Green Wall Business Grows to New Heights

Sourced from Grand Rapids Business Journal

The concept of a vertical garden is almost as old as civilization itself — see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Viking dwellings of earth and plants — but the trend has gained new life in the past decade as the sustainability movement blossoms.

Nunica-based Hortech Inc., founded in 1983, has seen increasing success as a company in the past decade — first through its LiveRoof subsidiary formed in 2006, and now with LiveWall, a company it established in 2012 that offers a patented living wall system designed to be easy to install, plant and replant.

Dave MacKenzie — a horticulturalist, biologist, inventor and founder of Hortech and its subsidiaries — concluded after much testing that contemporary green wall systems patterned after French designer Patrick Blanc’s approach led to disease and plant mortality because of the way they were designed. They forced the plants to grow sideways, without sufficient soil, and the trickle-down watering approach posed irrigation and erosion challenges.

MacKenzie and his staff put their heads together and designed a new system that was essentially window boxes installed in a central frame with “upright stem orientation, downward-growing roots, a soil-based growing medium with beneficial soil-borne microflora and irrigation that moves downward like rain.”

The plants chosen for each design have to grow high enough or trail long enough to cover the planters and create the impression of a solid wall of greenery. Additionally, indoor installations need different kind of watering and lighting systems than outdoor projects.

After MacKenzie tested a prototype at his house over the course of three winters, LiveWall launched in summer 2012.

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