There is a new phenomenon that you may or may not have heard of and that is shipping container farms. These unassuming produce palaces can be placed just about anywhere from a backyard to a parking lot and many are found inside warehouses too. This type of farming has definitely sparked the interest of a wide range of people who are interested to know how an old shipping container can be transformed into a productive and self-contained farming unit.
Image from https://www.tigercontainers.com/
There are many pros to using a repurposed shipping container as a self-contained farm and those include:
- The units are self-contained and extremely compact.
- Shipping containers are widely available and fairly inexpensive.
- Since the units are modular, they are easy to ship in a wide range of methods (truck, train, ship).
- As more units are sold by different companies the prices will continue to drop.
Shipping container farms are simple to move from place to place. The interior of the farm can be installed into the container and then the container can be shipped fully loaded and ready to start with production once delivered to its final destination. For example, if you decided today that you wanted to start container farming next week, you could have a unit set up and delivered within that short time frame.
One main factor is that it is very important to place the unit where it needs to be since it is going to become difficult to move it in the future. The footprint of the shipping container is very compact, so you do not need a lot of land to grow a massive amount of produce. This type of farm can be placed in close proximity to local restaurants and even schools providing fresh produce to local schools and restaurants.
Container farms have a few simple requirements. They need to be placed perfectly level so that they function correctly – with drainage lines flowing in the right direction – and may need a concrete pad to sit on which can be costly. It is truly amazing to be able to have a fully contained and productive farm that can be placed anywhere that you need it, providing a multitude of benefits including fresh produce and no shipping costs.
Shipping containers are widely available and are used in every part of the world for a lot of different purposes. Since these containers are manufactured in large quantities and are used for every manner of shipping, there are plenty available for the secondary market. Specialty containers such as refrigeration containers break down and are cheaper to retire than to repair, so can often be obtained for a lower price.
Shipping companies sell these containers to other companies such as Tiger Containers to try to make some of their capital back that they have lost on these containers. This means that the surplus container market is a great place to purchase units for secondary buildings and container farms. The cost to get your container farm started is a few thousand for the shell which helps a great deal since lighting and other needs for your farm can be quite expensive. This lower price point helps those who want to get started in the container farming market to get started. When locally grown food is available for city dwellers as easily as it is for rural residents, it is a win/win situation.
For those who want to get started with a local business that is needed by residents, shipping container farming is a great option. There are some drawbacks to using a shipping container as a farm. Firstly, shipping containers were obviously not designed to be an indoor growing space, so there is quite a bit of adaption that must be completed. Lighting must be installed and the cost to run those special hydroponic style lights can be expensive. There is not much environmental control for the container in that it can be at the mercy of the weather outside if it is not properly insulated and/or heated which can not only be expensive but can have a serious effect on the growing season. This in turn will obviously affect the profits of the container farmer.
It can be difficult to control the growing environment in the interior of a shipping container however the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. It does take a great deal of intense hands-on management, so if you are looking for a “set and forget” style of business, this is not it. Pests can quickly take over a container farm if one is not careful because of the ideal conditions which include humidity and the accumulation of heat. In the inside of a container the lights constantly generate heat while the plants are growing and giving off gases. The population of the crops are also fluctuating a great deal which can affect the bottom line of profit for the farmer.
The smaller, denser growing environment amplifies these processes in this contained growing environment. As a container farmer, one needs to understand the environmental control needed for the interior of the shipping container. Many container farmers fail to consider how complex it can be to control the growing environment in a consistent manner so that healthy crops are produced in a reliable manner.
Humidity issues and inadequate lighting can result in a low growth rate and may even cause plants to rot before they are mature. Once this rot begins it can be hard to control because of the small space where the plants are contained. Root rot can destroy an entire crop, so planning a farm properly is important before getting started. Shipping container farms can absolutely be successful if the airflow is adequate, the temperature is consistently controlled, there is proper dehumidification and CO2 is reduced inside the container.