We have seen shipping containers repurposed into a number of things over the years from luxury homes to chic cafes and restaurants. And just when you thought nothing else can be made from shipping containers, people come up with something new and more audacious. This time; shipping container farms!
Fuelled by the ever-growing demand for freshly produced food, “urban farmers” have come up with a creative way to meet demand by using repurposed shipping containers to grow food near their markets. Thanks to earlier inventions that enable people to grow food indoors, a simple shipping container can now be transformed into a farm producing the equivalent of an acre of land.
Types of container farms
There are two types of shipping container farms based on their design:
1. Shipping container greenhouse
This is the cheaper one to build and maintain as it uses less technology. It basically functions like a regular greenhouse providing optimum conditions for plant growing. This kind of farm is made using either an open top cargo container or a regular shipping container with the top stripped off.
Once the top is off, a greenhouse-like roofing is installed to cover the open top. Racks are then installed inside the shipping container where the plants will be grown. With this kind of setup, either soil or hydroponics can be used to grow the plants. A hydroponic system would be quite costly but would have some benefits over soil – such as not requiring an additional irrigation system.
2. Enclosed freight container farm
This type of container farm differs from the former in that the shipping container used is fully enclosed. This enables the farmer to control each and every aspect of the farm more effectively.
To build this kind of farm, an insulated shipping container (reefer) is fitted with growing racks from floor to ceiling, irrigation systems, lights, and ventilation. The lights are necessary because the setup does not allow natural light inside. The enclosed system enables total control of the conditions inside.
Benefits of shipping container farms
- They are efficient. Because these farms use modern irrigation systems i.e. hydroponics and drip irrigation, they are very efficient and could save up to 90% of the water used by a conventional farm.
- They can be set up near the market. Most of the food sold in urban areas is shipped in from remote farms. The long transit sometimes has an effect on freshness and the transportation costs are immense. With a shipping container farm, the produce can be grown near the market providing fresh produce minus the transportation costs.
- They’re easy to install and maintain. Once all the modifications have been done to create the farm, maintaining it is quite easy and straight forward. And since the plants are grown in enclosed spaces, attacks from diseases and pests are very rare meaning you can grow pesticide-free crops.
- All season growing. With container farms, regulation of the internal growing conditions is possible meaning production can be done all year round regardless of the season.
For now, these kinds of farms are limited to growing a few plants such as herbs, leafy vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers; but with time as the idea catches on, we might see more plants being grown.