Executive Briefings

This Shipping-Container Farm Could Someday Solve the Food Desert Problem

There's a farm opening soon in Laurel, Md., that can grow strawberries in January. It could grow rare tropical fruits from Asia and Central America on our native soil. It could produce custom-designed lettuce, more peppery or sweet. It's a hydroponic farm in a shipping container, and its owners hope it could eventually put an end to food deserts, including our biggest one: outer space.

This Shipping-Container Farm Could Someday Solve the Food Desert Problem

Local Roots, a California company, has created an indoor farm that can turn any produce into local produce, anywhere. They grow fruits and vegetables in shipping containers that are stacked in old warehouses or parking lots, which can either be connected to the grid or, eventually, powered by solar energy. Local Roots has designed the custom growing technology and hardware, and it owns and operates the farms, selling its produce to restaurants and food distributors under its own brand. The fact that the company is vertically integrated differentiates it from other container farming systems, like Freight Farm, which sells their containers to others, including novice farmers.

“You can start to bring that farm into communities that historically had to import their food due to geography, climate, weather, soil or light.” chief executive Eric Ellestad said.

Every 40-foot shipping container can yield the annual equivalent of three to five acres of farmland. Ellestad says his company can grow plants twice as fast as a conventional farm while using 97 percent less water.

Here’s how they do it: Every farm is hydroponic, meaning the plants are grown in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Leftover water is recirculated, so each container only uses between 5 to 20 gallons each day. They also use sensors to keep tabs on how the plants are growing, and can give them exactly the nutrients they need at that phase in the growing cycle, speeding it up. It’s “almost a growing algorithm in some ways,” Ellestad said. “You can use that software platform to drive that farm as efficiently as possible.”

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Local Roots, a California company, has created an indoor farm that can turn any produce into local produce, anywhere. They grow fruits and vegetables in shipping containers that are stacked in old warehouses or parking lots, which can either be connected to the grid or, eventually, powered by solar energy. Local Roots has designed the custom growing technology and hardware, and it owns and operates the farms, selling its produce to restaurants and food distributors under its own brand. The fact that the company is vertically integrated differentiates it from other container farming systems, like Freight Farm, which sells their containers to others, including novice farmers.

“You can start to bring that farm into communities that historically had to import their food due to geography, climate, weather, soil or light.” chief executive Eric Ellestad said.

Every 40-foot shipping container can yield the annual equivalent of three to five acres of farmland. Ellestad says his company can grow plants twice as fast as a conventional farm while using 97 percent less water.

Here’s how they do it: Every farm is hydroponic, meaning the plants are grown in nutrient-rich water instead of soil. Leftover water is recirculated, so each container only uses between 5 to 20 gallons each day. They also use sensors to keep tabs on how the plants are growing, and can give them exactly the nutrients they need at that phase in the growing cycle, speeding it up. It’s “almost a growing algorithm in some ways,” Ellestad said. “You can use that software platform to drive that farm as efficiently as possible.”

Read Full Article

This Shipping-Container Farm Could Someday Solve the Food Desert Problem