DIY HYDROPONIC SYSTEMS

11 Vertical Hydroponics Systems and Designs for Super Efficiency Freaks!

Zip grow system

What are Vertical Hydroponics Systems?

Vertical hydroponics Systems are a series of many types of hydroponic growing techniques of what is more commonly known as vertical farming. Most of these methods are drip systems the rest are akin to a stacked version of a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)system. Sit tight as we review a few of the most popular and super-efficient designs available. Vertical hydroponics Systems are the current high-tech trend in hydroponic system building today. Commercial and hobby growers alike are enjoying the high efficiency and ease of use and maintenance of these unique designs. Vertical hydroponics systems are popping up in basements of inner cities, abandon shopping centers, even in shipping containers! Some of the highest efficiency run shipping container Vertical hydroponic farm systems are able to grow as much as 5 acres of produce with 93% less water in a small 10 foot by 40-foot shipping container!

 

 

But First, A Brief History of Vertical Hydroponics Systems

  • 600 BC – The legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon was actually a horizontally stacked vertical garden. This stacked version of vaulted terraces, consisting of a series of different types of trees and flowers reaching a height of 20 meters or more was built by King Nebuchadnezzar II.
Vertical hydroponics Systems of the Gardens of Babylon
Vertical hydroponics Systems of the Gardens of Babylon, Source

 

  • 1909 – Earliest drawing of a “modern” Vertical hydroponics Systems farm is published by Life Magazine. It shows layers of vertically stacked homes set in a farming landscape.
  • 1915 – The term vertical farming is created by Gilbert Ellis Bailey, an American geologist. Bailey describes a system of farming down instead of up.  He develops the idea of underground farming. Farmers would use explosives to farm deeper into the earth hence, increasing their total growing surface area and allowing for larger crops to be grown.
  • 1999 – Building upon Bailey’s idea with his students, and seemingly recreating the Towers of Babylon, professor Dickson Despommier from Columbia University, popularized the modern concept of vertical farming. Despommier and his students developed the idea of a multi-story building in which stacked layers of crops could be grown on each floor.
  • 2009 – Sky Green Farms, the first modern Vertical hydroponics Systems farm is built. This Singapore facility consists of over 100 towers, each 9 meters tall that grow vegetables using sunlight and stored rainwater.

 

 

How does it work?

Vertical Hydroponics Systems
Vertical Hydroponics Systems, GrowWithoutSoil.com

 

  • All Vertical Hydroponics systems are Active Hydroponics systems. A submersible pump in a reservoir is required to pump water and nutrients through a series of tubes and valves up to the top of either a vertical PVC tower or of a series of long channels, tubes or trays run side by side.
  • In the tower system, water is pumped to the top of a large cylindrical PVC pipe with indentations all along its side. The nutrient water uses gravity to flow down the length of the large center tube hitting rings that line the inside on the way down. The rings help redirect and distribute the nutrient water evenly as it washes over and feeds all the plant root mats that are nested in net cups in the indentations along the side. The solution then flows down back to the reservoir at the bottom.
  • In the tray system, one side is designed to be higher than the other. The nutrient water uses gravity to flow down the length of the trays feeding all the plant root mats on the way to the lower end.
  • Plants are either placed into a net cup filled with stone wool or media and then placed into the system or are grown in stone wool grow cubes and placed directly into the system.
  • The pump usually runs continuously but can be set on a timer
  • Usually runs with an integrated aeration system but is not required.

 

Vertical Hydroponics Systems, Methods or Techniques

There are 2 methods of creating a vertical hydroponics system. Stacked Hydroponic Systems and Vertical Tower Systems. Some growers stack longitudinal systems vertically while others run vertical towers or tubes side by side in rows next to one another vertically. There is much debate as to exactly which system can produce more crop in the same amount of square or cubic feet.

 

Proponents of the Vertical Tower Systems claim to have a higher ratio of crop production per square foot of floor space and claim the labor costs associated with workers gaining access to the higher level crops of vertically stacked systems makes that design dangerous and more expensive to operate.

 

Proponents of the Stacked systems claim there are plenty of issues with the vertical tower systems as well. Lighting access, clogging of vertical channels and the amount of crop that can be planted into each tray or vertical tower section are the most common.

 

 

Stacked Hydroponic Systems

Stacked NFT System

This design one of the commercial grower’s favorites for many years now.  

Stacked NFT
Stacked NFT, Shutterstock

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Stacked Wall System

Vertical garden
Andre Nery, Shutterstock

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Stacked Dutch or Bato Bucket System

Stacked Wall System
Aisyaqilumaranas, Shutterstock

 

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

A frame

a frame vertical hydroponic system
A-Frame vertical hydroponic system, Shutterstock

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Zig Zag

Zig Zag vertical hydroponic system
Zig Zag vertical hydroponic system, Shutterstock

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Vertical Tower Systems

Zip Grow System

Zip grow system
Zip grow system, Shutterstock

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Garden Tower

 

Tower Garden hydroponic system
Tower Garden, GrowWithoutSoi

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

DIY PVC pipe

DIY garden tower
DIY garden tower, Shutterstock

 

 

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

DIY PVC pipe

Vertical PVC pipes hydroponic system
Vertical PVC pipes hydroponic system, Shutterstock

Learn more 

Vertical Hydroponics Designs

Buy this system

Build this system

 

 

 

 

Pros of using a Vertical System over a Horizontal System

  • Optimal usage of space
  • Compact design allows you to grow more per square foot
  • Automatic aeration of water in the drip process
  • Adding wheels or a lazy Suzanne to the base of your vertical system may allow you to use corners or ordinarily unusable growing space.

 

Cons of using a Vertical System over a Horizontal System

  • More expensive initial set up
  • Light Supply is more difficult
  • Smaller nutrient reservoir
  • Requires higher head height nutrient pump requirements
  • Can be more difficult to clean some systems
  • Limited vegetable selection. Difficult to grow fruit-bearing or top-heavy plants.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Vertical hydroponic farming is currently the cutting edge of hydroponic technology. Commercial and hobby growers alike love its ease of use maintenance and compact space requirements. Commercial growers have designed systems in vacant buildings and shipping containers that rival acres of traditional agriculture, growing over 10x the amount of food in the same amount of space. Hobbyists have repurposed dead space in sheds trailers and corners of their dining rooms to grow tons of produce without soil.

 

RELATED POSTS

Dani

Dani

I'm Dani, I come from a long history of migrant farmers. In high school I wrote a paper about how my father brought us over the Texas border to give us a better life. During college, I worked part time with him in the farming industry. After receiving a degree in Urbanism from Columbia University, I started to realize how important the role of the food chain was to urban inner cities. I began studying different types of Indoor and vertical faming solutions. I started designing and building my own hydroponic systems and have never looked back.