Local Roots has finally made a mini farm that correctly combines the structural benefits of shipping containers with the difficulties of urban farming. Shipping containers are a beloved source of reengineering inspiration, but their reuse is often un-green and impractical. Similarly, there are so many fancifully farm-filled architecture concepts out there it boggles the mind. What makes the Local Roots TerraFarm project so interesting is the blunt simplicity of its purpose and their hyper efficient engineering.
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They take a 40-foot container, modify it for 5 acres of indoor agriculture, install the container on site, add plants, staff the container with trained farmers, and sell the resulting produce to businesses in the immediate vicinity. Rather than breaking down the division of skilled labor as much food-infused architecture suggests, this simply makes production mobile and targets the markets where it is needed.
By utilizing the easily sealed nature of containers and cutting edge environmental monitoring tech, the Local Roots system cuts water, pesticide and fertilizer use down by incredible margins - up to 98% less water in some environments. This is an enormous boon in regions like California and the southwest.
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To stimulate growth for their 365 day cycles, the TerraFarms use high efficiency red and blue LEDs and close monitoring of soil and plant health to automate care and minimize waste. The lack of packaging and transit time additionally reduces carbon footprint and boots nutritional value, as the veggies are allowed to ripen longer and pass through fewer processing stages.
They hope to increase the fleet of container farms to help cut down the distance high nutrition food travels to urban markets. The Local Roots team also hopes their system will be able to bring local produce to food deserts and other regions (possibly around the world) where affordable organic food is currently unavailable. For now the project is serving southern California and LA, providing greens for restaurants, universities, and large companies. SpaceX is notably among them, so if it sounds grandiose and futuristic, it is. It's also really happening. Take a virtual tour here to get a sense of the TerraFarms for yourself.