How to grow healthy food vertically in a small space

For years, James Dick, a horticulturist from Vermont in the Western Cape, researched better ways of growing food on a micro-scale. “I came away from university with the idea, but it took a lot of brainstorming and prototypes before I got the concept,” he recalls.

In 2010, the idea of the HiGro Tower Garden System finally crystallised in his mind. “It’s a system designed for high-density living environments in poorer communities, especially for the busy person with limited time for shopping. The idea is to have a full, healthy meal at your back door, free of high maintenance costs,” he explains.

How it works 
The HiGro system is a vertically segmented column for growing flowers, leafy greens, peas, beans, herbs and strawberries, amongst other plants. “Four to eight modules interlock to form the column. Each module is filled with 4,5ℓ of sphagnum peat moss and green fibre pre-enriched with a little fertiliser to get the plants started,” Dick explains. This growing medium has high water-retention and can last for as long as two years.

The system is designed to grow plenty of food with very little water and does not rely on electricity. Instead, it is irrigated by a hand-pumped 5ℓ compression sprayer that drives a water and fertiliser solution through the drippers and into the modules. “The irrigation water is pre-enriched with fertiliser, which is added to the compression sprayer. Each module is irrigated and drained independently; there’s no percolation from the upper modules to the lower ones.” He advises that the tower be irrigated once a day in summer and every third day in winter. 

Read more at Farmers Weekly (Jeandré van der Walt)

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