Controlled Environment Agriculture Is The Future of Food
Indoor AgCon 2022 was full of inspiring and informative sessions and speakers. The main takeaway: Controlled Environment Agriculture is the future of food. Growing food in a controlled environment provides a stable and dependable framework that is currently missing in our food supply chain. The ability to grow food 365 days a year regardless of season or location without pesticides or harsh chemicals is revolutionary.
I was invited to speak on a panel discussion about shipping container farms and represent Imagine Farms, which is funny because we don’t identify as a shipping container farm although we use shipping containers as the building blocks of our system.
We differentiate ourselves from Shipping Container Farm businesses (Freight Farms, Crop Box, etc.) as we are not in the business of building and selling turnkey systems.
Rather, we worked with a designer to build our system, using the insulated shipping containers as a shell. Currently, we use the shipping containers as grow rooms and adjacent functional spaces (walk in cooler, pack room, nursery). At this time, we have 8 rooms dedicated to Leafy Greens and Petite Root vegetable production and 2 rooms dedicated to Mushrooms.
This process has inspired our vision to build a large scale production farm with groups of grow rooms that work together to grow a variety of crops under one roof – this might mean a warehouse farm with grow rooms built out and/or continuing to utilize shipping containers for this purpose (indoor or outdoors – or a combo of both). We are in the early stages of raising a Series A to build 15-20 grow rooms under one room with the addition of automation to begin to fulfill the demand in South Florida.
Cheryl and I started in one shipping container farm that we built ourselves (with the designer) – and did it all ourselves for the first 2 years – we acquired hands-on experience growing as well as all the different aspects involved with growing and distributing food; integrated technology, tested different crops, sales, marketing, distribution, accounting, packaging, food safety, etc. Most importantly, we were able to test the market which is the framework for building the business.
When we started Imagine Farms we appreciated the positive attributes that come with growing in a controlled environment; significant decrease in water usage when compared to field farming, growing without pesticides, and the positive aspects of ‘farm to table’ as a service. Now, it is evident that natural resources are scarce – specifically water, arable farmland and access to minerals for fertilizer.
We are facing a grain shortage that will drive up the cost of basic food and other commodities because of the war in Ukraine, while our physical resilience and mental health depend on access to fresh, healthy food. The more intelligent, motivated and passionate individuals exposed to the industry, the better. Shipping container farms placed in schools, universities, public programs and start-ups might be the greatest vehicle to accelerate this industry.
Learn more about Imagine Farms by visiting their website or calling 844.204.0002.