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Farms Inside Shipping Containers: The Future of Plant Growing

In Los Angeles, a startup company, Local Roots, is using 40-foot-long shipping containers and turning them into “TerraFarms” that produce as many leafy greens as five acres of farmland. Not only are they using the shipping containers to grow all these plants, they are also doing it at a much faster pace, while using as little as 1 percent of the water. Local Roots leases TerraFarms to wholesalers, restaurant chains, and SpaceX. The United Nations is interested and preparing to field-test them, too.

Plant + Nutrition Science

Local Roots employ plant scientists, botanists, agronomists and engineers who work together and are constantly evolving to develop stronger, more affordable, more nutrient-dense crops. Their studies set the stage for more nutritious and better tasting plants.

They also are trying to take care of the environment. The TerraFarms are designed to reduce the harmful impacts of agriculture. From pest management and food safety to energy efficiency and water conservation, Local Roots claims they meet or exceed the Sustainably Grown Standard.


TerraFarm’s hydroponics needs just twenty-five gallons of water a day per unit. Climate controls and LED grow lights also assist in the cultivation of the crops, that include, butterhead lettuce, baby kale, Italian basil, and arugula.

In order to extend water efficiency and recirculation, Local Roots use hundreds of sensors to track such factors as airflow and water temperature. These sensors feed the data to the TerraFarms workers who adjust when needed.


In less than two weeks, four thousand heads of lettuce can come from a single TerraFarm. They grow from seed to full maturity in 30 days. Outdoor farming takes at least twice as long.

Operating Cost

Local Roots buys old containers from the Port of Los Angeles for about $5,000 and retrofits them for more than double that. After customizing the shipping containers, they contract with clients for a set period of time and still maintain ownership of the farms. 


The clients place the container farms at food distribution centers, so they can cut out days or even weeks of travel time and shipping costs.


Local Roots claims the plants grow under optimal conditions, getting all the nutrients they need which result in clean and good tasting produce.

Here is a list of what they are currently growing:

  • ArugulaBaby
  • Butter Blend™
  • Custom Kale Blends
  • Green Leaf Butterhead Lettuce
  • Green Leaf Romaine Lettuce
  • Italian Basil
  • Kale
  • Living Butterhead
  • Mars Mix™
  • Mustard Greens
  • Premier Baby Kale
  • Red Leaf Butterhead Lettuce
  • Red Leaf Romaine Lettuce
  • Royal Gems™
  • Spring Mix
  • Tatsoi

At the same time, they are constantly working and testing trial crops. Currently, they are testing:

  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Dill
  • Chervil
  • Tarragon
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Marjoram
  • Blonde Frisée
  • Mâche

Local Roots demonstrates yet another way Shipping Containers are being used along with the advancement of technology. Shipping containers are available for an affordable price, making them a competitive option for you to utilize.  Are you considering buying a shipping container to use as a storage unit, office, home or some other project? If you have questions, feel free to contact us at