Container farms can produce food in any season and anywhere

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For thousands of years, our agricultural activities are based on outdoor farming.  It is the simplest way to feed ourselves, but it is easily affected by climate and weather conditions.  In recent years, severe climate change has led to more crop failures.  Overpopulation has caused food demand exceeded the supply.  As a result, companies and scientists are developing alternative farming methods to withstand climate change and ensure the sustainability of agriculture.

India and Nepal face climate change and crop failures

Photo courtesy: llco.org May. 6, 2016 Retrieved from http://llco.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/drought.jpg

One practical method is building farms with shipping containers.  The reason containers were chosen is that they are natural barriers against pests, diseases and severe weather conditions.  Since the first container farm company, Freight Farm launched in 2012, numerous companies sprang up and released their container farms.  They assembled indoor agriculture equipment in containers and turned them into portable, stackable, and sustainable box farms which can grow almost anything and almost anywhere.

Freight Farm
-Leafy Green Machine​
Photo courtesy: Freight Farm May. 6, 2016 Retrieved from http://dev.freightfarms.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/LEAFY-GREEN-MACHINE-3QT1.png​

The container farms are vertical farming which can produce same amount of food but takes up less space than traditional farming.  Most of the container farms feature hydroponic technology, which uses mineral-based solution to grow plants without soil.  The farms are also built with automatic technology to automate most of the farmer’s work and reduce the waste of resource.  This means that the farmers can precisely control over every part of the growing process and use less resource compared to conventional agriculture.  According to Cropbox, their farms use 90% less water and 80% less fertilizer than conventional cultivation.

Photo courtesy: Freight Farm May. 6, 2016 Retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8e/Leafy_Greens_Hydroponics.jpg

To simulate the nature environment for farming, the farms are built with an enclosed environment system.  They consist of lights, ventilation systems, thermostats, dehumidifiers, co2 generators, sensors for monitoring, and hydroponic components (reservoir, pump, control & monitoring system).  Among them, the lights are for simulating the nature sunlight and provide crops with spectrums of red and blue for photosynthesis all year round.


Photo courtesy: Freight Farm May. 6, 2016 Retrieved from http://dailyfreepress.com/2015/04/16/urban-farming-technology-puts-down-roots-in-boston/

In addition, many of the systems can be managed from a smartphone or web interface which provides a complete log of records for analyzing the unit's performance.  Farmers can remotely monitor and control the climate, lighting, water, air quality, and irrigation systems of the farms, which allow farmers to farm year-round with minimal oversight.

Freight Farm

Photo courtesy: Chris Rank/Bloomberg May. 6, 2016 Retrieved from http://www.theplaidzebra.com/freight-farms-are-the-portable-weather-proof-future-of-food-supply/

To sum up, the advantage of container farms is that it is enclosed and portable.  Crops can be grown anytime and anywhere within them. According to Freight Farm, their farms can yield about 900 plants per week.  Some farmers can even harvest their crops in 6 to 8 weeks.  On the other hand, the disadvantage is the cost of farms.  The price of farms is different from company to company.  Conservatively estimated, it varies from 50,000 to 70,000 with additional costs.  Hope this resource-saving technology can be more affordable and popular, and leave our offspring a better planet.

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