APRIL 23, 2018
The world continues to move towards sustainability, and farming is no different. A container greenhouse lets you grow herbs, leafy greens, and microgreens and manage them with a more compact footprint. It’s also a smart way to grow produce over extended seasons with low risks and higher yield.
Container greenhouses don't require much space, either. You can use the roof, interiors, and walls to preserve space. They also provide farmers with a steady income, all year round.
Upcycled or refurbished shipping containers with an open-top are great for building small-scale sustainable gardens. You can use these units to create commercial-scale farms. You can utilize the rooftop and walls of a 20 or 40-foot unit to grow food and install systems needed to supply water, nutrients, and electricity.
Urban areas have limited space and water. Shipping container greenhouses provide a sustainable solution with minimal utilization of resources. You can set up a container farm easily in areas including parking lots.
Drip irrigation and hydroponics cut down water usage by nearly 90% compared to conventional farming. In addition, container greenhouses have regulated conditions that promote year-round growth.
Farming land doesn't come cheap, and there are plenty of shipping containers that farmers can convert into greenhouses for an affordable price. You can also place containers close to the market to reduce transportation costs. This gives farmers the ability to supply fresh produce over different seasons.
Once the initial setup and modifications of containerized farms are complete, maintenance is relatively straightforward as the unit keeps the plants in a safe, enclosed area.
Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a term for many forms of indoor food cultivation using technology for adequate growth. It lets you produce food anywhere, be it a skyscraper, a warehouse, or even in the desert.
The technology typically controls factors critical to plant growth such as temperature (air, nutrient solution, root-zone), humidity, carbon dioxide, light, nutrient concentration, and pH level.
Shipping containers provide an ideal environment to utilize these techniques in conjunction with vertical farming methods that use greenhouse walls to cultivate crops.
Winters are typically too cold and dark to grow anything. But container greenhouses allow you to grow a wide variety of plants, all year round:
You can also grow strawberries, another high-value product, in hanging containers to keep the floor free for other produce.
Note: It is expensive to grow warm-weather crops in the winter. Only pursue this option if you have a market and prices that deliver good returns on the investment.
Aim to grow veggies, flowers, herbs, and other popular products that will bring in a lot of sales. With greenhouse units, you have the year-round potential for your crops.
Prefabricated greenhouses structures come with tent poles, zippers, and transparent plastic sheets with geodesic domes and triangular tessellations. They are ideal if you want to set up a hobby garden but not suitable for commercial production.
Unlike prefab greenhouses, container farms are well-suited for large-scale production:
You may want to divide the project into two steps: acquiring and setting up the greenhouse unit and running it on a day-to-day basis. You can purchase a new, single-use, or refurbished unit, depending on your budget.
For day-to-day operations, the basic systems that you will need are:
If you want to set up a greenhouse in cities, find out about the permits required in your area. The best place to get all the information is your local municipal office.
There are two types of costs associated with the greenhouse — the capital cost of buying and setting up the unit and the operational costs of running it successfully. Operational costs will include seeds, water, packaging, advertising, energy expenses, and labor. Spending a bit more upfront on better insulation may save you from long-term operational costs.
The initial capital cost (CAPEX) is the cost of acquiring the container and associated equipment. You can use a new, single-use, or refurbished shipping container, depending on your budget. A brand-new unit would be expensive but are easy to find.
Costs of typical bare-bones units change with the size:
The final cost includes the modifications performed to set up the greenhouse or farm ecosystem. Extras may include the vertical garden, solar panels, rooftop greenhouse, fish tanks, LED lights, water circulation systems, and more. You can use a combination of 10 ft, 20 ft, and 40 ft units to achieve your ideal greenhouse design.
While container farms give less margin for error than conventional farms, market and economic factors still affect them. The choice of crops, location, prices, and advertising methods all impact the amount of money you spend and the revenue you collect.
Farming practices in CEA carefully regulate the following parameters for optimal plant growth:
There are various ways to regulate the temperature inside a container to protect crops and enable optimal plant growth.
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