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Living in Texas, we can sometimes take our fresh produce for granted. Our local farmers and ranchers have made Austin a destination for foodies, but other places have fewer options. Colder climates have a limited window for growing and consuming fresh produce, especially leafy greens. Other communities lie deep in urban areas where there’s little open space for a vegetable gardens. For both of these cases, mobile greenhouses built inside of shipping containers may be an option.
All farming (with the exception of hydroponics, but more on that later) comes down to soil. Unfortunately, the dirt in urban and even suburban areas is too dry and malnourished to support even the hardiest vegetables—not even kale!
A shipping container greenhouse can be placed on a concrete pad with no site prep. Protected inside a container, the soil will be safe from wind and environmental pollutants. Skylights can be added to the roof top to let the sun in as crops grow in an insulated environment.
Containers lend themselves extremely well to hydroponic systems, where farmers grow plants directly in water supplemented with nutrients. Indoor hydroponic systems are extremely water efficient and protect crops from pests and disease, leading to high yields.
Some farmers take hydroponics a step further. By adding a culture of bacteria and fish to the water, farmers can create a self-sustaining ecosystem that requires minimal nutritional supplements for the plants. This approach is known as aquaponics. Who knew containers could become tiny eco-systems?
In northern Canada, cold and icy conditions start in the fall and continue through the spring. Locally-grown, fresh produce in the middle of winter is possible in a heated, insulated shipping container greenhouse. Check out how one woman created Canada’s first vertical mushroom farm in a shipping container in this video from the Edmonton Journal.
Certain crops are extremely sensitive to environmental conditions including humidity, air flow, and temperature. In addition, these crops sell at such a high value that adding security is a worthwhile investment. High end climate control systems can be installed in shipping container greenhouses to create that perfect environment. Plus, the crop will be secure behind reinforced personnel doors and steel walls.
Beyond use as greenhouses, shipping containers have a lot to offer agriculture. Check out these other solutions:
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