Boston’s Freight Farms Grows Greens In Shipping Containers

Boston’s Freight Farms Grows Greens In Shipping Containers

Boston’s Freight Farms Grows Greens In Shipping Containers

Imagine leafy greens growing in Boston’s bitter winter, or fresh herbs thriving in the rocky mountains of Colorado. This is all possible, by way of farming inside shipping containers. The Leafy Green Machine, a creation of Freight Farms of Boston, Massachusetts, provides a way to grow greens in the harshest of climates and in urban settings. 

Becoming A Business

It all started with Boston rooftops. Freight Farms co-founders Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman originally thought roof top greenhouses were the way to farm in an urban setting, but that proved difficult.

“There were challenges with infrastructure, not all city rooftops are uniform and it was not a viable way to grow a large amount of crops,” said Caroline Katsiroubas, Community Manager for Freight Farms. 

“Then the co-founders had the idea to grow produce in shipping containers,” Katsiroubas said, adding that the shipping container is a uniform structure where the growing environment could be controlled. The containers allow for year-round growing and vertical farming, which maximizes space for food production. 

The 40’ x 8’ x 9.5’ shipping container, dubbed the Leafy Green Machine, or LGM for short, is outfitted with a hydroponic growing system, innovative climate technology and growing equipment. At $82,000, the container also comes with an app with which to remotely monitor crop growth.

“You can see real-time data on the farm: air, water, nutrients, and plant growth,” explained Katsiroubas, adding that this is an attractive benefit to the farming operation.

“This appeals to a lot of customers, as it cuts down on the time they have to be at the farm, and removes certain variables that make farming challenging in urban or other environments,” described Katsiroubas. 

Growing Greens

“Smaller, compact crops such as leafy greens grow well in this setting,” explained Katsiroubas.

Think head lettuce, kale, swiss chard, herbs such as basil, thyme, mint and more.

“We are also experimenting with tomatoes, strawberries, squash and peppers,” said Katsiroubas, adding that while hydroponics has traditionally been associated with bland tasting produce, Freight Farms is challenging that notion.    

“We are able to create a crop recipe of sorts, where climate and nutrients are controlled to yield optimal tasting greens,” explained Katsiroubas. 

The end result?

“Mustard greens with incredible spicy flavor, arugula with a lot of punch,” described Katsiroubas. 

Growing Business

The company concept started in 2011 while the first few sales of the Leafy Green Machine occurred in 2013. Forty containers were sold in 2015, and that number is growing rapidly.

Success stories include Freight Farms in Montana, Colorado, downtown Boston, downtown Detroit, and in places such as city public high schools and universities, to name a few. 

“We are on track to add 150 farms to our network this year,” said Katsiroubas, adding that a Freight Farm shipping container can be found in at least 22 states. This method of farming is a perfect fit for certain areas or environments.

“For any place that is remote, or has limited access to fresh produce, or an area that only has access to incredibly expensive produce, this method of growing greens is ideal.”

For more information:

Caroline Katsiroubas

Freight Farms

+1 877 687 4326

Publication date: 5/5/2016
Author: Jennifer Harrison

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