The population of the world is growing rapidly, with the UN predicting that it’ll hit nearly 10 billion by 2050. That’s a lot of people and they’ll need a lot of food. However, due to this rising population, we are seeing an expansion of urban areas too. As such it’s going to get harder and harder to grow food to ensure that nobody goes hungry.nnThis is where shipping container farms come in. Believe it or not, the humble shipping container is well on its way to becoming a life-changing piece of equipment as a home for hydroponic farms. nnAlready, container farms are being rolled out worldwide to some of the harshest and most food impoverished environments in the world. They’re cheaper, more productive and less wasteful than traditional farms and we could see them make a serious change in the world in the years to come.n
What is a container farm?
nA container farm is exactly what it sounds like, a farm in a shipping container. Companies such as Local Roots and Growcer are popping up across the globe with their own hydroponic container farms, and they’re seriously impressive. The container-based ‘TerraFarms’ built by Local Roots can produce 4,000 heads of lettuce every 10 days, using no soil and 97% less water than a conventional farm. n
Farming inside a shipping container
nContainer farm companies modify 40-foot containers, transforming them into farms large enough to grow 5 acres of food, all within a relatively small space. The reduced waste and the way in which container farms make the most of available space are some of the benefits of using these farms, but there are a lot more. nnIdeal for impoverished and rural areas, container farms are relatively cheap and very easy to transport almost anywhere. Thanks to their modular design, shipping containers can be shipped in bulk around the world with little effort, and container farms are no different.nnFurthermore, thanks to the durability of shipping containers, container farms are able to work in all environments. Whether dropped into a struggling fishing village in the arctic circle or a literal food desert in the Middle East, they can bring a fully working farm to just about anywhere.n
Shipping container farm cost
nContainer farms are an incredibly cost-efficient way of producing food. The exact cost of a single container depends on what you’re growing, but it’s almost certain to be less than what you’d spend on traditional farming infrastructure. Not only do container farms require far less space, but many of the cultivation processes can be automated – meaning less time and money spent on human hands. n
Food poverty / deserts
nFood poverty is a serious problem across the world, both in developed and undeveloped countries. In the UK alone, over half a million people are reliant on food parcels, and overall around 3 billion people in the world live below the poverty line.nnEven in areas that are not impoverished, a lack of access to affordable or high-quality food is a serious problem. These areas are known as food deserts and are found across North America. Roughly 30 million Americans live in so-called food deserts. With just one container farm, small towns could provide high-quality fresh vegetables to their residents.nnOne of the most prominent usages of container farms is in northern Canada. In the Arctic Circle, Canadian Inuits often struggle to afford the high prices of food flown in from the urban centres in the south of the country. Therefore, container farm company Growcer came forward with a plan to help these Inuit food deserts by using container farms.nnThey ship their fully fitted container farms to rural Inuit communities with 18 months’ worth of seeds and instructions on how to use the farms. Not only does having a Growcer container in the community make food 25% cheaper, but it also brings jobs for the locals who have to run the farms and sell the produce. It’s a clear sign as to how container farms can have a massive impact on poor rural areas where food can be sparse.nnAs Growcer has demonstrated with their Inuit project, container farms are ideal for sending out to the people who need them most, no matter where they are. Plus, they are ideal sources for unskilled labour to be put to use. Freight Farms even developed a smartphone app to control the temperature and humidity of their containers – providing jobs to the people running them.n
Urban farming in a shipping container
nShipping container farms aren’t just useful for isolated, rural communities – they can be placed right in the middle of the urban sprawl. Given that they only need a small land of land as well as a steady water supply and source of electricity, they can be used to grow fruit and vegetables in the heart of the concrete jungle. A London-based startup is doing just this; Crate to Plate is using shipping container farms to produce lettuces, herbs, and leafy greens from a car park in the East end. n
Where will the future take us?
nContainer farm companies – as with other container-based businesses – are a booming industry. Pioneered in the arctic and frequently used in rural American food deserts, there are plans for companies to expand even further afield. From war zones where they would be used to provide aid relief to locals, to deserts in the Middle East where a lack of agriculture has been an ever-present issue.nnThe most intriguing aspect of the future of container farms is their potential intergalactic use. It sounds ridiculously futuristic, but it may be closer than you think. Local Roots have links with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocketry company. Musk’s brother Kimbal has founded his own container farm company, Square Roots, in New York. It could be the case that, if SpaceX achieves its aims, we could see shipping containers heading to Mars to be the first off-world farms. Now there’s a thought!nn nnWe may not be able to build you a container farm, but if you’re interested in your own container conversions, get in touch with Unit Hire for a quote today.