Hydroponic shipping container farms
For the last few years, innovators have been breaking the boundaries of food production, by growing crops and plants – not in soil – but in recycled shipping containers. It’s called hydroponic farming. And, in our opinion, it’s a fantastic idea. Here we take a closer look at hydroponics in shipping containers and explore how these humble steel boxes could be the future of farming and agriculture.
What is hydroponic farming?
Hydroponic farming is, essentially, a method of growing crops without soil. Instead, an alternative material (such as peat moss or coconut fibre) is used to support the roots – and the crops are grown directly from fresh, nutrient-rich water (with a balanced pH), oxygen and light.
This may seem like a small shift in how food is made, but it has many benefits. For example:
- crops can be produced anywhere in the world, at any time of the year
- the crops mature up to 25% more quickly than those grown in soil
- food supplies are much fresher
- it can produce a much higher yield, with less waste
- fewer pesticides are required, as it’s difficult for pests and diseases to access the crops
- it significantly reduces transportation costs and carbon emissions
Why use shipping containers for hydroponic farming?
Hydroponic farms can be set-up in a wide range of structures (e.g. greenhouse, warehouse etc.). However, in recent years, shipping containers have become an increasingly popular option. This is for a number of reasons.
Firstly, they have a very compact footprint and can be placed just about anywhere with a flat, stable surface. The container can simply be dropped in the desired location, allowing people to farm all over the world and produce food close to where it’s consumed.
What’s more, shipping containers are readily available – with millions of empty and unused structures ready and waiting to be converted into a container farm. They’re relatively cheap to buy and, by their very nature, can be easily shipped from the manufacturer to the final farm site.
3 of the best shipping container farms
GrowFrame is a revolutionary container farming system designed by, design engineering graduate, Phillipe Hohlfeld. Every year millions of goods are shipped across the world in shipping containers. And whilst these may initially be packed full of goods, most will make their return journey empty.
Phillipe saw this emptiness as an opportunity. Describing it as ‘12sqm of unused land’, he created a collapsible hydroponic farm – in which crops could be grown on their inbound crossing. GrowFrame, in theory, is capable of producing approximately $1500 – $2000 of crops in a single journey.
Mountain View Googleplex
Google’s headquarters is renowned for providing free, healthy food for its 20,000 employees. And – in true Google spirit – this is achieved in a sustainable, high-tech way. The site is now home to a hydroponic shipping container farm, affectionately known as the Leafy Green Machine (LGM).
LGM is a powerful tool – supplied by hydroponic farming experts, Freight Farm – that enables Google to grow fresh food in any climate. Essentially, it’s a refrigerated shipping container, fitted with LED lights, vertical hydroponic shelves and overhead water pipes. And, impressively, its temperature, climate and CO2 output can all be adjusted using a tablet or smartphone.
With as little as 20 hours of labour per week, this innovative shipping container farm can produce the same amount of food as two acres of farmland. Google uses it to grow herbs (such as sage, thyme, basil) and one container provides enough of these herbs to feed their employees for a week.
The Vegetable Co. Malaysia
The Vegetable Co. is a 320 sq. ft. shipping container farm set up in a car park in Kuala Lumpur.
From the outside, the container is detailed with blue sky and clouds, reminiscent of the view from a traditional farm. But inside the staff wear white lab coats and surgical masks, and the container is tightly packed with shelves – with lettuce, sprouts and other vegetables all grown under LED lights.
The farm opened for business just before the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, with only a handful of customers. But since then, its revenue has grown by 300%. With fears over the safety of in-store shopping, people have been attracted by the idea of fresh produce delivered directly to their door – and, due to increased demand, the container is now approaching its maximum production capacity.
Want to create a hydroponic container farm?
Thanks to their many benefits, it’s likely that hydroponic shipping container farms will continue to rise in popularity over the next few years. And, if this is something that you’re interested in, we’re here to help. Not only do we supply new and used shipping containers, we’re leading specialists in container conversions and are always excited by the prospect of a challenging new project.
If you have any questions about hydroponic farming and shipping container farms, or would like to discuss your ideas with the team, simply give us a call on 0870 240 9405. Alternatively, send an email to email@example.com and we’ll respond to your enquiry as soon as possible.