The allure of container farming has introduced many new farmers to indoor agriculture. The portability and low fixed costs have expanded the possibilities for grow sites for many people. Industry players estimate that there are between 250 and 300 branded container farms in the world, with likely as many homegrown operations in existence.
This growing practice has not only captured the imagination of the media, but it has also attracted entrepreneurs and investors. A container farm’s size, cost and ability to grow in extreme temperatures have made it a great option for the right kind of farmer. While they do have their niche and their own challenges, container farms have several advantages.
Number 5 – Encourages New Farmers
The concept and introduction of container farming has been a fantastic contributor to indoor agriculture. Research indicates that around 80% of container farmers are new to the practice. These new farmers have transitioned into the industry from professions like construction, finance and consulting. While they viewed other options somewhat confusing, they viewed container farms as a manageable option to farming. As farming as a whole is seeing an aging workforce with an average of 60 years’ old, globally , indoor farming is enticing a much-needed new group of farmers into the industry.
Number 4 – Investor Interest
Container farming has captured the interest of investors, including well-regarded venture capitalists. Both equipment suppliers and growers have been able to raise funds from a variety of different sources. In the past year alone, Paris-based strawberry farmer Agricool, Boston-based equipment provider Freight Farms and Brooklyn-based grower Square Roots have each raised rounds. Although they are small in comparison to investments raised by plant factory companies, they have increased significantly recently, with 2017 seeing over 18MM raised, more than double the funding of the prior year.
Number 3 – Speed to Market
Fixed structures require a longer process of site selection, design, manufacturing, permitting and construction. This process could take more than a year. With container farms, however, some suppliers can deliver a fully-operational container farm in just a few months. Once you are sure your farm meets all of your local zoning requirements, preparing your site involves identifying or pouring a level concrete pad and connecting water and electricity.
Number 2 – Flexible Siting
Container farming is a great option for growing in many different situations because they can be sited in food deserts and harsh environments. With the proper permits and zoning, they can essentially be placed anywhere that can bear their weight and has a level surface. Unlike a fixed structure, they can be relocated. Their flexible siting opens possibilities to locate an indoor farm in diverse locations like alleys behind restaurants, corporate campuses, urban rooftops…the possibilities can be endless.
Number 1 – Comparatively Low Price
At its lowest, the cost of entry into container farming could essentially be a mix of new and used equipment from local stores and online vendors. These costs have been reported as low as US$15,000-$20,000 per fully-operational container farm. As technologies continue to improve and become more readily available, fixed costs can continue to decrease. For example, in 2017, the prices for LED lighting were forecast to fall by more than 40% by 2020. Since lighting makes up around a quarter of total fixed costs, this represents a significant cost saving to container farmers. For a new, fully functional unit, such as the Leafy Green Machine™ manufactured by Freight Farms, farmers can own a container farm for around US$85,000.
Want to know more? Don’t miss the 6th Annual Indoor Ag Con 2-3 May at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Make sure to catch the session What Farm Structures Work Best for Indoor Grows? with special guests Brad McNamara, CEO of Freight Farms and Erik Ijntema, Export Manager for Certhon. You can find the complete speaking agenda here. Want to attend? You can register here. Want to join a variety of exhibitors? You can register to exhibit here. Ω