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The United States imports more than $100 billion of food every year from farms across the globe, often in the big metal shipping containers you see on cargo ships. Now, entrepreneurs are using those shipping containers to grow local produce.
“Freight Farms” are shipping containers modified to grow stacks of hydroponic plants and vegetables. It’s a new way for small-scale farmers to grow crops year-round in a computer-controlled environment, even in the middle of the city.
Freight Farms co-founders Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara started their Boston-based company in 2010.
The shipping containers are insulated, and all the systems – from pumps to irrigation to LED growing lights – can be digitally controlled. The Freight Farms are also Wi-Fi hot spots, so farmers can check on things like pH levels remotely using a mobile dashboard.
“They can set alerts. They can set alarms,” McNamara says, adding, “So if you’re at home and it’s really cold outside, your farm is covered in snow, you don’t actually have to leave your house to go check on things.”
Freight Farms says it has sold about 25 of the containers so far, at a cost starting at $76,000 each.
Shawn and Connie Cooney are two urban farmers putting the technology into action in Boston.
“In a city, you can grow enough produce using this technology to make a scalable business. So you can sell wholesale as well as retail and have a real business,” Shawn Cooney tells Hobson.
Read more original article NPR
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