but inefficient green walls gracing the walls of buildings around the world, we decided to build one of our own... with a few improvements. We knew it would be a fail-and-learn process getting to a green wall that looked good, produced food, and that was easier to put up than other farm walls, so we got started.   The first living wall prototypeThe prototype was a 6.5 foot-tall green wall with about 15 towers hanging from the side of our fish house and hooked up to be irrigated wish fish waste from our main aquaponics system. As you can see, it looked pretty nice. The drawbacks were that the side of the fish house wasn't sheltered from our violent Wyoming winds, and our crops were limited. We could grow cold-weather crops and grasses, but not the herbs and tender greens that we love so much. After trying out a few different kinds of crops, we chose to stick with barley, which looked nice, was hardy in the wind and cold, and would tolerate a day or two without water in case one of the irrigation lines got clogged. (That happens sometimes when you're fertilizing with fish waste.) An added plus to using barley was that we could switch the whole green wall off for the winter and the barley would remain and look nice. (Like and ornamental grass on the side of the fish house.)... read more
This Small Town Pub is Transforming the Local Food Scene

This Small Town Pub is Transforming the Local Food Scene

The Alibi Pub is a small brick building that squats on a street corner near downtown Laramie. The multicolored light-up sign and a fleet of bicycles chained up outside speak to the quirky nature of the pub and the city it serves. Converted from a package liquor store before liquor licenses became run-of-the-mill in this college town, the Alibi has endeared itself to socializing Laramites since it debuted as a sit-down bar and pub. I entered the Alibi at half past eight one morning to meet the owners, Kerri and Ethan Smith. Kerri tells me about the Alibi, which has evolved with the culture of Laramie since Ethan started running it in 1990. Kerri explained that as the drinking culture has changed to a more social pastime, the Alibi first converted into a sit-down bar and then started serving food. Kerri and Ethan don’t just serve food, however. They serve home-cooked food. I’ve never seen any food operation that takes “home-cooked” as seriously as Kerri and Ethan do. The Smiths wanted to provide the Laramie community with food that just couldn’t be found anywhere else; something more exciting than a chain restaurant. I remembered seeing Kerri tending bar at night too, and I didn’t get the idea that 8:30 was early for either Kerri or Ethan to meet. I also knew that the Alibi kept a vertical garden in their kitchen and sourced their ingredients with care. I suspected that these two put a lot of care into the pub, and I wanted to know more. The vertical garden, hanging prominently on the wall to our left, seemed a... read more
American Students Visit the Operation Behind the USA Pavilion

American Students Visit the Operation Behind the USA Pavilion

In June 2015, a group of American student ambassadors went to the 2015 World Fair in Milan, Italy, to have a look at the operation behind the USA Pavilion’s giant vertical farm.

It seems like the operation was not what the students expected! We’re glad to see the next generation of innovators take an interest in alternative agriculture and take it home with them.

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The Great Tilapia Fry of 2015

The Great Tilapia Fry of 2015

With the deconstruction of our aquaponics system (making way for better things) comes many goodbyes. Some of those goodbyes are bittersweet. One that we said Wednesday night to ten old tilapia was neither bitter nor sweet. More… salty. With a hint of cayenne. Waste not, want not, right? The whole gang gathered to catch, clean, and fry up some tilapia which have been in our tanks for years. And where there’s fried fish, there should be beer.   Dr. Nate’s daughter Charlotte was very interested in the fish. (Aquaponic water in her blood?) Even pets came to help with the fry. We had a great time! Some of us might have even had leftover tilapia for breakfast this morning. Eventually we retreated from some foreboding rain clouds on the horizon. Well played,... read more
Science Club Uses Vertical Garden To Spark Innovation

Science Club Uses Vertical Garden To Spark Innovation

Over the past several months, Mrs. Theis has led an elementary science club through the exciting adventure of first-time vertical gardening. She documented the project closely with lots of great photos and even a cool video (which you can view in our next Educator’s Newsletter). At the end of the year, she submitted a report to the state on the project, and she has shared this report with us today.

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The Immediate Future of Food?

The Immediate Future of Food?

Over the past several months, we’ve seen a significant spike in press coverage surrounding a wide range of Agriculture Technology, or AgTech. From vertical farms to “crop surveillance drones” aimed at increasing yields and feeding our increasingly crowded planet.  From the Huffington Post, to Forbes, and even Monsanto, it seems like everyone is asking different forms of the same question: “How are we going to feed 9 billion people over the next 35 years?” To see an example of this, look no further than the USA Pavilion at this year’s World’s Fair in Milan, Italy.  Their “I am 1 in 9 Billion” statue stands to bring the gravity of this increasingly complex situation to life for 20+ million visitors over the course of the Expo.   We are all 1 in 9 billion mouths to feed by 2050. The digital waterfall reminds us we are all #1in9bn. Til tomorrow, @expo2015milano. #Expo2015 A video posted by USA Pavilion 2015 (@usapavilion2015) on Jul 21, 2015 at 3:29pm PDT   One thing’s for certain: with the expected population increase, we’re going to have to think very creatively over the next 35 years. We’re going to need new ideas from fresh perspectives not only to solve the problems we’re currently facing with agriculture, but also the enormous economic and environmental challenges that come with feeding a few more billion people.  But 2050 is – relatively speaking – a long way off. We’ve got enough problems to innovate our way out of when it comes to giving access to more reliable or economical food (or food in general for that matter). So while it’s important to start strategizing to feed 9 billion people in 2050, I can’t... read more

Farm Wall Support

We'll help you grow on your walls! Name Email Address Message Message Submit 12 + 13 = Hey there, I'm Sean! I'm passionate about equipping and empowering our customers to grow food anywhere with ease. Thinking about growing with your own Farm Wall? Shoot me a message and we'll... read more
Vertical Farming Investment a Burgeoning Opportunity

Vertical Farming Investment a Burgeoning Opportunity

Vertical farming is changing an entire industry. CNBC’s recent article proclaimed vertical farming to be a “hot new area for investors.” “..an increasing number of sophisticated early-stage investors (venture and growth equity firms on one hand, and strategic players such as food companies looking to get in on the trend on the other hand) believe these New Age food factories could transform agribusiness.” Here at Bright Agrotech, we have a front-row seat of the dynamically changing industry. We couldn’t agree more that vertical farming is transforming agricultural business. We do have a different perspective of what that transformation will result in, however. The definition of vertical farming is moving as quickly as the technology that it envelopes, and the current implications of the phrase are not at their final resting place. We know that vertical farming as depicted in popular mainstream media is not a comprehensive representation. We also see many of the disadvantages of vertical farming in the progress of being overcome. It’s an exciting time to be a farmer! Read more here!    ... read more
The Problems Behind the Water Crisis [Commentary]

The Problems Behind the Water Crisis [Commentary]

A writing team at Propublica recently outlined the problems causing the drought and how we can expect them to develop in the near future. Abrahm Lustgarten, Lauren Kirchner and Amanda Zamora establish one thing that we all know: that California’s drought is severe – and one thing that too many people don’t know: that a bit of rainfall (or a lot of rainfall, for that matter) is not going to fix the problems. Not helping water scarcity is the foolish delegation of Colorado river water, which is over-promised and as a result, overdrawn. The only way to solve the crisis is to focus on understanding the problem, which actually isn’t even an issue of “enough water”. Depending on what you know about alternative water use techniques, you may or may not understand that there is enough water in the Western U.S. The problem is that it’s being used very inefficiently. Say you want to solve this problem and see water use tidied up in the West. Where would you even start? The biggest culprit You might start with the biggest users and tighten up their game first. If you started looking into it, you would find that the biggest player in water use is agriculture. Within agriculture, forage for cattle, sheep, and other livestock is responsible for about half of water use.  Another water hog is cotton, which is receiving more attention, especially as people realize that cotton and other water-hogging crops are subsidized, essentially rewarding farmers for high water use. There are several solutions that should be implemented to solve this issue. Among rethinking illogical water laws, “use it or lose it” clauses, and... read more
Top 10 Funding Opportunities & Grants for School Gardens

Top 10 Funding Opportunities & Grants for School Gardens

There are tons of funding options out there which plenty of educators have successfully used to implement a ZipGrow soil-less science classroom garden into their school. Today, I’m going to fill you in on the top 10 state and national funding opportunities for soil-less science educators as provided to me by Brook Brockman, the Grants Coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Education.

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Tips for Successful Pest Control [From an IPM Professional]

Tips for Successful Pest Control [From an IPM Professional]

A strong IPM (integrated pest management) strategy is essential in any growing operation. The health of your crop depends on it. In starting my position as IPM and compliance coordinator, it was my job to create and implement the IPM plan for Red Sun Farms’ newest (and first in the US) commercial tomato greenhouse. With the construction of a new greenhouse in a location with a different climate from the company’s other greenhouses, I had to start from scratch in developing an IPM strategy. Due to the fact that we are still in our first year of production, I am still revising our plan for following years. We think that there’s no time like when you’re beginning to mark the many lessons you’re learning. Meredith’s unique area of expertise and experience with Red Sun Farms gives her some great insights into building an IPM strategy. That’s why we asked Meredith to give us some tips, hard won from her first year of IPM coordination. Here’s what she told us. 1) Know what's there and what COULD be there. The key to creating an effective method of pest control is to know the major pests of your crop and which potential pests for your crop are in your area. One major crop threat in one location may not present problems in another. Previous research on the indigenous insects can prepare you for what species may occur in your crop. The local extension office provided some quality information on what we could expect, especially in regards to surrounding agricultural crops and what they could attract. 2) Monitor and prevent! Along with the history of pests for the area, I placed sticky cards... read more
How Water Use Efficiency Really Has to Change [Commentary]

How Water Use Efficiency Really Has to Change [Commentary]

I recently read Catherine McLean‘s article, “Shrinking agriculture’s water footprint” (for FutureFood2050, which is a great site to explore, by the way) which covers an interview with Arjen Hoekstra, a Dutch scientist who has a viewpoint of water conservation that is actually actionable. McLean starts the article by establishing that agriculture is the biggest user of water, but water conservation efforts are misplaced. The bulk of our efforts are focused on domestic water use (and generating a whole lot of talk). That needs to change if we’re going to solve the “growing population, not enough water” problem that is undebatably bearing down on us. While the growing recognition of a need to change water behavior is a good thing, recognition alone falls dangerously short of solving the problem. Hoekstra understands something that we’ve been saying for ages: You can’t solve future world issues like water conservation by talking and debating. No. The real fight against water waste is going to play out like this:* *By the way…. this isn’t actually a prediction, as much as I’d like to take credit for it. The reason I know that these things will happen is that they already are happening. One company that McLean mentioned is Ceres, a company focused on “sustainability leadership”. This is the first step. The second step has begun as well, which is another thing that McLean mentions in her article.    Step 1: Water use accountability.  Farms and ranches will be held accountable for the amount of water they use by rating and certifications. They’ll do this, if not for the motivation of being a good steward of creation,... read more
Super Student Innovation Results in Exciting Opportunities

Super Student Innovation Results in Exciting Opportunities

What happens when two high school students take their class project home?

“Choas. Destruction. Insanity, ” you say. Or perhaps you’re thinking the opposite. “Absolutely nothing. It just sits there untouched, abandoned and forlorn.”

What if neither was the case? What if instead the students spent hours and hours fiddling with the project, passionately crafting it into their own innovative masterpiece? Well, that’s when you would get something like this.

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Light Dynamics: Give Your Crops the Light They Deserve

Light Dynamics: Give Your Crops the Light They Deserve

Do I need light in my vertical farm? If you’re growing indoors (and maybe even if you’re growing outdoors), you should consider artificial lighting. “Woah, hang on a second,” you’re thinking. “If I have natural light, then I’m set. I don’t need extra.” Actually, artificial lighting can increase yield significantly even when used as a supplement. To decide whether or not an increase in production is worth the cost artificial lighting, you need to understand about how light moves and is used in your vertical farm. There are three variations to light dynamics and vertical farming that matter: 1) light quality, 2) light intensity, and 3) light duration. Light quality: wavelength matters to photosynthetic pigments and light penetration. First of all, there are different types of light. If you feel like a throwback to middle school light physics, there are some helpful places on the web that can help you out. For our purposes, let’s assume that you understand that the electromagnetic spectrum is based on different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (measured in nanometers to meters), and that visible light (measured in nanometers, “nm”) only makes up a small part of the spectrum. Understanding the different wavelengths is important for two reasons: 1) Different pigments absorb different wavelengths to use the energy in photosynthesis and other crucial processes. So which wavelengths do you need? Most plant pigments use wavelengths between 400-700 nm, (the wavelengths used for photosynthesis are called photosynthetically active radiation, or “PAR”) where visible blue, red, green, and yellow light occur. Some of these wavelengths are especially fit to be absorbed by a different pigment involved in photosynthesis. The three main pigments that you deal with are:... read more
The Many Benefits of Living Walls

The Many Benefits of Living Walls

This discussion of green walls was written primarily by Lois Downing and reformatted for this post. Are green walls just a fad? Green walls are a growing attraction to farmers, businesses, cities, restaurants, grocery stores, and more. Since we entered the green wall scene in 2012, the industry has grown exponentially. While the technology holds great potential and excitement for the future population of our urban areas, there are also challenges to address if we are to take hold of these benefits. What is a green wall, anyway? You might have heard of them referred to as a green facade, living wall, bio-wall, vertical garden, or vertical vegetation. All green walls are vertical surfaces covered in vegetation; some are grown on the wall itself, while some (mostly those called facades) are rooted in the ground then trellised up the side of the building. The idea of growing on the side of a wall could have started way back around 600 BCE with the hanging gardens of Babylon, but the green walls created today don’t share much with their ancient predecessor. Not only have the applications of green walls diversified from the original (mainly aesthetic) purpose, but installation methods have exploded in a variety of creative processes. Here are our observations on the benefits and challenges that green walls present to society and the world. The Many Benefits of Living Walls Indoor and outdoor green walls offer a number of incredible benefits.  Green walls as living art   Green walls are works of art. They contribute in many less immediately obvious ways, but the visual effects are truly stunning. There are few... read more
A Day in the Life of Elijah, Grower Empowerment Specialist

A Day in the Life of Elijah, Grower Empowerment Specialist

We keep collecting characters here at Bright Agrotech as the family grows. You’ve met Elesif and Perry. Today, meet our unique Grower Empowerment Specialist, Elijah. Who is Elijah? Name: Elijah Kruse Role: Makes sure that our growers stay happy and get the help they need to succeed. Coffee count: Acceptable. “On average…probably around six.” Kryptonite: “That’s tough, my life is a pretty open book. I floss…I guess that’s something most people wouldn’t know. “ That Elijah has nothing to hide isn’t that hard to believe. What puzzles me is that he considers flossing something to confess. Who’s been teaching you dental hygiene, Elijah? Superpower: As per the quickly establishing tradition, I asked the team to describe Elijah in a few words. “Inquisitive barefoot,” was the first answer I got. In addition to his barefoot quirk, Elijah watches fly fishing videos to focus and subscribes to the bizarre “chicken and waffles” fad. But as another team member noted, he’s also “very relate-able, which makes him a great account manager.” We all agree on one thing: that Elijah has untouchable good humor. What keeps Elijah so positive? I think it’s that he’s enjoys the little things to their full potential. That frees him up to not just accept opportunities, but really take joy in them. What was the last job you had? “I worked for the highway department testing bridge surfaces. More than anything it was a driving job but it also allowed me to spend my summers outside and all over Wyoming. Once I researched (Bright Agrotech) further, I was excited by the opportunity to engage myself in a company that was... read more
Free Webinar: Get Farm Funding Through Kiva Zip

Free Webinar: Get Farm Funding Through Kiva Zip

Funding is one of the biggest constraints to small farmers Even though small businesses around the US create two thirds of the jobs in the country, getting capital is almost always reported as one of the top three constraints to growth. Can you believe it? We can. We see people trying to start farm businesses all the time struggle to get start up funding. Often this delays their business plans by months, years, or even makes it altogether impossible for them to build a farm. But if only a third of those small businesses could grow – if they could just hire one additional employee – the US could be at full employment. One of the main obstacles is getting funding. And yet every day eight thousand business loan applications are rejected by banks. So what do we do? New funding programs offer a solution It’s time for this obstacle to be removed. Luckily, we’ve got a good start on a solution. Unique funding programs are popping up all over the place, from specialized crowdfunding platforms, to peer-to-peer loan programs like Kiva Zip. Kiva Zip is a unique peer-powered loan system that uses the practicality of modern technology coupled with the power of relationships. After a small business is accepted into the system, they are introduced to an online community of over fifty two thousand people who can lend anywhere from five dollars to the whole amount of your loan. Once you have the money, you have up to thirty six months to repay the loan. And voila! Just like that, your farm has been given the leg-up it needs to get started.... read more
FFA and Hydroponics: An Interview with Jay Super

FFA and Hydroponics: An Interview with Jay Super

Today, we check back with Mr. Super on a topic briefly mentioned in that previous post: FFA and hydroponics. In this interview we hear about how his FFA chapter has been effected by the school’s implementation of a hydroponics hallway.

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Ag Tech is Moving Fast, Says the Wall Street Daily

Ag Tech is Moving Fast, Says the Wall Street Daily

Across the world, multiple industries gear up in unison to face the next several decades, an urgent motivation compelling them to advance both intentionally and rapidly. The source of this motivation is the predictions of impending population stress on Earth by the year 2050. Every player in this fast paced game has to be aware of what other players are doing, or risk being left behind. One player in particular has been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. Agricultural technology has the potential to make farmingmuch easier, more efficient, and to introduce new practices that we and following generations will be able to sustain. As the role of new ag tech becomes apparent, more firms are pivoting towards the goal of creating and/or improving that tech. Tim Maverick with The Wall Street Daily notes, “…tomorrow’s farmers will be taking agriculture technology a bit further by using Big Data, robots, drones, and numerous other technological wonders. Silicon Valley is moving into agricultural technology in a big way.”... read more
What Indoor CO2 Enrichment Can Do For You

What Indoor CO2 Enrichment Can Do For You

What does CO2 do? We’re  all familiar with CO2. To farmers, the most important role of CO2 occurs after the gas molecules have entered the photosynthesizing tissues of plants via passive diffusion through pores in the leaves. The passivity of this movement into the plant means that the higher the concentration of CO2 outside of the plant relative to the concentration on the other side of those pores, the more CO2 the plant is able to use.   This is important because the relative amount of CO2 to other growth factors can have significant (even staggering) effects on production levels in indoor agriculture settings. A common limiting factor The reason for this is that CO2 is one of the most common limiting factors for indoor growers. And as we all know, sometimes raising or changing the limited factor can greatly increase output of a process. Say you’re making sandwiches for lunch. You have the lettuce, tomato, and ham for five sandwiches, but the bread for only four. You’re most of the way to five sandwiches, but missing only two pieces of bread.  In a greenhouse, the lettuce, tomato, and ham could be your nutrients, light, and water. CO2 is very often the bread. And it’s usually much more than just a sandwich that’s being wasted. Usually the gap between the limiting factor and the production capability that exists were that limiting factor removed is somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five percent production. This means that growers who have all other plant needs in excess (which is most) could increase the production of their greenhouse by  fifteen percent if using CO2... read more
What Happens When You Combine Hydroponics and STEM?

What Happens When You Combine Hydroponics and STEM?

STEM is a hot topic in the educational world these days. However, it can be difficult to come up with new ways to teach STEM concepts in the classroom. However, hydroponics is one option many educators have discovered in recent years. Today we hear from one educator who in my opinion, can be considered the Queen of STEM.

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The one thing you’re probably overlooking in your greenhouse

The one thing you’re probably overlooking in your greenhouse

What’s the most undervalued greenhouse cost? You might be surprised.  “What is your cost of natural gas? Electricity? Building cost per square foot? Operational cost per square foot?” Ask those things of a really good greenhouse operator, and he’ll give you detailed answers. Add, “What is the value of the light you receive?” and you’ll get a different response: “…Uh, what?” “The light, the sunlight. What is the value of the sunlight? “I don’t know.” He will be taken off guard because he’s never thought about it before. Why? Because people take light for granted. After all, sunlight is free. Why place a value on it? But light is a “free” resource! This is an important thing to understand for producers because there is an economic value that they should be placing on light. It’s one of the main inputs to production! If they’re placing an economic value on supplemental lighting, then why aren’t they placing an economic value on natural light? They just haven’t really thought about it. Why do they make that mistake? Because it’s free. And most people don’t put a value on free things. And if a person places no value on a thing, they’re not going to use it efficiently. When something is free you don’t think about trying to use it in the most economical sense. When something is free you just use it. Let’s say you didn’t have to pay for water. Water just came out of the tap, you didn’t have to pay a dime for it. Well, if you don’t pay a dime for your water then you waste it. Because it has no value. It’s... read more
The Atlantic: Vertical Farming Is On the Rise

The Atlantic: Vertical Farming Is On the Rise

  “Farming in the Sky” The Atlantic recently published a great article that gives a survey of vertical farming during this awkward growth spurt it’s undergoing. It’s one of the most dynamic growth spurts in agricultural history, largely because of what’s at stake. “There is, even in Texas, only so much usable surface area, and so much irrigable water to maintain future commercial crops, and it made me wonder: What would a truly modern crop look like?” -Adrian Shirk, The Atlantic Vertical farming is stepping into the spotlight… and it’s not exactly what people have imagined. After all, the classic vertical farming concepts were dreams and inventions thought up by people before the technology was ready. They haven’t had a chance to be performed, but they are the first thing that comes to mind when someone sees the words, “vertical farm”. This misconception of how vertical farming does (and will) look is slowly being overturned as real-life technology gets mixed in with those old established dreams. “There are grow towers, rooftops, and industry talk of Waterworld-style ‘plant factories’ in futuristic floating cities. “ And real-life technology does exist. Not as floating cities or space farms, of course. We can’t rule those out, but we know that they certainly can’t (and shouldn’t) happen without first developing technology that is realistic. Vertical farming operations have to fit a bill of viability. If they can’t be a) biologically viable, b) operationally viable, and c) economically viable…                                                       then they die. This is the natural... read more
Why Every Teacher Should Be On Pinterest

Why Every Teacher Should Be On Pinterest

But although the resources are plentiful, they can be tricky to find. As vertical and hydroponic or aquaponic gardening is only a newly popular concept in the educational world, it is hard for teachers to find many “traditional” resources on the subject. New resources are most likely to be found and accessed on new platforms- like Pinterest.

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How to Conduct Market Research for Upstart Farmers

How to Conduct Market Research for Upstart Farmers

Market Research Matters for Local Farmers The challenge of choosing markets can cause the most confident farmers to stagger. What if you choose the wrong one? A poorly made decision may result in loss of revenue, a stunted business, and inability to expand your operation.   You can avoid all of this by doing proper market research before investing time and production into a market. Market research is the process of attaining pertinent information on the structure and needs of a market to see if you can match that market with your product.   So how is market research done? Your market research can be broken down into three parts: 1) a survey of the produce market overall, 2) a study of the local markets, and 3) matching those markets with your production capabilities. Starting with a big picture then honing in on your specific area helps you to gain an accurate view of the market, and aligning the market with your production allows you to make choices that will play out well in the future. Survey the big picture with demographic info Start with the big picture be getting information on the population of your area. You can access this information at the US Census. Once you have information on population size, decide how much of that is your target group of consumers. For example, if you live in a town of 50,000 people, you can assume that only half of them eat vegetables regularly. Ten percent of that is what you can target. You end up with 2,500 people in your initial customer base for the city. The next step is asking,... read more
How and When to Clone Plants for Your Vertical Farm

How and When to Clone Plants for Your Vertical Farm

The What, When and How of Cloning Plants Haydn Christensen has an interesting planting method for his many towers of mint.   If you were to walk through his greenhouse, you would notice that in the shallow gutters which run underneath the rows of towers, dozens of sprigs of mint have fallen and began to root out. This is Haydn’s quick and easy way to grow new mint plants, and it’s possible because mint has a natural inclination to clone easily. Since seeing Haydn’s clever trick, we’ve started propagating our mint in the same way! Cloning can be a great option for many crops, as you don’t have to buy seeds and it can be done in unconventional spaces, like the gutters in your ZipGrow system. For many crops, however, genetic variety can aid in pest resistance, and some crops will sooner wither up and rot before they root out. So when is it a good time to clone, and when is it worth buying seeds? Here’s how to choose which crops to clone, and which to grow from seed. When to clone? Before you choose one way or another consider the following: Price of seeds. The price of seeds might be much less that the cost of cloning – or vice versa! Cloning can cost money in the loss of those crops from which you’re cutting clones. On the other hand, some types of seeds can be quite expensive. Germination. You’ll want to understand how quickly and easily the crop germinates from seed. If you are replanting towers of rosemary and you need 30 plants as soon as possible, but you have... read more
Dr. Nate Speaks At Entrepreneur Event

Dr. Nate Speaks At Entrepreneur Event

Investing in Entrepreneurship Starting a business is one of the most challenging things most people never experience. Since Bright Agrotech was founded in 2010, we’ve learned a lot about building a business, both through our successes and our failures. The fact is that taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is much less terrifying if you have some help. Luckily, we’ve had some incredible support from our local business incubator which has provided us with both space to work and meet, and mentoring through the typical start-up struggles.  Last week, Dr. Nate went to speak to a group of entrepreneurs in Sheridan, Wyoming at an event hosted by the Wyoming Technology and Business Center. He spoke about the birth of ZipGrow technology and the unique way that it fits into small farming businesses, giving them an advantage that supports their success. “[ZipGrow technology] allows people to sell their produce in a variety of different ways. We like to think of it as not necessarily selling people equipment, but selling people opportunity.” By designing technology to help beginning farmers, we hope to help one of the the most crucial groups of entrepreneurs in the world: small farmers. Chris Michael, Marketing Director and Co-Owner of Bright Agrotech, explains how we help these entrepreneurs succeed in what they do. “Entrepreneurship is core to our understanding of what local, ground-up farmers look like. We encourage people to find a need in their community, assess those needs carefully and strategically, and then we help them get everything they need to to launch their farm and fill that need, including support from the Upstart Farmers community. “Just like anything in entrepreneurship or... read more
Save Time and Money By Seeding a Wicking Tray

Save Time and Money By Seeding a Wicking Tray

The Vertical Food Blog welcomes some great tips from Rob Torcellini from Bigelow Brook Farms, whose innovation is apparent in his clever growing techniques.   As with most businesses, we to try to reduce waste as much as possible. This ranges from cutting costs in materials to reducing the amount of labor to complete tasks.  We have found that when seeding in rock wool cubes, achieving 100% germination is rare. This means that many cubes will go to waste, never being used.  Some growers will over-seed each cube, then have to spend time pinching off the excess plants.  Also, by using standard seeds instead of pelleted seeds (in rock wool cubes), you can reduce your overall seed costs. As part of our own cost cutting goals, we developed the GrowGrip, a reusable plant holder, for growing leafy greens. They eliminate the need for using disposable rock wool cubes or mixing potting soil, as well as removing the hassle of using bulky net pots. Save space and money by seeding wicking trays As a companion to using the GrowGrip, we recommend that our clients start their plant seedlings (typically lettuce) in a simple wicking tray.  This allows for hundreds of plants to be started in a small wicking tray. 1) Sift out a pH neutral gravel We start by using a pH neutral gravel.  We use expanded shale since it is half the weight of regular gravel, although most gravels will work well.  To obtain the proper consistency, it is run through a 3/8” screen made from standard hardware cloth, then the smaller fines are removed by screening through a regular window screen.  It’s important... read more
ArchDaily.com has the details on USA Pavilion

ArchDaily.com has the details on USA Pavilion

Impressive Technology ≠ Corporate Power The US Pavilion’s green wall is getting a lot of attention for different reasons, and with widely different responses. Just look through the comments on any post covering the topic. One common theme I’ve seen is that of America, the “eco-monsters”, the rich and distant, the idoloters of corporate power. Because the pavilion is big and impressive, it can only be a masterpiece of the powerful, right? Did you know that the green wall technology was designed by a 15-person company in small town Laramie, Wyoming? Did you know that the CEO still answers the phone there? Hows that for corporate power? We love that Bright Agrotech was chosen to represent American food because the US Pavilion is supposed to be representative of the progress happening in the ag industry here. And the tech that makes the centerpiece of the pavilion possible is from one of the little guys. This is a perfectly accurate portrayal of the rise of small businesses in American agriculture. Some people get that incredible architecture and impressive displays of innovation don’t always go hand-in-hand with corporate power. We like the way that Archdaily.com describes it: “Unlike most pavilions historically, and recent US Pavilions in particular, American Food 2.0 is an invitation to enter a visible and transparent open public forum. The pavilion is characterized by openness, transparency, and accessibility. It is composed of sustainable design elements and with myriad references to American culture. Rather than a forced march through a fixed exhibition (as in the last Expo) the pavilion has a variety of experiences; a self-guided and flexible space, as well as a traditional... read more
New York Times Spotlights the USA Pavilion

New York Times Spotlights the USA Pavilion

ZipGrow has been used for a colorful variety of applications. This summer, another is being added to the list as ZipGrow technology graces 7200 square feet of the US Pavilion green wall in Milan, Italy. The pavilion was designed to convey a message of innovation and unity. We have always known that ZipGrow embodies both of those ideals. Now it’s time for the world to see it. Read more about the World Fair from the New York Times.  A Feast of Architectural Styles for Expo Milano 2015 By Julie Lasky with The New York Times “A 7,200-square-foot vertical farm makes up the east wallof the building. The job required transferring 42 varieties of vegetables, grains and herbs to about 1,500 hydroponic planters on swinging louvers. Their grid pattern refers to the 1785 Land Ordinance, which produced the geometry of American farmland, with the mechanized louvers creating an effect, Mr. Biber said, “like amber waves of grain,” or gills.” Thoughts? Chime in below!   See all of the media on the Pavilion’s green wall here.  ... read more
USA Pavilion Spotlighted by Inhabitat (With Picture Gallery)

USA Pavilion Spotlighted by Inhabitat (With Picture Gallery)

Five years ago, Bright Agrotech was founded on values of innovation and unity. This summer, those years of long days, dedication, and hard work are paying off with the American manifestation of innovation.  The US Pavilion at this years World Fair is decked with a 7200 square foot green wall. Read Inhabitat’s article and check out their photo gallery. Biber Architects exhibit incredible 7200-square-foot vertical farm at World Expo with US Pavillon By Mike Chino with Inhabitat.com “The super green smart building is made from reclaimed Coney Island boardwalk wood, it features the world’s largest opacity-shifting SPD SmartGlassroof, and it’s wrapped with a lush living farmscape that runs the length of a football field…”       Thoughts? Chime in below!   See all of the media on the Pavilion’s green wall here.    ... read more
Engadget Discusses USA Pavilion and Energy Efficiency

Engadget Discusses USA Pavilion and Energy Efficiency

Ag tech is advancing at an incredible rate. In the midst of dozens of incredible pavilions at this summer’s World’s Fair, the USA Pavilion stands out with it’s incredible design, featuring the world’s largest vertical farm. Check out Engadget’s thoughts on the pavilion and the design of the green wall. Vertical farms, smart ceilings and national pride at the world fair By Mona Lalwali with Engadget.com “The plant-filled façade is an active vertical farm that will be harvested every day for the duration of the exhibit from May through October. It’s a prototype with motorized panels that are programmed to open and close for a dynamic waving motion.” Thoughts? Chime in below!   See all of the media on the Pavilion’s green wall... read more
8 Fun Ways to Use Hydroponic Produce in Your School

8 Fun Ways to Use Hydroponic Produce in Your School

In today’s post, we will share some ideas for how you can use hydroponic produce in your school, and some examples of how schools are using their harvested produce currently. If you’ve been wondering what to do with all that delightful produce from your system, this post is for you!

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Quick Tip: Growing Microgreens for Upstart Farmers

Quick Tip: Growing Microgreens for Upstart Farmers

What are microgreens? Microgreens are densely planted seedlings (bigger than a sprout, smaller than a mature plant) that are usually a leafy green or crops with dramatic flavors like radishes or peas. Typically grown in fodder systems, seeds are planted in an even layer, germinated, and grown for a week or two before being harvested. According to the USDA, “A microgreen has a single central stem, which has been cut just above the soil during harvesting—in fact, home gardeners often snip them with scissors. The seedlings are well suited for local growers because microgreens are harvested just 7 to 14 days after germination when the cotyledons (seed leaves) have fully developed and before the true leaves have expanded.”   What is the appeal? The appeal of microgreens is that they’re profitable for farmers, valuable to chefs who use them as garnishes and flavor-adders, and that they add a spike of flavor and nutrition to consumers. And, in case you haven’t noticed lately, microgreens are incredibly hot right now!   Everyone is buzzing about the health benefits of eating these seedlings. According to the University of Maryland and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, microgreens could contain between 4 and 40 times as many nutrients as mature produce. That’s a lot of nutrients! Can you grow microgreens in towers? Since ZipGrow Towers are designed for mature crops with a slender gap down the front, they aren’t a good growing method for microgreens. Production costs for microgreens tend to be high and the volume limit with ZipGrows would actually lower profit margins. (Opposite of full-grown crops, which increase margins.)  Is there an alternative to... read more
USA Pavilion Green Wall Featured on Curbed

USA Pavilion Green Wall Featured on Curbed

This summer, Milan hosts the 2015 World Fair – and dozens of pavilions built to embody the messages of various countries. This year, the fair’s them is “Feed the Planet, Energy for Life“. Bright Agrotech is proud to represent America’s contribution to this theme with the 7200 square foot green wall on the US Pavilion, designed by James Biber and powered by ZipGrow.  Check out Curbed’s article on the USA Pavilion. At Milan Expo, James Biber’s USA Pavilion Features Vertical Farm and “Aspirations of America” By Patrick Sisson at Curbed.com “The highlight, which will be visible from the fairground, is the massive, living wall. Comprised of a grid of rotating hybrid hydroponics panels which include soil to help retain water and nutrients, the vertical farm represents a story of American agriculture, according to Biber, right down to the grids that recalls Thomas Jefferson’s Land Ordinance of 1785.” Thoughts? Chime in below!   See all of the media on the Pavilion’s green wall... read more
USA Pavilion on WPR (Wyoming Public Radio)

USA Pavilion on WPR (Wyoming Public Radio)

The team behind ZipGrow technology is grateful to have the opportunity to represent American innovation at the 2015 World Fair. Learn more about the USA Pavilion in WPR’s article, below. Wyoming Business Blossoms At Milan World Fair “Wyoming business Bright AgroTech will be in full bloom at the Milan World Fair this year—literally. One whole wall of the American exhibit will showcase the company’s vertical gardening design…” Melodie Edwards with Wyoming Public Radio See all of the media on the Pavilion’s green wall here.  ... read more
Crowdfund Your Farm Successfully [Free Webinar]

Crowdfund Your Farm Successfully [Free Webinar]

Crowdfund Your Farm Successfully [Free Webinar] If you’ve heard of some of the crazy success stories of crowdfunding, you might be considering trying it out on your farm. (If you haven’t considered it, read this article on why it might be a good idea.)  Crowdfunding is a great option for farmers, and if it’s done right can be the big push that get’s your farm moving forward! We have seen lots of farmers run crowdfunding campaigns, some successful and others not so successful.  To read our insights for successful crowdfunding, check out this article.   A few tips could be the difference between success and defeat We think that there’s a lot more advice out there to help you succeed, however, so we asked Marie Sayles of the farm crowdfunding platform, Barnraiser, to join us for a free webinar that we’re hosting just for you beginning farmers. (She said yes.)  She also went on to say… “We wear a lot of hats at Barnraiser from business consultants, to campaign editors, and even cheerleaders. Our goal is to make every Barnraiser campaign as successful as possible.”     “Crowdfunding for Farmers” will be a case study-based exploration of the five pillars of a great crowdfunding campaign: 1) Tell your farm’s story in a way that resonates and connects with your audience 2) How to create compelling rewards 3) The best methods for setting crowdfunding goals  4) How to find your crowd 5) How to be fearless with your “ask” There will be time to ask questions and get specific instruction from the experts at the end of the webinar.   We look forward to seeing... read more
How A Hydroponic Garden Transformed This Kansas School

How A Hydroponic Garden Transformed This Kansas School

Today I bring you the story of one amazing educator who is taking school hydroponics further than ever before. He is showing the educational community (and in fact his entire community) that the applications for hydroponics are endless. And he’s only begun to skim the surface.

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Women in Ag: Why aren’t there more?

Women in Ag: Why aren’t there more?

It’s time to shift women’s role in modern farming. If I say farmer, what do you think of? If you’ve been following Bright Agrotech for awhile, maybe it’s Farmer Joe. More likely, it’s an image of a similarly masculine figure, maybe dressed in overalls, driving a John Deere tractor through his fields, right? Agriculture is traditionally thought of as a man’s arena, with women taking a backseat. Yet women have played critical roles in farm production throughout history, from egg and butter sales, to victory gardens, to growing the family’s food while husbands focused on commodity, cash crops.   A quick Google search reveals that half the world’s farmers are women, with leadership roles in various agricultural industries around the world. But here in America, female farmers are still few. According to the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, female principal farm operators decreased by almost 6% since 2007, greater than the decrease in male principal farm operators. Women represent only 14% of principal operators, and 30% of all operators. That doesn’t mean women aren’t making improvements. Women have always been most involved in the family and community aspects of agriculture, and with the burgeoning local foods movement, women are naturally moving into leadership positions. Still, the total number of women leading the way in agriculture seems awfully small. So what’s holding women back? Just like all farmers,  there are plenty of challenges facing female farmers. “Getting land is going to be the biggest challenge,” notes Tanya King, an Upstart Farmer at Painted Sky Farm, echoing a common problem. “If a person is going to do vegetable production, ask about leasing 1-3 acres near... read more
11 Farms Worth Watching

11 Farms Worth Watching

    The Upstart Farmers: Expanding Food Frontiers The food system is changing texture on a global scale. For the past several decades, the world has been producing and distributing food with a “big distributor” approach. A small number of corporations and businesses mass produce food in enormous farms and transport it all over the world. Most of us take the quality and age of the food we receive for what it is. But it could be so much more. It’s time for food production and distrobution to disintegrate into smaller units. The food system is undergoing a shift from handfuls of huge corporations and chain businesses to a collection of small local farms. As local food producers are enabled more and more by alternative agricultural technology, a few things change – and we know that the change is for the better. Food is fresher, improving health of individuals and communities. Sustainability practices are boosted with the increase in accountability. Fossil fuel consumption decreases as transport distance and time are drastically slashed. Communities interact with their food producers, setting minds at ease and educating younger generations about where their food comes from. And with the entrance of live sales, more of the money actually goes to the farmer rather than to handling fees, labor costs, and transportation costs. It’s an encouraging and exciting concept, isn’t it? But it’s more than just a concept! Here at Bright Agrotech, we’re privileged to have a unique viewpoint into the agricultural revolution. We want to share that with you by introducing some of our dynamic Upstart Farmers. The Upstart Farmers are the inventive entities that are pulling... read more
Meet the Whartons: How ZipGrow towers took their garden to new heights

Meet the Whartons: How ZipGrow towers took their garden to new heights

The future belongs to the early adopters. Almost all of our customers are early adopters. Kate and Brian are no different. These are people who are actively looking for progress in the world, and who aren’t afraid to try it out they see a product’s potential. Much of our success is due to these people, who are not only proactive citizens, but are incredibly interesting people. Our friends Kate and Brian Wharton are a great example of this. ZipGrow towers vs. Soil Gardening We recently asked Brian and Kate to chat with us about their ZipGrow tower experiences. As you’ll see in the video below, the Whartons have a really unique and fun backyard gardening setup. They have what some might call a “hybrid garden,” or a mix of various growing styles including vertical gardening towers, soil beds and raised beds called “VegTrug” beds. The following is a personal account from Kate and Brian about their experiences with each system, what kind of production they got and other anecdotes. Here is what they had to say about their experiences with different growing systems…   Gardening in Tight Spaces Brian and Kate are located in a southern California beach environment, and have a pretty small backyard. For folks like this, using space wisely is a big deal! According to Brian, “Being able to vertically grow in 1 sq. ft., what used to take 3 – 5 sq. ft,. is a huge deal for us.” The Whartons found that the difference in yield between ZipGrows and soil was significant. The results varied not only in size, but in the growth rate as well. Here’s what Brian said about the garden: “Our experimenting this... read more
Quick Tip: How to Tell if a Market is Worth Attacking

Quick Tip: How to Tell if a Market is Worth Attacking

For beginning small farmers, choosing which markets to approach can be a daunting task. If you’re having difficulty knowing whether or not one of your market options is worth your efforts, check out this quick tip from Dr. Nate. Don’t know what your options are? The main markets for Upstart Farmers are CSA groups, farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants. You can get guides to each of these markets on our shop. There are three steps to determining whether a market is worth getting into: 1) Quantify Everything The first thing you need to do is quantify. Quantify everything. Figure out how many people are in that market, the average purchase size for a customer, and how many of those purchases you can supply. This information makes up a lot of the demographic research that you will be doing about that market. (A great source for demographic research is the US Census.) 2) Fit Product to Market Secondly, decide if that market fits your production. Will that market be able to absorb a significant chunk of your production at a decent margin? If yes, then it’s probably a market worth attacking.  When it comes to specific market information, you’ll need to talk to people experienced with that market (maybe a produce manager, chef, or farmer’s market coordinator). It can also be valuable to canvas the area or survey current customers of that market. 3) Calculate the Value of Your Time Before you commit, remember not to underestimate the logistical cost of serving that market. Your time is costly. Go through what you will have to do before selling, during sales, and... read more
Ask Dr. Nate Episode 12: Lighting for Vertical Farms

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 12: Lighting for Vertical Farms

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 12: Lighting for Vertical Farms In the final episode of Ask the Doc, Dr. Nate addresses questions about lighting for vertical farms. Although this is the last episode of Ask the Doc, our team continues to answer questions and produce helpful resources for you. Timestamps: 0:01 – Why Ask the Doc is coming to an end 1:17 – Overhead vs vertical lighting 2:01 – Moving lighting on a track 3:15 – Is there anything wrong with an extended light cycle? 5:37 – Still have questions? Join USU, a vertical farming training program. Show Links: Upstart University (USU) is a start-to-finish training program that guides beginners through the process of planning, building, and operating their own vertical farm. Check it out here. Thanks for tuning in. Although Ask the Doc is ending for now, we’re still happy to answer your questions. Learn more about vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics on our site, or take courses on USU.  ... read more
Meet Barnraiser: Kickstarter for Farmers – Interview with CEO Eileen Gordon

Meet Barnraiser: Kickstarter for Farmers – Interview with CEO Eileen Gordon

  “…our job as a platform is not to be neutral to their success, it’s to actually build what’s important for them to be successful.” – Eileen Gordon Chiarello, Founder of Barnraiser I recently had a chance to talk to Eileen Gordon Chiarello of the up and coming crowdfunding platform Barnraiser (think Kickstarter for Farmers).  Eileen is one of those entrepreneurial enigmas who not only has the vision, but also knows how to work hard and bring that vision to life. As you’ll read in the interview, her idea to build a crowdfunding platform specific to agriculture and food innovators stems from her life as a farmer herself. Eileen and husband/celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello know that successful storytelling is crucial for communicating in ways that grow exposure and help farmers resonate with their customers.  In addition to being passionate about building an innovative platform for farmers, Eileen came across inherently focused on bringing that platform to life. I have to say that talking with Eileen and another Barnraiser team member got me fired up! I am so excited to see what their platform can do to amplify the voices of many farm and food innovators hoping to share their story and connect with an extremely passionate audience. Here’s my interview with Eileen Gordon Chiarello of Barnraiser! Chris from Bright Agrotech: So, who are you and what is Barnraiser? Eileen Gordon: My name is Eileen Gordon Chiarello. Barnraiser is a community for the millions of us who care about health, wellness and sustainability, who want to partner with (and help celebrate/fund), hundreds of thousands of innovators as they rebuild how we eat, how we farm,... read more
A Day in the Life of Elesif, Farm Business Development Director

A Day in the Life of Elesif, Farm Business Development Director

Each member of our lean, mean innovation team here pairs hard work with a unique trait. Last time, we met a juggernaut of productivity. Today, we’re meeting Bright Agrotech’s unstoppable Farm Business Development Director. Who is Elesif? Name: Elesif Smith Role: Guides large builds and heads up our sales team. Coffee Count: “One large travel mug. Sometimes another coffee mid morning if it’s needed. I’ve become a big fan of cold brew coffee with whole milk. So delicious.” Kryptonite: Home aquaponics. Elesif has a sad history with home aquaponic systems. “I’ve dabbled in home aquaponic systems and sacrificed a lot of fish in the process. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. I won’t be buying fish again.” Superpower: Elesif is a mix of methodical and strategic that makes us glad that she’s on our side. Her consistency contrasts the mercurial cycles of productivity and non-productivity that most of us experience. The rest of the team described Elesif as a “sales ninja”, “methodical”, and as having “quiet enthusiasm.” One even warned, “don’t underestimate.” What do these traits look like lived out? Let’s take a look into a day in the life of Elesif and examine the balance of method and strategy that makes us glad she’s on our side.  A Day in the Life of Elesif 8:15 – Checking emails running a quote. My day at the office usually starts a little after 8. The mornings (once I am out of bed) are my favorite part of the day. I have a bit of time to get organized, drink coffee, meet with the team, then attack the day! 9:15 – Emailing an international customer about their pilot system... read more
Ask Dr. Nate Episode 11: Carbon Dioxide for Indoor Growers

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 11: Carbon Dioxide for Indoor Growers

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 11: Carbon Dioxide for Indoor Growers CO2 is a hot topic for indoor growers; it can be a great tool if you understand how to use it, and a great detriment if it’s overlooked. Today Dr. Nate will be going over the basics of carbon dioxide for indoor growers. Time stamps: 1:09 – If I give my plants more CO2 will I get bigger plants? 2:10 – How plants use CO2 6:09 – Manipulating CO2 to manage environment (esp. humidity) 8:56 – Have more questions? Join the USU community. Upstart University Learn more about becoming an Upstart Farmer through USU, a platform that takes you from start to finish in building an Upstart Farm. Upstart University also covers: Business and financial planning The basics of hydroponics and aquaponics Marketing and sales for Upstart Farmers Learn more about... read more
What to Expect From Your Classroom Garden

What to Expect From Your Classroom Garden

We are going to tell you what to expect when you’re expecting to grow in your Spring System, so that you have realistic expectations and can share these with the big (and little) people depending on you.

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Is Monocropping Rewarding or Risky?

Is Monocropping Rewarding or Risky?

Single-crop cultivation is a common plan-of-attack Which crops are best to grow in commercial ZipGrow systems? If you have read through our crop list and production estimates resources you know that just about anything will grow in a ZipGrow tower, but the crop that usually catches the new Upstart Farmer’s eye is sweet basil. Carefully tended, basil can grow better in ZipGrow towers than any other growing technique in the world. It’s easy to grow and maintain, and its market price is well above that of most greens or herbs. A reasonable conclusion can be made that a new Upstart Farmer should concentrate on this cash crop to quickly make back the initial investment and begin to make profits. If that’s you, then you need to know: this plan, while viable and advantageous, comes with a certain level of risk and there are a few things to consider when pursuing a monocrop style production. Historically, monocropping has a bad record There is a very famous case of monocropping gone wrong that we should briefly visit: the Irish Potato Famine. In the mid-19th Century there was a mass emigration from Ireland. Millions of citizens were forced to flee the country or face eviction and starvation. The potato famine was an avoidable catastrophe that resulted from an outbreak of a plant disease that turned the potatoes into an inedible black mush. The disease was able to spread so easily because potatoes made up a vast majority of the crops grown in Ireland. The pathogen was able to swiftly infect neighboring fields of potatoes. Total crop loss is a nasty thing regardless of scale While Upstart... read more
How to Grow Seeds in a Greenhouse

How to Grow Seeds in a Greenhouse

Today Noah Newman walks you through the process to grow seeds in your greenhouse. Check out the video and the steps below to learn more! Steps to Grow Seeds in a Greenhouse 1) Decide what crops you will be growing and where you will be planting them.  2) Order seeds from a seed company like Baker Creek or Johnny Seeds. 3) Read through the planting directions. Pay attention to temperature, planting depth, and extended care. 4) Pick an appropriate flat size for the directions and the size of the plants. 5) Fill the flat with potting soil. Just use a cheap soil with the lowest percentage of sand. You can also use compost. (Just watch out for volunteers.)   6) Indent each soil cell with your finger. 7) Plant seeds in each cell. 8) Water and watch! For the first watering, soak the flat well. Keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate.   Enjoy the planting season! If you have questions, leave a comment below.  ... read more
Ask Dr. Nate Episode 10: Alkalinity in Hydroponic Systems

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 10: Alkalinity in Hydroponic Systems

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 10: Alkalinity Today Dr. Nate answers your questions on water testing, alkalinity in hydroponic systems, and normal levels in hydroponic systems. Timestamps: 0:58 – What’s in it for the microbes? 3:11 – How do I raise alkalinity without changing pH? 5:57 – “My romaine turned to mush” 8:30 – See you next week! 9:49 – Next time we’ll be discussing CO2 and lighting Show Links: Testing hydroponic systems Learn about microbes in aquaponics [podcast] Have questions? Submit any question, and we’ll get it answered. Email ask@brightagrotech.com.  ... read more
Towers Leaking? Here Are The 3 Most Probable Reasons Why

Towers Leaking? Here Are The 3 Most Probable Reasons Why

“Help! My ZipGrow towers are leaking!” If you’ve got towers leaking out the front, there are three probable causes. In this video post, Sam Gordon from the Bright Agrotech greenhouse explains the reasons that your towers might be leaking and tells how to fix them. Cause 1: Improperly placed wicking strip Your wicking strip should be placed half an inch back from the face of the media, so that the strip is not visible once the media has been zipped into the tower. The Fix: If your wicking strip is not placed correctly, zip the media back out of the tower and readjust the wicking strip. You can learn more about using wicking strip here. Cause 2: Structure of old plants is redirecting water If a plant like the thyme Sam showed you in the video has grown too mature, the stem and root structure could be redirecting the flow of water to run out the front of the tower. Usually woody-stemmed crops like basil, thyme, and oregano are the culprit here. The Fix: If this happens to your mature crops, first make sure that you have the tower hanging from the front set of holes. This will shift the weight of the tower. (Learn more about it here.) If you’re already hanging the tower from the correct set of holes, you might just have to replant the tower with new plants. Cause 3: Leaves are blocking irrigation If your crops are planted very near the tops of the tower, the leaves might grow between the top of the media and the irrigation line. The water from your irrigation line might be... read more
Insights from Indoor Ag Con 2015

Insights from Indoor Ag Con 2015

Indoor Agriculture is about to explode! Last week several of our team and a dozen Upstart Farmers attended the 3rd Annual Indoor Ag Con in Las Vegas. In addition to great time with the Upstart Farmers, we also got to hear from those active in the indoor ag industry. A long list of speakers including folks from CropKing, Freight Farms and many more including our own Dr. Nate Storey, discussed a wide variety of topics. These speakers and panelists helped inspire and educate a large audience wanting to learn more about innovations in agriculture. This article is a series of three videos on a few topics discussed during Dr. Nate Storey’s panel on “Will Vertical Farming Ever Be Competitive With Field Farming.” Hope they are helpful! Start Small, Scale Quickly: The Upstart Farmer Mantra In this clip, Dr. Nate explains how ZipGrow equipment supports the “start small, scale quickly” approach for beginning farmers. This approach allows farmers to start with unique niche markets and scale up as they gain traction.  Controlled Environment Agriculture: Advantages of Indoor/Greenhouse Growing In this video, Dr. Nate talks about advantages of greenhouse producers and how understanding your advantages can help you compete. If there’s one thing we learned at Indoor Ag Con, it’s that the Controlled Environmental Agriculture (CEA) industry is about to explode and growing indoors comes with it’s advantages.  These advantages may include pest and environment control gained from the facility as well as labor reduction gained from your growing technique. Can Vertical Farming Compete with Field Farming? Finally, in this video, Dr. Storey answers the question of whether vertical farming can compete with field... read more
Farm Tech, Indoor Ag Con, and Accelerated Innovation

Farm Tech, Indoor Ag Con, and Accelerated Innovation

A few photos from Indoor Ag Con 2015 The ZipGrow Green Wall made it's debut at Indoor Ag Con 2015. Cowboy Trail Farms, a local Las Vegas Upstart Farmer supplied some beautiful towers of lettuces, basils and other herbs for the main stage. Dr. Nate and Perry of Bright Agrotech quickly assembling the ZipGrow Green Wall to liven up the main stage of Indoor Ag Con. Learn more about why we need a living wall for today's food landscape here. Duane of Cowboy Trail Farms unloads several ZipGrow towers for the Indoor Ag Con living wall. The beautiful Green Wall decorative, recycled snowfence wood was brought to you by Laramie's own Centennial Woods! Some of the brightest women in agriculture today! Marilyn from Cowboy Trail Farms along with Perry and Elesif of Bright Agrotech. Chris Lukenbill of Fresh With Edge give the Bright Agrotech team the low-down on his new StartFresh software! This digital app will revolutionize the way Upstart Farmers plan, operate and market their farms!  Learn more about StartFresh here. Perry of Bright Agrotech talks with Overstock.com about their new farmers market program. If you operate a CSA, they might be worth looking up! Upstart Farmers enjoying a few beverages and swapping stories at Indoor Ag Con 2015. Thanks for the fun night guys! Wrapping up Indoor Ag Con 2015 with a fun game of giant bags! Thanks to Eric of SmartGreens (our amazing Canadian Upstart Farmers) for the fun evening. Thanks again to Marilyn and Duane of Cowboy Trail Farms! This Las Vegas based Upstart Farmer is doing some cutting edge stuff with vertical farming and local ag.... read more
Ask Dr. Nate Episode 9: Growing Indoors

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 9: Growing Indoors

Ask Dr. Nate Episode 9: Growing Indoors This week, Dr. Nate and Noah answer your questions about humidity and lighting indoors. Timestamps: 0:35 – How to deal with humidity indoors 3:28 – How much light do I need for proper growth indoors? 6:05 –  Indoor IPM and hiding crops in space and time 7:40 – Next time! Show links: Learn about integrated pest management, and pest control for aquaponics. Thanks for joining us today! Have a question for Nate or Noah? Email ask@brightagrotech.com.... read more

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About Bright Agrotech

Innovators.
Status quo disruptors.
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Bright Agrotech team

We research, design, test, redesign and retest our high quality, American-made vertical growing products. Dr. Nate Storey and the Bright Agrotech team are committed to helping large commercial and small hobbyist growers alike grow more with less.

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“What is cool is that, I learned a ton from Dr. Storey from the youtube channel. My background is in physical science so I learned basically how to design a balanced system almost entirely from him. Feel free to pass that along… I am super excited to be doing business with you guys…

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