Shipping container farming creating opportunity to grow anything anywhere
DENVER — Looking at a Colorado used car lot from the street, you see nothing but a shipping container. However when you step inside, it suddenly feels like the future. Nick Millisor is the founder of Ullr’s Garden.
“How much nutrients these little plants are getting to how much light, how much red light versus blue light and it also keeps track of everything from PH levels to temperature to humidity,” Millisor said.
Millisor is talking about the technology inside of what is actually considered a farm.
“If we were only growing lettuce heads, we could produce about 1,000 heads of lettuce every single week, 365 days a year,” Millisor said.
Ullr’s Garden is a brand-new business growing the equivalent of a 10-acre farm inside two shipping containers in the heart of downtown Denver.
“I thought there were like three types of lettuce, I was very wrong. There’s a lot more,” Millisor said.
Caroline Katsiroubas is the marketing director for the Boston-based company Freight Farms. Their mission is to empower anyone to start growing food regardless of background.
“So you don’t need a family history in farming or a background in agriculture or agronomy to get started. We kind of provide the technology and the platform and then the training and support for you to get up and running,” Katsiroubas said.
Freight Farms said from the snowy Canadian wilderness to Middle Eastern deserts, concrete urban jungles, and everywhere in between, these farms present a reliable source of high-quality and sustainable produce 365 days a year.
“All around making urban agriculture a viable option for food production,” Katsiroubas said.
This is just one company creating these opportunities on every corner of the globe, with more than 550 farms spread out across the world, including in 48 U.S. states and territories.
“It’s to be able to grow food in places that traditionally or historically have not been able to grow their own food,” Millisor said.
What differentiates this from your typical vertical farming warehouse is the size. Smaller space allows for greater changes faster.
“Let’s look at our local community in Denver and Colorado and what is a huge problem right now is water,” Millisor said.
Farming is the most water-intensive industry on the planet. Farms account for 70% of all water that is consumed annually. That’s over 2 quadrillion gallons of water, which is enough to cover the entire United States in 2 feet of water. Ullr’s Garden only uses 5 gallons daily, which is 95% less water than traditional farming. Dan Goldhamer with Colorado State University’s Denver Extension, which is an extended education program that focuses on agriculture, says the individualization will not only help with this new approach to farming but also with traditional farming.
“In agriculture, there is never one solution that fits all sizes and that container farming and controlled environmental agriculture definitely has a role to play,” Goldhamer said. “What’s really interesting too about container farms is the ability to collect and manage a whole bunch of data and really kind of design systems that you can steer really easily to maximize those efficiencies.”
“Technologies like this are going to be a very important piece of the solution,” Millisor said. “We have this saying, think global act local.”
That’s exactly what this concept is about. Thinking about agriculture and climate from a larger perspective and making a change in your own community.