Learning Guide: ZipGrow Test Systems

Why test systems are important

You’re starting a farm, but you have no experience growing. You’ll wing it, you guess, and learn as you go.

This approach would (and should!) make anyone nervous. Sometimes you have no choice but to jump into a project feet first with no experience. Farming is not that situation. You absolutely should get growing experience before depending on your growing skills to feed yourself and your family.

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So how do you get experience?

While many institutions like universities, extensions, and other farms run workshops and farming camps, not all areas have that option. And many workshops give good information but only teach part of what you need.

This is why many farmers have chosen to start growing with a test system – a smaller version of their chosen farm technique that they can use as “training wheels”.

We think that this is one of the best things you could do for the success of your farm. Here are six reasons why.

  1. A test system amplifies your other education.
  2. A test system will accelerate your learning curve.
  3. It is one less thing you have to learn during your farm launch.
  4. It gives you a chance to bring samples and collect clients before launching.
  5. You get to test out if farming is a good personal fit without investing a lot of money.
  6. You can compare techniques to validate your growing decision.

For ZipGrow’ers, starting a test system is simple. The Farm Wall is a small turnkey hydroponic system designed with test systems in mind and our top recommendation for a test system.

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What is ZipGrow?

If you’re unfamiliar with ZipGrow Towers, they are vertical growing towers that resemble a cross between NFT (nutrient film technique) and media-based systems (like Bato buckets).

On one hand, the water is delivered in a very oxygen-friendly way (key to healthy roots), but they also have the benefits of a media substrate (they anchor roots and provide great percolation – another oxygen-friendly trait).

You can learn more about ZipGrow Towers here.

The trait that is unique to ZipGrow, however, is it’s modularity. Building with the Towers is like arranging Legos- they fit into practically any space and are easy to move around. This also impacts labor by reducing time and making tasks like monitoring or moving more convenient.

Learn more about benefits like environmental control and space usage in this downloadable guide.

ZipGrow test systems: how to take advantage of a test system

When you get your Farm Wall as a ZipGrow test system, you’ll want to pay attention and learn several things:

  • About the system – how it works, what maintenance looks like, etc.
  • How to manage the system – how to perform different tasks
  • Troubleshooting and plant care – how to take care of pests and solve problems

Each of these will include several opportunities to learn. Here are some checklists to help you take advantage of your test system.

About the system

Learn about each of the components:

Learn management

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ZipGrow’s unique management considerations

The Bright Agrotech farm manager, Ethan Walter, pointed out several areas where managing ZipGrow is different from other systems.

“Pest management is the first that comes to mind,” says Ethan. “Attaining good control early on is essential, as many organic pesticides are more difficult to use effectively when plants are large with dense growth.”

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Ethan recommends applying organic pesticides in a rotation at first sign of any pests. Pesticide labels set legal parameters on how often you can do this, so only apply pesticides as often as pesticide labels permit.

“As plants become larger, ladybugs and other biocontrol methods can be useful to help control pests that the insecticide can’t reach (under leaves, etc). Resort to systemic pesticides should infestations become severe. These will wipe out everything but are harsher.”

Ethan’s second piece of advice is to be strategic about ventilation and air circulation.

“Maintaining consistent air flow from top to bottom of a tower is different than for plants grown traditionally. To maintain air circulation in our room we have intake and exhaust fans that run on an Intelliclimate, several wall mounted rotating circulation fans that run constantly, and an oscillating circulation fan that constantly disperses air through a plastic tube overhead.

“Selective pruning of plants and removal of dead plant material can increase airflow at the base of the plant or interior of large plants. This helps prevent mold and disease.”

As you learn more about managing your ZipGrow Towers, share your tips! This is what the ZipGrow Facebook Community is for. Add tips, resources, and questions to the page to get connected with other growers like yourself.

Ready to start?

Start growing with the ZipGrow Farm Wall (free shipping) today. You can buy small Farm Walls like the 2-Tower version, or larger Farm Walls to supply samples and start getting clients.

Farm Walls fit anywhere and allow aspiring farmers to learn their trade before depending on it.