Urban Gardening With Vertical Aquaponics

The latest new compact aquaponic system to arrive on the market seems to think so, and the team at Lettuce Evolve does have a point. The options you have for growing food in challenging circumstances have come a long, long way, and continue to improve. So, what’s the scoop on the latest arrival for indoor gardening?

Back in 2011, the first system designed by this Dallas area company appeared on Kickstarter seeking $25,000 in start up funds. The campaign was unsuccessful, and seasoned aquaponics growers had grave doubts about the viability of the tower irrigating system. With good reason too, the plants were misted at the top of the tower with the nutrient-rich water being dispersed to the roots of everything in the garden by running down the walls and draining back into the aquarium. The problem with this is that the solids in the aquarium water are notorious for plugging up the misters. And it didn’t help much that the system presentation didn’t show a killer garden, just some recently installed seedlings.

Back To The Drawing Board

Vertical Aquaponics - Lettuce EvolveThis September, Lettuce Evolve resurfaced on Facebook announcing they were back with an exciting new design. Excellent, because you haven’t really failed unless you fail to try again. Especially in the arena of progressive gardening where the more we learn, the more efficient and effective the methods and technology becomes. It’s a growing thing that constantly keeps reinventing the wheel.

While the images and description of the new Lettuce Evolve gardening system doesn’t convey exactly how the irrigation is delivered to the vertical garden trays, if no mist heads are incorporated it should be fine. There is nothing revolutionary about pumping waste rich water through tubing to overhead growing beds, though this model does have a pre-filter to remove large chunks of waste. They’ve also raised the pump inside the aquarium to protect the fish from having their environment totally drained if something goes wrong with the machinery.

All that aside, I was impressed with how much growing space it offered for small plants like lettuces… 20 in a footprint of less than 6 square feet! That is until I realized that this fresh offering to the urban gardener only shows plants growing in it in design format. Troublesome. Having the fish habitat insulated is awesome for growing in hot climates and the height of summer. And being able to use it outdoors on the balcony, or inside the dwelling is also a plus. But where is the marvelous urban garden the design will support? Photographs of the system give you a white plastic box with empty plant trays. Not that there is anything wrong with white, it will work with just about anyone’s furniture, but where’s the life, the whole foods that will sell the system?

Perhaps they just haven’t learned that people need realistic visual stimulation for successful marketing, and when marketing something to the would-be gardener, you need to show incredible results from growing in said gizmo. One that costs $2500 for the complete system package, no less. Never mind that it all snaps together, because no matter how simple it is to put together, it has to grow stuff, and do it fantastically. It may be wonderful, but it’s never good to assume.

You would expect this sort of graphics from a concept that has never been tested, but they say they’ve been developing it for 4 years, and have grown a wide variety of crops including tomatoes, corn, and watermelons. Is it just me, or does it seem odd to you too that a hugely successful aquaponic/hydroponic garden setup has nothing growing in it? Even if it is a low budget start up, everyone has a phone camera these days. Please, show us what it really does. Even a couple less than stellar snapshots could be worth a thousand words.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.