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Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Missouri State University Takes Another Step Towards Sustainability with ZipGrow Tower

Mike Ursery

Missouri State University’s Dining Services Department has launched an innovative way to grow food and provide it for consumers on campus.  It began using what is called a ZipGrow Tower, a vertical growing system that allows for a greener and more convenient way of growing and harvesting produce. 

Quinton Eason, senior executive chef at MSU, said the ZipGrow Tower gives the school the ability to grow its own food as opposed to purchasing it from hundreds of miles away. Plus, he says the carbon footprint is relatively small compared to traditional agricultural practices.

We felt that with the school’s demand and the student demand for growth and sustainability, we thought Missouri State was the perfect campus  to begin researching and looking at a zero-mile for producing herbs and lettuces on campus. Missouri (State) is one of the largest agriculture schools in the country, and we thought it was the perfect place to start, footwork to start.”

Eason says traditional agriculture uses a lot of resources and fossil fuels to produce just one pound of produce. The ZipGrow Tower limits travel to get the product to consumers and saves water. 

“It’s actually a net-net negative. So when you’re  transporting something from California, and you’re paying $7 a pound for it, that’s costing you, who knows, astronomical costs for resources and use and labor, human labor.” 

Eason said the ZipGrow Tower uses a combination of aeroponics and hydroponics. The process carries nutrients from the bottom of the station to the top and sending those nutrients along with water and oxygen to the produce being grown.  The vertical setting takes up less space, but can grow just as much as what is grown from large spaces used for farming.

Eason and Chartwells resident district manager Tony Hein introduced the program in January. After the equipment was ordered and set up, Dining Services began planting in late March.

The short-term goal for this project is to be successful, according to Eason. Long-term goals for the university are to make a statement, showing that Missouri State University can prepare its own produce. 

The ZipGrow Tower can be found inside Blair-Shannon Dining Hall.