In recent years, shipping containers have seen many second-hand applications. As almost ideal sustainable building resource, they have been modified into, office spaces, vacation homes, condos, and even bars and public libraries. Their corrugated steel construction makes them rugged, able to withstand vertical and horizontal forces, and their design makes them easy to stack one onto another or interlock at 90 degrees. All these characteristics make them ideal for lot of uses, especially buildings. Thanks to their adaptability and versatility, creative designers have come up with very modern and daring solutions.
Containers as Productive Units
It shouldn’t surprise that some industrious entrepreneurs have grasped the economy and ubiquity of shipping containers as a productive units. There is a number of successful examples of containers modified into greenhouses, or vertical vegetable gardens. One of them is a young Atlanta-based company called PodPonics. They started converting retired shipping containers into small hydroponic farms, that can be transported in the areas of need and produce fresh vegetables anywhere in the world.
Intensive Farming in 20 feet
The company CEO Matt Liotta says that its six container farms are supplying local market with 200 pounds of leafy greens a week. And the best thing is that one unit measuring 320 square feet can produce the same amount as one acre of farmland. Apart from being made with sustainable materials, PodPonic’s farms use no pesticides and significantly less water and fertilizers. Local foodservice businesses have given them flying reviews for the quality of their lettuce. Their biggest selling point is the fact that their vegetables are only a couple of hours old.
Innovator and Gardener
Another creative individual, Damien Chivialle, has brought the whole concept of container garden onto a much higher level. His 20-foot long Urban Farm Units are complex food producing pods with lots of uses, smartly designed to include every aspect of farming and combine in in a single container unit. His UFU consists of a shipping container foundation with a greenhouse garden superstructure with a metal staircase for accessing the greenhouse. The whole affair is modular and adaptable.
Hydroponic technology of these farms combines traditional tools and knowledge with high performance output. The lower level includes a fish pond and a cleaning tank which are used to fertilize the plants and recycle water. In the cleaning tank, fish feces are degraded by bacteria into minerals which fertilize the plants, which then filter the water returning it back to the fish. It’s a closed circuit operation that is even designed to collect methane from the tank to power a backup generator.
Perfect for Urban Areas
On the greenhouse level, vegetables and herbs are exposed to the sunlight, but protected from the city air pollution. These container farms have already been tried out in Brussels and Zurich, where their versatility has been proven. In other words they are a perfect solution for growing fresh and organic food in crowded cities, where there is little agricultural land, little room, and the air is far below the food-growing standard.
As such, these container farming units are designed for easy transport and simple deployment in areas where fresh locally grown vegetables are in high demand, and the municipal situation makes traditional greenhouses impossible to manage.