Growing food in vertical containers is one of the most effective ways to produce more food with less space. Vertical farming makes agriculture more sustainable and productive than ever before, reduces pollution problems and water usage, helps to meet the demand for a rapidly growing world population, and improves traditional farming practices.
Vertical farming is seen as a sustainable way of growing food because it takes advantage of unused roof and wall space found in modern buildings. Vertical farming containers have also been described as one of the most exciting new growth possibilities in industrial design and architecture.
Through this article, you will learn about vertical farming containers and finding ways to improve the concept.
Are Vertical Farming Containers A New Type Of Agriculture?
Over the last five years, the popularity of Vertical farming in containers has grown tremendously, and when you look at the following facts, you understand the reason for this.
- The World population is expected to surpass 9,7 billion people by 2050 with a growth rate of 26%.
- The quantity of arable land has dramatically decreased due to the effects of industrialization and urbanization. In the last 40 years, we can testify to one-third of arable land being lost.
With stats such as these, vertical farming in containers has taken off, with companies such as NASA and SpaceX probing into using them in human-crewed missions to the Moon and Mars!
Vertical farming in containers is the answer to these environmental issues for the following reasons.
Vertical FarmingContainers Don’t Require Soil
No soil is used in vertical farming containers. Therefore plants can still grow indoors in the absence of arable land.
Containers Yield More Crops
Vertical farming containers can be stacked, allowing for a greater yield of crops in restricted space. One container yields 2500 heads of lettuce within a single week, according to Hugh McGilligan, chief executive of Sprout Stack, Australia. This rate is 30 % faster than traditional farming.
No Pesticides Or Fertilizers In Vertical Farming Containers
One of the toughest challenges traditional farmers face is the infestation of pests. Farmers can lose their entire crops through pest infestation.
There is less exposure to insects and pests in a controlled environment, which means less chance of crops being destroyed by pests. In container farming, no pesticides, fertilizers, or chemicals are used; therefore, the plants grow organically and more sustainably.
Container Farming Reduces Supply Chain
In traditional farming, crops are harvested at farms, which in many cases are distances away from the consumers. During transportation, the vegetables lose valuable nutrients, etc.
With vertical farming in the container, big businesses, restaurants, and small-town grocers can bring the produce to customers with shorter lead times.
Overview Of Shipping Container Farming
Essentially you are farming vegetables within a confined space, also known as “controlled environment farming”, with no sunlight, soil, or traditional farming methods. With climate change affecting traditional farming methods, creators of vertical farming containers have devised the following three methods to support vertical container farming.
Hydroponic Vertical Farming Containers
Hydroponics involves the growing of plants in an environment devoid of soil. Instead, the plants’ roots are submerged in water containing all necessary and vital nutrients, micronutrients, and minerals.
Hydroponics is the preferred method in container farming because it yields a higher quantity of crops. Also, unlike traditional farming, where large amounts of water are required, hydroponics consumes less water.
Aquaponics Vertical Farming Containers
Aquaponics is another technique of growing plants without soil. The term aquaponics is derived from aquaculture, referring to fish farming and hydroponics.
Aquaponics is a cyclic or closed-loop system involving nutrient-rich wastewater from fish tanks being filtered and then metered into the plant tanks. The plants then absorb all necessary nutrients and cleanse the water further.
Using aquaponics is another way of controlling the temperatures within the container, ensuring a stable growing environment for plants.
Unfortunately, aquaponics is not as widely used as hydroponics because more elements are involved in setting up an aquaponics container.
Aeroponics Container Farming
Aeroponics may seem like something out of a science fiction movie! Unlike hydroponics and aquaponics, no solid medium is required for plant growth in aeroponics. Rather plants suspended in vertical containers are misted with a liquid solution of all necessary nutrients and minerals.
Aeroponics is, therefore, the best choice for farming in containers because it utilizes 90% less water, and no growing medium is needed. In addition, the vertical design aids in energy saving as gravity drains any excess liquids, unlike hydroponics systems, which require water systems to manage and control excess water.
6 Important Decisions To Make When Setting up Vertical Farming Containers
It is predicted that the vertical farming containers industry will increase by 22% year on year in Europe. With the ongoing call for UK farmers to diversify their crops, rewild the land and opt for greener growing practices, there is a notable increase in container farming.
The increasing interest in vertical farming containers is partly due to the fact that not much farming experience is required. For example, many companies, like LettUs Grow, an established brand in the container farming industry, offer farmers technical support and marketing assistance in building the brand.
If you are inspired to give container farming a try, here are six steps to follow.
1. Conduct research
Before undertaking a project such as a container farming start-up, the first step is to conduct a market analysis. A few core points to focus on are.
Container Farming Technique
First, consider which farming technique interests you. Is it hydroponics, aquaponics, or aeroponics? Companies already in the industry like LettUs grow, or Growpodsolutions are funding the vertical farming containers market and have all the resources, including training for all newbies.
If your interest lies in hydroponic farming, find out all you can about it, the advantages and disadvantages, what training is required, the expenses, etc. They will take you through all that’s necessary before making your final decision. However, some research is still required by you.
It helps to know whom you will be serving before getting started. Are there other container farms already in existence in your area? What can you learn from them, and how will that improve your business model?
Alternatively, if you are the trailblazer in container farming, you need to ask yourself, whom will you be supplying? Or if you are thinking of setting up a container farm, not for profit but for educational purposes. Instead, you would provide your community with service and educate them about the benefits thereof, the impact on the environment, etc.
That being the case, you need to be confident and know everything there is about container farming and the various types and techniques related to that.
2. Location Of The Vertical Farming Containers
Every marketing strategist will advise you, Location, Location, Location!! One of the best features of container farming is transporting your box-cart farm to any location you want.
You decide whether you want to be around and supply businesses, educational institutes, the suburbs, or restaurants. Based on your research and business model, you determine your customers and the miles your produce travels.
With these aspects in mind, you should be practical and consider the following.
- An uninterrupted electrical and water supply
- A suitable system for waste drainage
- A reliable high-speed Internet connection
- A flat surface is important but not essential as containers can be raised over a platform if the ground is not flat enough.
3. Type Of Crops Best Suited For Vertical Farming Containers
Your target market will ultimately determine the crop you will produce. You will learn which is the preferred crop and the quantities needed through your market research. You will factor in which crop is best suited to your customer base and which is best suited to your preferred method of container farming.
Are salad greens best suited for hydroponics? Micro and salad greens in salad bags are trendy and known for their versatility. They are much in demand amongst restaurants, retail, and grocery stores. If those are your target market, you will choose hydroponics because of the higher yield.
4. Develop A Business Plan
Developing a good business plan goes a long way in structuring your business in the short term and long term. Using your business strategy, you determine and set goals towards
- Your price
- The quantities you will produce and sell
- The energy costs involved in making your venture profitable
You will also need to consider renewable energy resources and reduce traveling time by positioning your container close to your customers. This ensures your container farming is sustainable while also achieving your business goals.
5. Financing Your Vertical Farming Containers
Setting up a container farm is no mean feat. It takes determination, understanding, and strategy. But as with all new start-ups, a healthy dose of finance is also required. Many business strategists will advise against using the business owners’ capital to start a business. Having a well-structured business plan goes a long way in getting investments. It is best to get a loan or funding from a reliable source.
There are several well-established shipping container farming companies willing to assist those interested in a start-up container farm. Funding organizations such as Contain. ag assist farmers with farming technology if required.
The other source of funding may also be Government grants. You may look at your Government website for more information regarding grants.
6. Expert Advice
Nothing beats first-hand knowledge and experience from someone long in the industry. Make an effort to get to know those already in the container farming industry. You can conduct online interviews and research articles while you branch out independently.
Perhaps you have the experience and knowledge of farming but don’t have the business skills or acumen required to run or market your business. Many experts are always eager and ready to help out a budding entrepreneur.
DIY Vertical Farming Containers
Building a DIY container farm is a great way to grow your own food, even if you don’t have a lot of space. Shipping containers are readily available and can be repurposed into hydroponic farms, utilising every available square foot. These small farms can provide you with fresh produce all year round and can even sell it at farmers’ markets or grocery stores.
Due to the high cost of developing specialised growing technologies, not even to mention the high cost of renting expensive urban land, unsatisfying harvests can be financially devastating.
The best course of action, though, will be to buy a complete system from a manufacturer. The financial viability of a container farm will be greatly aided by the ability to produce crops profitably right away. The market is so small that even though you might be able to find a used container farm, most customers choose to purchase new.
Final Thoughts on Vertical Farming Containers
Vertical farming containers are a feasible and economical solution. Large amounts of food can be produced by using small amounts of land. Benefits of vertical farming in the container include lower transportation costs for crops and higher crop yield in smaller spaces. These, along with other benefits, make it ideal for nations suffering from hunger and malnutrition issues.