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Shipping Container Farms: The Future of Plant Growing

Shipping Container Farms are the future of sustainable agriculture.

In Los Angeles, a startup company, Local Roots, uses 40-foot-long shipping containers and turns 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, but they are also doing it at a much faster pace while using as little as 1 percent of the water.  

Local Roots leases their container farmsTerraFarms, to a multitude of businesses, such as wholesalers, restaurant chains, and even SpaceX. The United Nations is interested and preparing to field-test them, too. 

Sustainable Growth 

Local Roots employs plant scientists, botanists, agronomists, and engineers who work together and continuously evolve to develop stronger, more affordable, more nutrient-dense crops. Their studies set the stage for sustainable, more nutritious, and better-tasting produce. 

Local Roots also aims to have a positive impact on the environment, with TerraFarms designed to reduce the harmful impacts of agriculture. From pest management and food safety to energy efficiency and water conservation, Local Roots complies with the Sustainably Grown Standard. The Sustainably Grown Certification Program confirms that agricultural products meet the highest level of environmental, social, and economic sustainability. 

Efficient Irrigation 

TerraFarm’s hydroponics farm 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, including butterhead lettuce, baby kale, Italian basil, and arugula. 

To extend water efficiency and recirculation, Local Roots uses 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. 

Time Savings 

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. Traditional outdoor farming takes at least twice as long to grow crops compared to urban farming. 

Lower Operating Costs 

Local Roots buys old shipping containers from the Port of Los Angeles for about $5,000 and retrofits them for more than double that. After customizing the container farmsometimes referred to as vertical farm or freight farmthey contract it out to clients for a set period of time 

The clients place the mobile freight farms at food distribution centers to cut out days or even weeks of travel time and shipping costs. 

Fresh Produce

Local Roots claims the plants grow under optimal conditions, getting all the nutrients they need, resulting in clean, fresh, and tasty produce. 

Here’s a list of what they’re currently growing in the container farm:

  • 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 continually working and testing trial crops.  

Here’s a list of crops they’re currently 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 worldwide to address sustainability and provide long-term solution for economic growthInterested in starting your own hydroponic farm or greenhouse using shipping containers? Check out our in-depth guide to choosing a container that meets your specific needs.  

If you already know what you’re looking forget started by browsing shipping containers near you or request a quote today.