When it comes to hydroponics, one company that I've been following is ZipGrow. They sell ZipGrow towers, which allow you to grow various crops vertically, and they have a number of configurations that you can choose from. For example, you can purchase just the towers, a commercial setup, or shipping container farm.
Having tried a 4 pack of the towers originally, they seemed to work pretty well and I wanted something mobile that I'd be able to take to the farmers market for live sales. They have a portable rack that supports 16 towers, but it's a bit pricey at close to $5,000. I liked the concept though, so I set out to see if I could build one of my own for a little bit less.
- 16 ZipGrow Towers ($1,160.00)
- 2 submersible pumps ($50.00)
- 1/2" tubing ($14.00)
- 1/2" irrigation fittings ($20.00)
- 1/4" tubing ($20.00)
- 1/4" fittings ($12.00)
- Drip emitters ($13.00)
- 2 8' vinyl fence posts ($80.00)
- 4 5x5 vinyl fence post caps ($14.00)
- 9 2x4 ($34.00)
- 2 Casters ($60.00)
- Total: $1,477.00
- Table saw
Building the Rack
When designing the rack, I wanted something that was similar to the ZipGrow version, but decided to make the frame out of 2x4s instead of metal. To that end, I got started with a crude drawing to figure out what I needed.
Next, I started cutting the 2x4s to the proper length. I ended up having
- 3 - 90" for supporting the reservoirs and irrigation
- 3 - 65" vertical supports,
- 3 - 24" cross pieces to attach the wheels
- 4 - 45 degree cuts for supporting the vertical 2x4s on the end
After building the base (2 - 90" pieces and 3 - 24" pieces), I began attaching the vertical supports (3 - 65") and finally the top irrigation (1 - 90"). The wheels were added next, and I finished with adding the diagonal supports.
To create the water reservoir, I marked the fence posts with a 4x6" square for the pump, and 8 - 4x4" squares for the grow racks. Spacing was 3" for the first tower, 4" for the second, and 5" for the remaining.
I then used a 1/4" bit to drill holes in each corner, and cut the squares out with a jig saw. Once the holes were cut, I attached the end caps using PVC cement and secured it to the rack using galvanized screws and rubber washers.
Once the frame was together, I drilled holes in the top 2x4 and attached some hooks that would be used to support the ZipGrow towers, and used some "U" nails to keep the irrigation in place
I imagine the actual ZipGrow rack is much stronger and more stable than what I made, but for about 1/3 of the price, I think my rack does pretty well. Granted, I'm not sure how well it will hold up with a lot of movement to and from the market - I haven't had the chance to do that quite yet. I can say it worked well for basil and romaine in my grow tent though!