With a smaller space and lower cost production of organic vegetables, Freight Farms containers farms did.
Growing vegetables in containers? Truck driver-turned-China transport tycoon Malcolm McLean (Malcom McLean) container container at the time of the invention of eighty percent did not expect someone so crazy after 60 years.
In Boston, technology startups Freight Farms has begun to do: put one into the ocean container container roof space, campus and between buildings that are able to form a highly efficient and environmentally friendly urban agriculture systems. Freight Farms now has to sell the system to a number of users, including Courtyard and distributor of a number of agricultural products, and get $ 1.2 million in A round of venture capital in December this year.
Freight Farms envisaged from the designer, but also the co-founder Jonathan Freedman (Jonathan Friedman) to participate in an environmental protection project. At that time Friedman and environmental science graduate master’s friend Brad McNamara (Brad McNamara) together as a large-scale rooftop greenhouse farm project design consulting.
“Investors on the roof of the greenhouse farm concept was fascinated, but after seeing the costs are not so excited.” Friedman said in Boston on a TEDx Assembly. They choose to use double PVC insulation, but the cost of electricity for rooftop greenhouse farm heating, cooling and ventilation are still too high, can not break even, it is impossible to large-scale promotion.
Plus roof greenhouse farms need to shape individually designed houses and roofs of many buildings do not have space, large-scale promotion roof greenhouse farm too costly feasibility small. Therefore, after the project is completed, the two began to explore ways other than the greenhouse, eventually they see the long-distance freight usual 40 feet (11.8 × 2.13 × 2.18 m) container. McNamara recalled: “It was the challenge is how to provide more planting space as high efficiency, small footprint, the premise of Jonathan thought the idea of second-hand container, which enables efficient use of space and can be profitable. ʱ??
Crop swayed by the four elements: soil, light, climate and nutrition. Friedman is designed to meet these needs in space in 40-foot containers.
Container farm innermost end is growing rows of rack, placed seeds wrapped with insulating mineral fiber. After the seeds germinate, the user manually lifted to move it vertically elongated frame hydroponic crops will grow laterally. Such a three-dimensional design to maximize the use of space. Friedman said that every container farm up to 3600 simultaneously grow greens.
Freight Farms with water instead of the traditional culture of soil planted in containers farm features a reservoir capacity of 1250 liters. Circulatory system within the nutrient solution containing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients in the water drop drops down roots in thousands of strains of crops. Hydroponic cultivation is already quite mature, Chicago O’Hare (O’Hare) airport green garden in 2011 introduced a vertical hydroponic cultivation, rows of lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower and establish in the terminal, provide fresh food for the airport restaurant but also quite ornamental value.
Unable to natural light inside the container farm, crop growth needed light from a bar with LED lights. These lamps are arranged alternately bring crimson and deep blue LED bulbs, better birth crops affected by the weather than the sun changes. Dimensional planting crops on lighting more efficient than conventional flat planting hydroponic greenhouse. McNamara said that a container farm every year for electricity lighting needs only about $ 2,600, while the same scale greenhouse lighting expenses will have to be several times higher.
Freight Farms container farm temperature and humidity inside the container that comes with climate control systems rely. Each container has a built thermostats, air conditioners, carbon dioxide gas valve and fan, can bring the desired crop growth environment. There is also a dehumidifier in high humidity when the moisture in the air suction reservoir recycling, reducing water consumption. According to data provided by Friedman at TEDx conference, the annual container farm water only 1/10 of traditional farming.
Friedman says airtight container farm was his natural choice as a carrier of the important reasons. Airtight environment means crops are not affected by pests and weeds, planting process can be completely divorced from pesticides and herbicides, the final output of more healthy food, but also to sell than traditional soil planting higher prices. Also thick outer container farm to better maintain the temperature than conventional greenhouse plastic film, to solve the energy problem in the design of the roof, he had encountered the greenhouse farm.
The entire system can operate automatically in the absence of the state, internal sensors and cameras connected to the network. Farm by buying container supplied Tablet PC, the user can see real-time recording of the monitor screen, as well as humidity and nutrient data, and do not enter the container farm will be able to control climate and lighting by software.
In addition to higher energy efficiency, standardization and raw container farm has convenient transportation of natural advantages, but also to build a simple enough just to transport container farm to designated locations customers will be able to start production, even a plurality of containers farm stacked together, grow more crops in the limited space under the city.
November 2011, Friedman and McNamara took Freight Farms design board Kickstarter to raise public platform, hoping to get $ 26,000 contribution through environmental supporters, to build the first container farm to potential customers and Investors prove their design is feasible.
But fundraising Freight Farms are not smooth, as at the end of the week from 35 percent short of the goal. Two years ago, partly because not enough heat Kickstarter, this in order to support artists in the public fund-raising platform for the mind really entered the public view have to wait until the second half of 2012 – a series of financing nearly 10 million smart watches, game consoles project received media attention later. On the other hand, Kickstarter most successful projects are mostly supporters are tangible products, such as a game can not buy from other sources. Freight Farms but could not do so because the construction cost of each container farms would thousands of dollars, they can only be reserved some, such as the small model, shopping bags, organic seeds like gifts to supporters or to the donor’s name printed on container farm.
Fortunately, in the last few days Kickstarter will Freight Farms project on the site’s home page recommendation, in the eight days attracted about $ 14,000 donation, the successful implementation of fundraising goals. Freight Farms ordered first used containers sent in May 2012. To increase the yield, the first containers larger farms selected 53 ft containers renovation, the walls after sealed, and built ventilation systems and electronic control panel.
After six months of the experiment, the first large-scale cultivation of crops germinate in early November. The first crop Friedman and McNamara chose Italian cuisine popular spices Basil (Basil). Because of the limited cultivation climate, the local distributor of basil in general need to be imported from Mexico by air from aircraft to California, and then transported by truck to Boston, most of the cost is consumed in transit.
Container Freight Farms currently can only be used farm lettuce, cabbage, spinach, arugula, basil, bean sprouts and other leafy green vegetables cultivation. But the company is already developing two new container feedback according to the customer, are used to grow mushrooms and tomatoes, green peppers and other crops rattan.
In an interview with Forbes website McNamara said in an interview, according to a weekly container production is currently 136 kg of computing, users will be sold to distributors basil annual income can reach $ 120,000, while the price of the farm and container installation But the cost of $ 75,000, including the seed material, planting and other nutrition required. He said, “At present, there are more than 4400 of the nation’s restaurants, hospitals and universities supply of vegetable distributor, we are mainly aimed at an annual income of between three million to 75 million US dollars of small and medium sized distributors. Only this one means $ 860 million in market share. ”
Boston local crops distributors Katsiroubas Bros is one of the first customers of Freight Farms. The company is located in Newmarket Square warehouse on the edge, two paint the sky blue paint stacked container farm, which planted more than 3,000 strains of basil. And Freight Farms standard container farm is different, this distributor crops only in a shipping container, another container connected thereto, is used as the workers at harvest packaged workplace. That is, Katsiroubas Bros basil planted in the city are within the container from seed to complete the package, the maximum guarantee fresh spices.
Container farm sales targets also include restaurants, schools, real estate developers and even individual users. Such users may be self-sufficient, while the surplus vegetables to sell produce distributors. This is also the Freight Farms founders engaged in agricultural technology start-ups in mind: to help build an environmentally friendly urban agricultural systems, using standardized containers farm crops in urban open space, reduce the long-distance transport, insurance, energy consumed.
“We own no more than ten years experience in greenhouse cultivation, do not want to force users to have this experience.” McNamara said in an interview stressed the ease of use of the container farm. He said that in order to help users better manage the farm, Freight Farms will provide planting tutorial by tablet PCs, the future also plans to launch a mobile phone application that helps customers around the container farm online communication experience in planting.
Over the past eight months, Freight Farms has delivered seven container farms, and another five will be shipped in January next year. This is less than 10-person team has received more than 500,000 US dollars in revenue this year. With the arrival of a new round of financing, Friedman plans to build a high-density urban farming communities in Boston, and then extended to other major cities nationwide.