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Shipping Containers – The Future of Farming

by Kathleen Donohoe

Shipping containers are often thought of in regards to storage, or transport, but how often do you think about using shipping containers for farming? New advancements and trials around the world  and Australia have shown that containers are suited to a new trend called vertical farming – using artificial LED lighting and usually smaller types of produce like vegetables and herbs stacked vertically, with all environmental factors totally controlled.

One of these trials has been put into action by a Victorian man, Frank Donato, who added a shipping container to his 4 hectare Mornington Peninsula Hydroponics business, fully fitted with specifically coloured LED lighting for plant photosynthesis and a carbon dioxide injector imported from New Zealand. His original trial was five years ago when Mr Donato began looking for a way to reduce the losses from temperature changes during the summer – and he managed to grow over 1000 basil plants to maturity more than twice as fast inside the shipping container versus in regular conditions.

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After this impressive feat, he has started making plans to transform his entire farm – the plants are near perfect and even meet Coles’ specifications. Currently Mr Donato sells his produce to Coles, Riches supermarkets, Victorian stalls and markets and to their on-site cafe, run by his sons.

With Australian summers, it’s not hard to see how many farmers would lose a lot of their crops to heat, and one of the major advantages of using a shipping container for farming is the control it allows over these factors, with a minimal start up cost on the building where traditional building that would create extra expense. Other losses from disease or pests would almost, if not entirely be eradicated and stacking the produce vertically means more can be planted and therefore produced each round.

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With advancement in technology, systems like Mr Donato’s can be fully automated and connected, like humidity controlled air conditioning, fertilisation and carbon dioxide injections – and all can be solar powered, again saving on costs. And as with any shipping container – they are so durable and safe they will stand the test of time, and can be locked and secured for piece of mind for your produce.

Not to be outdone, a Canadian company Modular Farms Co., launched its first vertical hydroponic farm in Brisbane recently, helping to provide food to those in need via organisations like OzHarvest, but also supplying food vendors at the city’s Eat Street Northshore markets. Definitely a rising trend in Australia, this kind of forward thinking using shipping container aims to reduce food waste and increase food freshness.

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Using shipping containers also creates the ability to raise the amount of stock without using up too much land where it may not be available – by stacking containers on top of each other. A great advancement for farming – and the world’s built up, urban areas – as our population grows at such a rapid rate, we need to find ways to grow and feed them while encroaching on too much land. Do you think you would like to give vertical farming a try? Call the Container Traders today on 1300 89 89 70 to organise a container to suit you!