All About Freight Container Farming

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Are you dreaming of having a sustainable garden in your home, but a family member has allergies? Maybe you really don’t have quite enough room indoors, so you have been putting off your vegetable garden dreams? An outdoor garden would be ideal, but you want it to be able to last year-round without having to dig up and relocate during off-seasons. Freight container farming may be the perfect solution for you, and in this article, you will learn all of the basics of freight container farming.

Freight boxes, cargo boxes, shipping containers, or truck boxes, no matter what you call them, can be repurposed for many different uses. Freight boxes can become storage buildings, tiny homes, or converted into gardens, which is innovative and amazing to experience. 

Basics of Freight Container Farming

Basics of Freight Container Farming

Before you begin your freight container farming journey, you need to research the basics. Where to begin, what supplies are required, plants you can grow, should you buy a ready-to-go freight container or start from scratch, and is it for personal or business use.

Never start a freight farm blindly without figuring out what you need to begin and asking yourself the above general questions. After you have a guideline for what you want and where you want to start, then you will continue to learn as you go.

What is Fright Container Farming?

What is Fright Container Farming?

Freight container farming is also sometimes called farm boxes or even vertical gardens. They are a system of growing plants with hydroponics in a controlled environment year-round. Farm boxes are easy to relocate, making them ideal for anyone to add their yards if wanting to get in on the adventure of freight farming.

Some companies sell freight containers set up and ready for immediate use for vertical farming. However, you can purchase any freight box, add in the hydroponic systems, grow lights, and gardening supplies, to be well on your way to having created your personalized farm box.

What is The Purpose of Freight Farming?

What is The Purpose of Freight Farming?

There is deeper reasoning for freight farming aside from the space, allergies, convenience, and general surface level purposes.

Controlled Environment Agriculture, CEA, provides optimal conditions for crops to grow and thrive no matter the time of year, weather, or other factors. Inside conditions of the freight container will be regulated to ensure the crops inside consistently receive all the necessary nutrients, light, warmth, water, etc., to prosper.

CEA not only controls and regulates conditions, but it also helps rid the problems of outside invaders such as animals, pests, diseases, and bugs. This factor alone helps ensure freshness, safety, and preserves flavors of the grown crops.

Regulating all aspects of the plant’s environment is exceptionally beneficial for farmers and consumers. Many crops can be grown in a small space with fewer chances of waste, saving energy, water, money, and labor while providing consumers healthier, safer, fresher, and cheaper crops.

What is Hydroponics?

What is Hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants or crops without a soil base. No soil is used in hydroponic growing systems; instead, plants will be suspended in nutrient-filled water or placed into a medium such as foam, clay, wool cubes, or other media.

In the hydroponics method, nutrients are no longer distributed throughout the soil, but rather nutrients are provided to the crops throughout the water.

Plants To Grow When Freight Container Farming

Plants To Grow When Freight Container Farming

In retrospect, any plant grown by hydroponics can be grown in freight farms. These are a few of the most popular grown in these vertical gardens.

Leafy Greens (known for being the easiest plants for hydroponic systems):

  • Lettuce
  • Butterhead
  • Romaine
  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Bok Choi
  • Bibb

Herbs (classified as beginner level):

  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Chives

Vining Plants:

  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas

Fruits:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

Roots (can sometimes be a bit more challenging – not recommended for beginners):

  • Onions
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Turnips
  • Radishes

Flowers:

  • Viola
  • Peace Lily
  • Orchids
  • Carnation
  • Daffodil
  • Hyacinth
  • Amaryllis
  • Hoya
  • Zinna
  • Snapdragon
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Petunia

The most significant factor in deciding which plants to grow when freight farming is simple; you must first choose the purpose for starting your farm box. Do you want to have a vegetable garden? Do you simply wish to grow beautiful flowers to look at and gift on occasions? Do you want to grow your own fruits? Are you wanting a section of all your favorites to dabble in producing all types? Are you starting your freight farming for profits?

Supplies Needed for Freight Container Farming

Supplies Needed for Freight Container Farming

One of the great things about adding a box farm to your home or business is that they have plenty of space inside, leaving plenty of room to add some shelving at the entrance to include your typical gardening supplies. This storage space allows you to house everything in one place, always on hand and readily available.

Supplies will vary vastly, based on the type of plants or crops you decide to produce; these are some of the general supplies to consider adding to your arsenal.

  • Seeds
  • Cuttings
  • Nutrient Solutions
  • PH Meter
  • Rock Wool Cubes
  • Clay Pebbles
  • Foam
  • Perlite
  • Hand Shovel
  • Humidity Dome
  • Grow Lights
  • Labels
  • Egg Cartons
  • Yogurt Cups
  • Electrical Conductivity Meter
  • Logbook
  • Water Thermometer
  • Pruning Shears
  • Containers/Pots
  • Measuring Cups
  • Ruler
  • Pipettes
  • Scale
  • Bleach
  • Shop-Vac
  • Scrub Brush
  • Broom & Dustpan
  • Isopropyl Alcohol

On hand tools should range from what may be needed to plant seeds, transfer buds into hydroponic grow systems, prune rip plant, filter nutrients, check temperatures, and all the way to cleaning up.

While hydroponic grow systems are easier to maintain and regulate than old school soil and outdoor conditions, you still must monitor PH levels, nutrient levels, check water temperatures, check heat temperatures, and just overall keep an eye on the systems to make sure they are functioning correctly.

Optimal Growing Conditions Inside Freight Container Farms

Optimal Growing Conditions Inside Freight Container Farms

One of the significant benefits of freight farms is regulating growing conditions, and these are the optimal conditions for lighting, temperature, and pH for most plants.

Light

When farming a hydroponic garden, lighting will vary by plant, but a good rule of thumb is to ensure your artificial lighting provides a minimum of 15 hours of sunlight daily. Timers for LEDs and grow lights make it easy to maintain optimal daylight and darkness every day.

Water Temperatures

As you may have noticed in the supplies list, it includes a water thermometer. A water thermometer is suggested because the majority of plants like to keep their water temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water temperatures that are too low can cause plants to grow at a slower pace, and if the temperature is too high, plants will begin wilting. Maintaining water temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees can help keep plants happy and thriving.

Freight Space Temperatures

Similar to the water temperatures, you want to aim to regulate the space for your plants between 65- and 75- degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the area comfortable will help ensure the plants are growing optimally.

Humidity

Luckily for fright container farmers, humidity is not something most need to be concerned about since the plants grow hydroponically. Hydroponic systems do an excellent job of keeping the space humid.

However, if you find yourself troubleshooting a dry area and need to add some moisture to the air, simply add a large humidifier to the cargo box.

Cost of Freight Container Farm Boxes

Cost of Freight Container Farm Boxes

Freight containers, farm boxes, cargo boxes, shipping containers, or whatever you choose to call them can be relatively inexpensive for the container themselves.

However, even though you can find an inexpensive cargo box, the cost will begin to rack up when you start adding in all the necessary setup tools.

Setup tools needed to begin freight container farming:

  • Lighting System – The lighting systems contain the LED lights, grow lights, timers, and wiring.
  • Growing System – When you think growing system, think of the racks, shelves, trays, and chambers.
  • Irrigation System – The irrigation system is all about water, the pump, nutrient bins, valves, reservoir, and piping.
  • Atmospheric System – This system container the container itself in addition to the container’s insulation, HVAC, and ventilation.
  • Monitoring System – When setting up this system, you must include all your controls and monitoring needs, such as alarms, light sensors, timers, temperature gauges, alkalinity sensors, and humidity sensors.

Common Plant Problems to Monitor

Common Plant Problems to Monitor

No matter how much you spend setting up your freight container garden and how much you monitor, your plants’ problems can and will occasionally arise. Below are some common issues to look out for on your crops when freight container farming.

Wilting

If you have plants that just look sad and droopy, this can indicate wilting, and usually, wilting just means the plants need more water access due to being thirsty. However, whenever you have a plant with a sad appearance, always check the roots to ensure there are no issues with root rot before throwing in more water.

Too much water can also cause wilting, and too much water can cause root rot. If your plants are droopy and you see indications of root rot, remove the affected roots and allow your plant time to dry out for a couple of days before starting irrigation again. Depending on your hydroponic system, this may mean you need to move your plant out of irrigation temporarily.

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are due to one or two reasons. One, your plant has root rot and needs to be discarded. If the roots are affected to the point it is yellowing the plant; it is probably time to throw away the plant and start over.

Reason two, the plant needs a nutrient boost. If your plant has yellowing leaves and the roots look fine, then add a nutrient boost to the plant.

Pest

Due to the controlled conditions of freight farming, pests should not be a common problem, yet, it does still happen. If you see a dust-like appearance affecting your plants, it indicates pests. Black soot is a sign of aphids, and white dust means whiteflies.

Diseases

Diseases can happen even in controlled environments, especially if they sneak in on a new plant. It is crucial to catch diseases quickly to eradicate the problem to prevent spreading. If you notice your plants or crops to have what appears like scabs on the leaves, it indicates a fungal disease. Remove the plant and treat it before integrating back near other plants.

Maintenance

As with any other garden, one of the basics of freight container farming includes regular maintenance. You must check your systems regularly, clean the space regularly, refill nutrients regularly, and harvest crops daily. Keeping the shipping container garden clean and tidy will help prevent unexpected issues that could not only drain your pocket but ruin your garden.

Freight Container Farming – The Wrap-up

Whether for personal use or profit, freight container farming can and should be a fun and exciting avenue to explore. The initial setup may seem daunting, but once you know the basics of freight container farming, your farm box is set up and ready for use; it will not only be a breeze to maintain but extremely rewarding.

FAQ

If you decide to venture into freight farming for profit, you will be happy to know it can make a significant return on investment. Freight farming can save money and reduce waste making the crops you grow more profitable. It is also space-saving, meaning you can produce many crops in a small area.

Sunlight is not a possibility in a shipping container since there are no windows, and the goal is to regulate conditions. Instead of relying on daylight hours, you must incorporate LED or grow lights with timers. Most crops prefer to have an average of 15 hours of daylight each day.

Any plant that can be grown using hydroponics can be grown in a freight farm or farm box. Flowers, fruits, herbs, and vegetables are all possibilities. If you are a beginner gardener or new to hydroponics, lettuce and herbs are known to be the best to start and use to learn the basics.

No, freight container farming is a process of growing crops or plants using hydroponics. Hydroponics does not use soil; instead, it is a water-based system that uses other media such as clay, foam, or wool cubes when needed. Nutrients for the plants are not delivered via soil but rather through water irrigation.

Freight container farming is the process of repurposing an old shipping container into a full-fledge regulated and controlled gardening space using hydroponic systems.

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