When futurist and horticulturist Tim Blank was still in high school in Western North Dakota, his family saved up and took a vacation to Disney World. The trip would serve to change the trajectory of Tim’s whole life, because of all the theme parks that they saw, the one that grabbed him was Epcot. He said, “Epcot was the place of the future, and it was very inspirational to see all the various nationalities working together, and all the technologies. What stood out the most to me was a special ride at Epcot called ‘The Land.’” From that point on, Tim knew he wanted to be involved in technology that could feed people. He got his degree in horticulture, went to work at Epcot as an intern, and eventually became their head horticulturist and green house operations manager. While working for Disney, he also did research for NASA and the US Department of Energy.
In 2005, Tim left Epcot, and formed Future Growing, LLC, a company that took the things that Tim learned at Disney World, combined them with some ideas of his own, and would serve to make it possible for people to grow their own food just about anywhere. “This dream I had that was rooted all the way back in my childhood, about doing something for humanity, finding a better way of growing food, it’s finally coming to fruition,” Tim stated. Some of the early projects include the first roof top garden-to-table farm for a restaurant in Manhattan, as well as an indoor growing system inside O’Hare International Airport that supplies produce for the 67 restaurants throughout the facility.
Tim knows full well that there are people like me who do not possess a very green thumb nor a great deal of time, and would nonetheless like to garden. So he contacted the Juice Plus company to see if they would be interested in producing the Tower Garden for the consumer. In 2011 the Juice Plus Company began production, and I purchased my Tower Garden in February of 2013. It was a match made in heaven, and I can now say with confidence that I am a happy and successful gardener, growing everything from Bok Choy to more personal confidence to baby eggplants. I watch with delight as my little seedlings turn my Tower into something reminiscent of Jurassic Park.
Because of the aeroponic/hydroponic technology, things grow three times faster with over 98% less water, 90 % less land, and with 30% greater yields. You can actually start to harvest some vegetables (such as lettuce) in as little as three weeks! Tower Garden produce is nutrient dense, better tasting, and better smelling. Researchers at the University of Mississippi found that the yields of plants grown with aeroponic/hydroponic technology were more than 30% bigger on average compared to organic soil-based produce.
Here’s the breakdown by crop:
- Basil – 19% increase
- Chard – 8% increase
- Red kale – 65% increase
- Parsley – 21% increase
- Bell pepper – 53% increase
- Cherry tomatoes – 35% increase
- Cucumber – 7% increase
- Squash – 50% increase
Looking further, the study also measured total phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidants in the produce grown. Phenolics are compounds that the plant produces to protect itself from insects. Flavonoids are also involved in a plant’s defense system as well part of its communication system, and antioxidants repair free radical damage in the human body. It turns out aeroponic and soil methods yield produce with comparable nutritional value.
So, how does it work? There is a pump in the middle of the 20 gallon reservoir that sends water and the organic, patented Tower Tonic whole mineral solution up the center of the tower, and the solution bathes the roots on the way back down. Normally this is done in 15 minute increments, with 15 minutes of bath followed by 15 minutes of air set to a timer. The sound of the water is so soothing that it is like having a personal fountain in addition to a personal farmer’s market. My neighbor likes the sound of it so much that I told him he could come over and listen any time he wanted to. I also gave him permission to harvest anything he wanted to while we were on vacation recently. I had plenty to share, and things grow back quickly.
There are over 155 types of vegetables, herbs, and fruits that can be grown using the Tower Garden system, including melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, calendulas, edible pansies, nasturtiums, and so much more. At present, it is not possible to grow root vegetables, but I would not be at all surprised if they don’t come up with a way to do that, too.
Another Athens Now client who is a raving fan of the Tower Garden is John McGrew, who along with his wife Amanda owns Homeland Trading on Hwy 31 near CVS. They have a perky little miss by the name of Katy, herself quite enamored with their Tower Garden, and shown throughout this article. “She loves it,” John says, “and she eats everything we grow on it.” Research also shows that kids who are involved in growing vegetables are far more prone to eating the fruits of their labors. The Tower Garden serves as a fine backdrop for some quality daddy-daughter time.
You can grow your “market” on your patio, in your house with grow lights, and on the deck of your city apartment. There are 19 Tower Gardens in Los Angeles accessible to homeless people, and Tower Gardens have become the basis of several urban community garden projects. Boys and Girls Clubs across America have them, as do long term care facilities, which use them as part of their activities and therapy platforms. There is a Boys and Girls Club Tower Garden-based culinary school and catering service in Memphis, an extensive school Tower Garden project in the Bronx, and there are even Tower Gardens in the White House.
The possibilities are nearly endless, and if you want to learn more, go to www.towergarden.com. Your thumb will be greener, your body will be happier, and your wallet will be thicker with what you save.
Tower Garden—it’s truly and totally grand!
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner