Modern Hydroponic Production: Why The Right People Are All Wrong

19 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 1 Google+ 18 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Buffer 0 Email -- Reddit 0 19 Flares ×

More To Successful Growing Than Just Productivity?

After a busy weekend drawing up half a dozen wiring schematics for several new farms we’re putting in, I came home a little grumpy to a sick baby girl, and half a dozen notifications regarding a LinkedIn thread I’d recently commented on.

In passing, I’d mentioned that our equipment was seeing great results with strawberry production, and immediately one of the LinkedIn experts chimed in to challenge my claims.

The conversation developed, with a number of folks (very smart, with lots of experience) jumping in, centering the debate squarely on the idea of productivity.

The problem was (and what was most frustrating for me, as the object of the discussion), they were all debating the wrong thing.

Productivity is not the most important consideration.*

Bright Agrotech LinkedIn

Follow our company on LinkedIn

A Completely New Approach

Let me clarify. 

ZipGrow towers are significantly more productive than horizontal agriculture- no questions there.  But this is NOT why people should use towers, and it’s not the only thing people should think about when starting a commercial hydroponic or aquaponic venture. 

People should use towers not because they are more productive, but because they approach production and more importantly, distribution from an entirely different angle.  

Here’s how…

The Tale of Farmer Joe *

bright agrotech

Learn more about the new age farmer in this video.

Farmer Joe runs a Hydroponic Greenhouse.

His operating costs might look something like this: (Note: This is just a made up budget, for better numbers read my dissertation.)

Energy: 15% of total costs

Supplies: 7% of total costs

Water: 5% of total costs

Labor: 60% of total costs

Packaging and Marketing: 8% of total costs

Insurance: 2% of total costs

Miscellaneous: 3% of total costs

Now this budget could be fairly different depending on his business model, crop, location, etc., but there are some numbers that I guarantee will be the same almost no matter what: Labor and Packaging/Marketing.

This is almost 70% of the total operating cost.  The post harvest portion of this is typically around 60%.  Sixty Percent!


What’s the big deal?

So what’s the big deal you ask? Here’s the big deal:

We’re thinking about this budget, and how we make money ALL WRONG.

Production Obsession… Where Does It Get You?

Traditionalists are obsessed with production.  Essentially, they’ve been taught their entire careers that the way to compete with the greenhouse next door was more production, more efficient production, economies of scale savings, etc. etc.   It’s why we have ZipGrowso many huge greenhouse production corporations in the world.  They’re fighting tooth and nail for the smallest piece of the pie.  As you get bigger, yes, you save a small percentage on many of these costs, but by and large, you’re building your economic advantage by maximizing output as a function of your smallest operational costs:

  • Energy
  • Insurance
  • Miscellaneous
  • Some Supplies

For every head of lettuce you produce, your other costs stay almost the same.  Sure, you can carve 2 or 3 or maybe even 5 or 6% off of that big old 60% investment in manpower and clamshell packaging, but 6% of 60% is only 3.6% of your total cost.  A small advantage at best.   The industry has become so myopic that they believe that this is the lowest hanging fruit they have to fight for.

They’re wrong.

Waste, Waste and More Waste

60% of your cost is a huge number.  If you are a grocery store buying a head of lettuce wholesale for $1.00, you are essentially paying 60 cents for labor, plastic, stickers and cardboard.  Talk about a waste of money.

When I saw this a decade ago, all I saw was waste.  Waste in landfills, waste in unused product, spoilage, and waste in handling (the source of much foodborne illness).  This means that at the end of the day, the consumer pays more for what equates to landfill space and higher disease risk.  I don’t know about you, but I want more value for my money.

Food Waste

“U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year”

Our Approach: Reduce Waste, Add Value

So we did something about it.  You see, while the industry was out there squabbling over crumbs worth 5%, 6%, 7%, obsessively fixated on “Production! Production! Production!” we hacked most of that 60% right out of our budget. That’s right.  Instead of spending $100K a year on operational costs, Joe Farmer now only spends $45K-$55K per year.

While the industry was chasing it’s tail, we chopped most of that 60% right out of our operating budget.

And let me tell you: That’s a big deal.

Bright Agrotech’s Farming Manifesto

I believe that whenever a business can deliver more value to everyone that it works with, that business will almost always succeed.  That’s the ideal right?  I build something beautiful and it helps me, it helps you, it helps everyone.  Virtuous cycle.  Positive feedback loop.

In this case, by chopping the packaging, the labor, and the transportation out of the budget, I make more money, the grocery store makes more money and has less waste, and customers get a better, healthier, tastier product.

We do this by using ZipGrow towers to transport produce to market live.  Consumers at the market essentially perform all of this postharvest labor and packaging for us.  Traditional producers have costs that scale with them, almost perfectly.  It’s a brutal, almost linear relationship subject to diminishing returns.  Our model simply doesn’t have those costs.

ZipGrow towers

Living displays create value across the entire distribution chain.

This is why it’s impossible to talk with traditionalists about what we do.

They want to split hairs on the topic of production efficiency, while frankly, we could care less.

Don’t misinterpret me, our towers are more efficient, that’s not the point.  It never was, and as far as I’m concerned, it never should be.

Sure we can cram a lot of production into a very small space, but all of the production in the world doesn’t matter if your costs scale with it.


Upstart Farmer’s Are Feeling The Change

We’re building new farms every month now.  Farmers are growing, making money and expanding at a rate that is tough to keep up with.

For the last three years we’ve sent out 10 times as many towers as we did the year before.  People are making money, enriching their community and getting excited about food, all because the model works.  All because the model frees them from the tooth and nail constraints of traditional hydroponic production.  That’s I something I can make time for.

The Debaters Continue Debating While the Innovators Grow On *

I’m pretty sure that that LinkedIn thread is still trudging onward, with the participants challenging and arguing and talking about Production.

I’m sure they’ll still be debating and arguing long after the supermarkets are full of excited customers buying live produce, after my sick little daughter gets better, after our farmers take market after market from the big, production focused firms.

It’s like the dinosaurs sitting around arguing about who’s the fittest, while the small, industrious mammals are quietly doing their thing, watching the storm clouds roll in, and feeling the change.


Note: *

*I know I’m going to catch a lot of flak for this assertion, but I stand by it.  You will not make money by growing 3% more than the grower next door.  You’ll make money by throwing off the yoke of traditional distribution.  Plus, who wants to work themselves to death for a 3% raise?  Not me.



  1. Thank you for sharing this Nate.
    I totally agree with you and this has to be the way forward to limit waste and to get fresher produce to the customers.

    • Production Obsession:
      Nate, I hope I was not one of those thinkers that your are referring to that “obsesses about production numbers” in your recent blog post: .
      In your Youtube video comment section you state ” Well, we got started for around $30K, but we’re experts at pinching our pennies. For a 2000 square foot greenhouse running between 350 and 500 towers it would cost between $50K and $70K depending on where you’re at, the land you choose and the cost of hooking up to utilities.”
      If my calculation are correct, the return on investment of $50K-$70K for a small grower with a 2000 ft greenhouse if they are growing hydroponic lettuce, would be around 2-3 years in a space of that size to pay for the vertical towers alone (which generate 3% more over time which may prove to be a good investment). You claim in the end that your business model of selling “live plants” will save money because ” 60% of total costs is labor, and 8% of the cost is in the packaging and Marketing- ” If you are a grocery store buying a head of lettuce wholesale for $1.00, you are essentially paying 60 cents for labor, plastic, stickers and cardboard. Talk about a waste of money.”

      I have to admit that I don’t fully understand your reasoning here- are you saying that your systems are 60% less labor intensive than other growing systems and you can save on labor costs? When one looks at the financial analysis of Aquaponic operations to date, it seems that the labor (46%) and electricity (39%) are the largest expenses (your operation is– 60/15). MOST IMPORTANTLY, if the operation is owner-operated, the labor is essentially the income for the small farmer (it’s not wasted on labor per se) . I understand your model but it isn’t that easy to set up the necessary connections that would make it automatically profitable. Setting up towers in local restaraunts and grocery stores is not a given- not only do you require collaboration and openness in the market place, but there are more associated start-up costs, maintenance, food safety issues (fish waste in stores and customer contamination), liability, crops that not transport back and forth well, and other factors which are not always controllable on the end of the farmer. There are simpler small local farming start-up models that can avoid the “middle man” and “food miles” without using this “live” model approach by simply developing your customer base (i.e. spending the day at the farmer’s market, recruiting people to your CSA, establishing contacts with local businesses etc.) – these all accomplish the same thing- supporting local farmers .

      IMO in Aquaponics operations, the fish should pay for the operational costs and the plants sales should drive the profits. If one incorporated solar or wind power, there may be even more to gain financially. There are a few other alternative business models that may make the business more profitable, like making it a non-profit (less taxes, grants, donations, volunteer labor), diversifying revenue streams with educational workshops, integrating in vermicompost/duckweed production to offset fish feed to name a few.. At least with respect to a small-scale owner-operated business, where you are creating your own job/salary, these “back-door” revenue streams would help support AP as a viable business opportunity. So no, it is not just about production numbers, and I don’t think anyone ever said that it was as your blog article suggests.
      As a small farmer that wants to break into the market you have to think about ROI for the various types of farming operations – idealism alone is a recipe for disaster. My intent on asking these questions wasn’t focused on production per se but was a piece of the puzzle in calculating start-up and operational costs of Aquaponics systems. I am looking for anything that can be used as a competitive edge to support Aquaponic growing. Why would anyone make the choice of going vertical (or doing Aquaponics) if the start-up costs of the system and production numbers don’t add up when compared to other types of production methods? The bottom line for me is to grow the healthiest food I can in the local community using the most sustainable methods to do it. And the cheaper I can produce that food (production numbers), the more cost savings I can transfer to the customer. Prices points are important, especially in the food desert areas that I am concentrating my efforts in. I am an advocate of Aquaponics obviously, and I am trying to figure out a way to make it profitable so that it can become a feasible industry for others to invest their time and money into it so we can feed people. I think your systems have great merit, but before I can adopt this type of technology I have to prove to myself that it is economically viable which was my only intent of my post.
      And of course the dialogue surrounding economics around these models will certainly change in the not so distant future. Farming techniques like yours that conserve water and decrease fossil fuel dependency (transportation and packaging) are going to be very important in the future with respect to economics. There is nothing natural about how much we are paying for food right now. We don’t pay the full price of what food costs to produce because the government subsidizes it. We don’t pay the full price of the gas that goes into the truck that carries the food large distances to get to the store because the government pays part of the cost. Right now we can’t cut fuel and monocrop subsidies because the country would starve. The replacement of local food systems needs to be well on its way before we can begin drawing back the subsidies. Aquaponics currently may not financially proven, but there’s a very good chance that the math gets a whole lot easier in the not so distant future when these subsidies can no longer artificially deflate the cost of food. Even if Aquaponics is barely commercially viable now, there are many events that could happen in the next few years (drought, heat wave, drastic budget cuts, fuel spikes, portable water and fertilizer shortages etc) that are going to make us wish we had more people working on aquaponics and other sustainable farming techniques like you in this country. So I hope you understand I mean no disrespect in what I have written.
      I don’t think any of us should be at odds. We all want the same thing- for people to successfully grow food locally and in a sustainable manner. All of us are trying to address the global health crisis in pretty inspiring ways coming from different directions. So I would rather we all keep moving forward to find ways to create a more sustainable future instead of debating each other in trying to prove who has the better system. Education at the grass roots level is the key IMO to changing our future course and your contribution in this area is honorable- I have been meaning to get to your commercial farming series so I guess it is about time I take the time to this more deeply!
      Respectfully yours,

      • Hi Rachel,
        As I expressed on LinkedIn, no, this post isn’t specifically about you, and I mean no offense to those established folks in the industry who are running successful operations and have their markets figured out. They have a role to play. But the game is changing. I’m not sure what the cost composition looks like on your systems, but of course your operating costs are what you live and die by. Your upfront costs are predictable, and pretty similar for most serious producers. It’s the amount of operating costs to income that really tell you whether or not your business will make it in the long run. If we can sell to a Whole Foods 20 miles away, doing our own distribution at a cost of $30 per trip, two times per week but can deliver $1500 of live produce at almost half the COGS for the same price as harvested, packaged stuff, and especially if our customers want our product more, well, then we’re in business.

        Aquaponic production screws the numbers all up-especially because most of the AP producers use rafts and we don’t. They’re upfront costs are lower. But our operating costs are way lower. Also, the energy and labor costs of AP operations are typically much higher than hydroponic operations. This means that energy and labor are a combined higher portion of the total cost of AP operations compared to hydro.

        The point of this post was to start talking about how we think about production, the commercial applications of towers, and why towers can be useful to producers in certain markets. I’m not saying that our products are a panacea, or the ultimate solution. The truth is that they’re appropriate in some instances and not in others. The point is to say that maybe, just maybe, what we consider important isn’t as important as we think. Maybe there’s low-hanging fruit that we’re overlooking, and maybe, if the industry doesn’t start thinking about their costs differently, their markets will look very different in 4-5 years.

      • Great post Rachael

      • Wow, Rachel when I thought alot my questions were answered you came along and put some more into my head.(meaning thats what I needed.) Just your pure consulting and thoughts about the little guys and different strategies were Great…if you can me email at

    • Nate,

      Of course you are right, but then when did that count? I agree with your conclusions but moving the market is a whole “nother” matter. I am a start up hydroponics grower testing the feasibility of a commercial operation to supplement or replace a 500 acre dirt farm. I am not sure how all that is going to play out as our production currently is primarily grain in the form of rice and a rotation of soybeans all highly mechanized. But I thought I could supplement it with the kinds of crops found in produce section. We know it is feasible from the growing aspect, but are having serious reservations about distribution since it differs so much from what we know. Being producers that supply mills we avoid the retail side of the equation. Cost control is still vital but difficult to implement do to our method of growing. Currently labor is one of our smallest cost, whereas seed, fertilizer, fuel, and machinery make up the bulk. That was why we sought a different method, but hydroponics is not a hand to hand exchange for our current crop and an alternate crop forces us to operate in a different market. This gets back to your question at hand and that requires a level of cooperation and partnership with the retailer not before addressed by producers. I think that might be the most difficult aspect for other greenhouse producers to accept.

      • Yes, moving from traditional field agriculture- especially of grain to hydroponics is a hard transition because it’s a totally different business that requires very different management, has different cost structure, and different marketing/distribution. It’s a pretty steep learning curve going from one to the other.

        Good luck, and let us know if we can help!

    • Hi

      I completely agree with you I have been having this argument with my dad for many years. its now how much you grow or how big you are its how you grow it that makes the money

  2. Dr. Nate,
    Thanks for Your very Great blog. I have a totally different business, where I am working, trying to establish a new paradigm. In the old way, the way things were, “always,” done, people were comfortable. Everyone knew the answer; and that was it, until, along comes an upstart, such as Yourself, especially when You can show them by example, that You have a better way… What are they going to do with the huge investment in space and equipment, not to mention admitting to their buddies over coffee that what they are doing, ain’t working; and they are broke.

    • You’re right Paul, at the end of the day, all you have is results!

  3. That’s an innovative concept to use the towers as packaging, but it is only for a specific market model, specific volume, .if I understand it right. Someone still has to pick the crop and bag it. It could work great for a specialty market. However, Whole Foods and Safeway want it to fit their existing model. CSA customers want a box at their doorstep. But it’s great you’re pushing the envelope, but it seems big agriculture is very slow to change, which opens the door to new ideas. RIght?

    • Hi Bevan, You’re right- it’s not appropriate for all crops, but for certain crops there is a lot of opportunity. Even the CSA model can be converted to this- Chris Lukenbill of Fresh with Edge is looking closely at the live tower CSA model. I think that the opportunities are only limited by the imagination and sensibilities of the grower.

  4. You make some great points here, Dr. Nate. By looking at the entire production and delivery chain instead of just one part of it, new savings to the producer and more desirable product to the consumer are realized.

    I’d call that a “win-win”.

    • Yep. I believe in win-win scenarios. It just requires a little bit of a different perspective on what is possible on a smaller scale with a local market.

  5. Paradigm shifts are uniquely challenging, in that leading the charge of such a shift can be a lonely place because who ever is leading such a shift can see clearly the need for the change, while others who are use to a traditional way of doing things have a hard time to grasp the new concept or approach.

    Therefore I have found that the way to implement such a paradigm shift, is not to focus on the traditionalist but to teach the new paradigm to new persons to the industry, not necessarily to the neglect of the traditionalist, but with them don’t just talk but show and eventually the paradigm will take root. But the most important persons to focus on in such a shift are the early adopters, persons who get it and believe in it, give them all the tools they need to succeed, there success is the greatest evidence in validating the paradigm shift.

    Another area of concern to me in what I would call the paradigm shift chain, is the retailers and the education they would need to facilitate this shift. For example including in their layout plan in the fresh produce section a place where live walls can be established, harvested and restocked in a way that follows good Food Safety Standards so as to eliminate or mitigate any potential contamination of the live produce.

    Now you must understand that I am speaking from the context that I am in here in Belize, so my concerns may not be yours, but I see that as a challenge here, as you may have kids touching the produce on the live walls, and at night when the supermarkets are closed how will the produce be protected from pests etc.

    With that said I believe that this paradigm is not just for the future but now and while refining will need to take place, the cat is already out of the bag and once customers have access to such a high quality of product, they will drive the demand for the change.

    Just adding my two cents to the discussion.

    Jimmi (Belize)

    • Good thoughts JImmi. You’re right of course. Change usually happens from the bottom up, and that takes time, not just for the change to take root, but for the system to shift to accommodate it.

  6. Nate, it’s entirely unreasonable and misleading to compare a wholesale volume hydroponic operation and a hobby farm direct marketing operation to start with.

    While it’s perfectly feasible for a small hobby farmer to either throw some produce into boxes, or even your towers, and trundle off to a couple of restaurants or the farmers market, it’s not the case for a wholesale volume producer, especially one selling into a major supply chain that will demand a standard of packaging.

    Not many direct marketers would bother with the sort of clam shell or other packaging that you point to, although some do/may.

    It is a matter of scale, if you were to get to a similar scale of wholesale operation, then you would probably need a fleet of prime movers to transport your zip towers to the market, and to (at some stage) pickup the empty towers.

    Would your transportation costs be lower than other production means per volume of plants moved, or would the towers still be cost effective compared to styrene boxing, or clam shells.

    Compare apples with apples, not apples and oranges, your zip tower transport costs might not even stack up against “pick your own” style soil market gardens, or road side stalls.

    • Hi Rupert, well, what we’re seeing here in the states is not necessarily the decentralizing of large producers, but small and medium sized producers start to rise up to supply local markets. These aren’t really “hobby” farms as they’re generating enough income to support the farmer, oftentimes more. These farmers are using a different model altogether- very focussed on local and regional sales, so the transportation is kept to a minimum and they’re acting as their own distributor (most of the time). The big guys can’t afford to hit these markets in this way- they’re essentially niche markets for the time being, but they are growing dramatically at the expense of the conventional growers, so at what point do these niche markets cease to be niche? In any case, I don’t think it’s a comparison of “hobby” growers to large conventional growers so much as a comparison of large, centralized producers with huge distribution networks to small, locally or regionally focussed growers with small distribution networks. The reality is that the big boys are competing with the small guys now, they just don’t always realize it, and their ability to market to these markets is limited by their marketing budgets, small margins, and the fact that they’re often a thousand miles away.

      Regarding packaging- you may be correct, but there will always be some packaging- even if it’s a baggie or a crate, and the majority of the cost is in the labor, not necessarily packaging. Labor is really what we’re focused on because here in the states it’s insanely high. Packaging is more of our small contribution to reducing the amount of plastic in landfills.

      • But that’s exactly what I’m saying Nate, you can’t compare the big chain hydroponic suppliers with a niche farmers market model.

        Apples for apples, would the cost of labour and transport be considerably different if you were say harvesting/supplying 10,000 plants a day… (like most hydro, and the two largest aquaponics operations are)

        Would you be able to pack 10,000 zip tower plants into a truck in less time and space than a similar number boxed.. with less labour??

        It might be valid to compare your towers and costs to similar niche farmers market operations, but I don’t think you can compare it to larger scale hydroponic operations

        Indeed, I’m not convinced, and no offence meant, that you can necessarily compare your system against other methods once a point of scale is reached anyway, or indeed given the low density, zero value fish nutrient provision of current models, whether or not there’s even a compelling case for aquaponics vs hydroponics. And on that point, unless you’ve changed your mind, you have previously totally agreed with me.

        When is a niche market no longer a niche market… how many zip towers, or zip tower growers can you fit in a local farmer market ;)

        • No offense taken Rupert- you absolutely know the hydroponic industry and cost structure inside and out, and I’ve always valued your thoughts. An opposing viewpoint is always valuable when it is well educated and well thought out- and your viewpoints always are.

          To hopefully find some different ground on the debate- what I’m describing is not a Farmer’s Market model at all really- it is based on supplying grocery stores, restaurants, etc. What I’m saying is that to a large producer, traditionally, smaller systems have always been viewed as “hobby” systems, and rightly so. As I said, the cost structure of traditional production and distribution is such that you typically compete on relatively grand scales with products that are perfect substitutes. This means that small producers are by definition “hobby” since their margins are even worse than the margins of large producers. Here in the States, that has radically changed in the last couple years, and with live sales, we have a distinguishing feature from all of the traditional products on the shelf at the supermarket. All of a sudden, there is a market, where being “smaller,” “local,” etc. actually gives you a market advantage, and increases the perceived value of your product way above that of the conventional product.

          As I said, larger producers are able to lower their costs through sheer mass (labor, energy, supplies) but we’re not talking significant increases. The greenhouse vegetable production industry here in the States competes on margins of 2-3% much of the time! When your margins are razor thin, small improvements are valued- this has kept the industry focussed on increasing economies of scale savings that make small reductions in labor and energy seem substantial. However, the very things that force these companies to grow are the very thing that disadvantage them against small producers operating in niche and small markets- or should I say small and niche markets that are increasingly representing enough of the total market to start making the big boys sweat.

          Let me clarify too- the numbers that I quote on the cost of labor as a percentage of total cost is for this larger industry (here in the US). For small producers these costs can be even higher, although many folks discount the labor of owner/operators as being profit as opposed to cost (all time is worth money- and this is the wrong way to think about owner labor inputs). That’s why we use towers- because our total labor is a few seconds per plant (transplanting, spraying, harvesting, etc.) and a single person can run a large greenhouse fairly reasonably.

          Regarding aquaponics versus hydroponics- we’re still in agreement there. I’ve talked more people out of commercial aquaponic ventures in the last year than most people talk into it. . . However, there are some markets where commercial aquaponics is viable- namely markets that specifically want certified organic hydroponic produce. These markets are pretty rare though, so yes, our opinions coincide for the most part on the viability of most commercial AP operations. The reality is that competition will always be present and we must take that into consideration before we start anything.

          To finish up- we don’t actually sell at farmers markets any more. They just aren’t worth it. Our Colorado farm will go on occasion to raise awareness, but this is more of a marketing stunt than an genuine effort to make money on the farmer’s market. Most of our revenue comes from CSAs and Grocery Store sales. Different growers have different markets. Other ZipGrow growers do mostly CSAs, others restaurants. This is what I advocate- a market specific approach that allows smaller producers to outcompete larger ones. What can I say? I just really have a thing for underdogs. :)

      • Let’s all take a step back and a deep breath and calm down. We can also agree to disagree. Everyone needs to thoroughly research all sides of this matter.then decide what is best for them in their situation. If this is not for you don’t be upset if it is for someone else you will get over it. When a new idea is first presented most people say that’s crazy,which is where Dr. Storey was when he published his dissertation, which I would love to read,then when the idea has proven that it has merit which I think it has,most people say it works but won’t last, which is where we are now,then when it has stood the test of time we can all say with a sigh of relief we knew it would be great all the time. Having researched this area fairly well I feel that it will stand the test of time.

        • Hi Steve, there will always be some disagreement on this issue- and you’re right, only time will tell. My wife would tell you that there really isn’t much debate on whether I’m crazy or not, but the beauty of this is that the market will decide- and already is in many places. The nice thing is that our customers want what we have. They actually want it to the extent that we can’t fully supply what they want. Right now, what we is considered inefficient, or outside of the scope of traditional production and distribution, but that’s how all great technologies start. They have to fight for acceptance, increase efficiency, and claw their way up. This is just the growth cycle of disruptive technology- which is really what we’re selling.

          I appreciate your vote of confidence in what we’re doing. All of our customers would agree with you. :)

          • Sometimes replying to negativity causes more problems than it solves. It is a great idea to reserve comments for positive reinforcement and let the negative fizzle out. By the way how is that baby doing?

        • As a wise friend told me, “you cannot run a forum that only has fawning fans who worship at the altar. the only way to improve and grow is to invite contrary and critical examination of your products. Your doubters are also your free testers and quality control.”

  7. I have thoroughly enjoyed this article and the conversation in the comments section here.

    As I live in a small agricultural town, I have seen Dr. Storey’s article take place in our current grocery stores, that is the small producers are starting to directly compete with the big producers in the grocery stores, and I know one fella that specifically grows sweet corn who has outright pushed the big producers out of our local grocery store.

    Unfortunately, the big producers can do nothing to retaliate, except sell to a different location, since their margins are too small here in the States.

    In the context of herbs and other fragile seasonal produce, at least in my area, I absolutely see how the small producers can outright push the big producers out of grocery stores and restaurants.

    Also, people are just as emotional at buying as they are in choosing what they want to eat. So, in this context, I can see how “Selling Live” from the ZipGrow Towers, in a pick your own distribution, will bring an additional premium that the big producers are entirely incapable of providing.

    I think the apple to apple comparison here is in the context of how small producers will eventually crowd out the larger producers from the local markets, such as grocery stores and restaurants, since the larger producers can not so easily be as dynamic in their operations as a small producer.

    • Thanks for these excellent thoughts, Charles. Being a small[er] scale Upstart Farmer definitely has its advantages when being nimble, dynamic and able to see a need and fill it.

  8. Nate and Chris I reread this reply and realized your approach to the whole financial picture is right on target. Thank you for seeing the big picture and finding the right target for maximum returns. If you haven’t read the book David and Goliath by Malcome Gladwell you should it is right up your alley.



  1. Modern Hydroponic Production: Why The Right Peo... - […] Why are we so obsessed with the production side of modern hydroponic production? How can we reduce waste, add …
  2. What is a ZipGrow Tower? Vertical Hydroponic Equipment - […] Read more on scaling costs. […]
  3. ZipGrow Towers Reduce Waste, Add Value - […] we’ve discussed in a recent post, being truly successful as a commercial hydroponic or aquaponic grower means paying attention …
  4. What is an Upstart Farmer? - […] Remember: You can’t compete in this industry by increasing production alone. It’s all about scaling production while keeping costs …
  5. Commercial Hydroponics - […] Modern Hydroponic Production: Why The Right People Are All Wrong […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

19 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 1 Google+ 18 StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 LinkedIn 0 Buffer 0 Email -- Reddit 0 19 Flares ×