Tracking the rise of community-supported agriculture, or CSAs.Continue reading
Exploring a way around the unsustainable trend of clearing forests for agricultural purposesContinue reading
Plant Your Tree for a Chance to Win a $100 Gift Card!!
Step 1: Get your FREE blue spruce sapling from FarmBox Foods at the IREA Customer Appreciation event on Aug. 28
Step 2: Follow FarmBox Foods on social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)
Step 3: Re-plant your tree in a small pot
Step 4: Take a photo in the next 2-4 weeks, post it on social media and tag us
Step 5: FarmBox Foods will randomly choose one winner for a $100 Visa gift card
A historic dude ranch in the mountains of Colorado is using a high-tech container farm to broaden its focus on farm-to-table options for guests.
Having been in business for 102 years, C Lazy U Ranch in Granby has a storied reputation as a luxurious, year-round mountain getaway with 8,500 acres of land for a multitude of activities. The ranch’s culinary program is also well known for its ability to craft the perfect meal, and some of the fresh leafy greens that come with those meals will soon be grown on site in an automated Vertical Hydroponic Farm built by Colorado-based FarmBox Foods.
“We saw an opportunity with FarmBox Foods to essentially have a year-round farm-to-table option,” said Paul Klees, assistant general manager of C Lazy U Ranch.
Guests and members will have the opportunity to tour the futuristic, controlled-climate farm — based inside a repurposed shipping container — and see where the food they’re eating is grown. C Lazy U Ranch is planning to grow lettuce and culinary herbs inside the 320-square-foot farm, where the entire growing process, from seed to harvest, takes place. The sensor-based technology and insulation in the container farm are superior to greenhouses, which are susceptible to the bitter cold of the Colorado Rockies, Klees said.
Purchasing a Vertical Hydroponic Farm is “just another step in the ranch’s continuing effort to create authentic farm-to-table dining,” Klees said.
“There are economic aspects to it because we’re shipping in all of the food, including produce,” he said. “When guests eat at our restaurants, we want the meals to resonate with them, and what people are looking for is healthy, organic, fresh produce.”
The 200 horses on the property already benefit from C Lazy U’s sustainable approach to food sourcing; most of the hay they eat is grown on the ranch. C Lazy U is also supplied with water by its own spring and operates its own wastewater facilities.
The exterior of the container farm will be finished with a rustic scheme so it will easily blend in with its natural surroundings, which include a creek and historic structures.
C Lazy U began tending beehives last year, and Klees described the move as a “huge win” because both tours and ranch honey have become popular among visitors. The container farm is slated to be the next hands-on attraction at the ranch, where guests and members could have the opportunity to harvest their own veggies and prepare meals with a chef.
“It’s interactive, it’s educational, and it builds into our vision and mission statement of having a sustainable model,” Klees said.
Using Blackhawk Equipment for prefabrication, RK Mission Critical for manufacturing and assembly, and Absolute Logistics for transport, the container farm is scheduled for delivery in mid-August.
The blue spruce is the largest known tree of its species in the country. This tree is recognized not only for its size but also the critical ecosystem services that it provides, such as food and shelter for wildlife, water purification abilities, and its role in absorbing CO2 from our atmosphere and storing carbon in its wood, according to AmericanForests.org.
Our Vertical Hydroponic Farm (VHF) farm is capable of housing up to 4,800 seeds in the seed table and 4,104 plants in the grow walls. The farm’s climate can be adjusted to provide the ideal temperature, watering schedule, and nutrients for successful tree production. With a germination period of 10-14 days and a 95% success rate, followed by 60 days in the grow walls, FarmBox Foods makes reforestation possible anywhere, anytime, year-round. Annually grow up to 35,000 trees in 320 square feet while using only 3-5 gallons of water per day.
- Efficiently manage the labor of your farm averaging 8-10 hours per week with the ability to remotely monitor your farms conditions.
- One full time employee can effectively manage up to 4 farms, producing up to 140,000 saplings annually.
- Greatly reduces the labor and need for acreage compared to traditional nurseries, while providing the ideal climate needs through any season in any location.
Traditional tree nurseries, when funded under federal or state cost-share programs, are required to have a minimum of 300 well-spaced seedlings per acre (1 acre = 43,560 square feet) in the first growing season. Tree spacing most commonly used ranges from 435 to 726 trees per acre for reforestation purposes as well as wildlife enhancement programs. In the FarmBox Foods Vertical Hydroponic Farm, you can accommodate over 8,900 seedlings and saplings in 320 square feet.
Impacts of climate change
Climate change is leading to unprecedented threats to our forests, including rising temperatures, prolonged drought, increased pests, and larger, more severe wildfires. As of 2021, 128 million acres in the United States have the potential to be reforested. To fulfill half of this need, we have to more than double our current production
National labor shortages are cited as the largest barrier to expanded seedling production. Workforce limitations, including seasonal laborers, are a significant factor across America’s nursery infrastructure. Retiring institutional knowledge is also creating additional barriers for successful operations to continue at today’s demands.
Disease and insect infestation kill more trees annually than forest fires. When temps are high and tree sap is flowing, leaves and fruits are in full bloom. These are all attractants to tree-killing bugs. The recent epidemic of pine beetles is a prime example of the devastation a little bug can wreak on tree populations. Millions of trees were lost to the mountain pine beetle alone over the last 20 years.
Fire is an inevitable part of what makes a forest a forest. However, climate change and other human activity has been enabling even naturally caused fires to occur more frequently and intensely. Wildfires also burn the carbon stored in trees and soil, releasing large amounts of smoke, methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which impacts the overall global temperature.
Trees grown in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm can have a significant impact on revitalizing these forests and restoring the overall ecosystem.
The common refrain that fresh water is the next gold is ringing true as drastic changes in our climate are resulting in greater competition and a need for more efficient water uses, especially in the agricultural industry.
National Geographic points out that while the amount of fresh water on the planet has remained fairly constant over time — continually recycling through the atmosphere and back into our oceans, lakes and rivers — the global population has exploded in the last century. This means that competition for a clean supply of water for drinking, cooking, bathing and sustaining life intensifies every year. There is only so much water to go around.
Essentially, when taking saltwater into account, only about .007 percent of the earth’s water supply is usable for the planet’s 6.8 billion (and counting) people, National Geographic says.
The vast majority of freshwater — about 70 percent by most estimates — is used for agriculture, and when you consider that feeding a planet of 9 billion people in 2050 will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a corresponding 15 percent increase in water withdrawals, the future becomes a lot clearer, according to World Bank.
Without proper governance, there is likely to be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors, according to a U.N. report.
Emerging technologies are quickly trying to find ways to get the most bang for each drop of water. Efficiencies have been identified, including vertical hydroponic farming, which drastically reduces the amount of water needed to grow crops. FarmBox Foods, a Colorado company that builds automated hydroponic farms inside repurposed shipping containers, has set its sights on creating a tangible shift in the approach to farming.
FarmBox Foods’ innovative, closed-watering system only uses 3-5 gallons of water per day and it does not contribute to groundwater contamination the way that traditional farming does. Furthermore, one farm is able to produce the same yield as 2 – 2.5 acres of farmland on an annual basis.
“Our container farms are built in such a way that it takes only a fraction of the amount of water to grow that same amount of produce,” said Rusty Walker, CEO of FarmBox Foods.
Climate change is projected to increase the number of water-stressed regions and exacerbate shortages in already water-stressed regions. It’s those regions that will realize the most benefit from vertical hydroponic farming and more efficient water usage in general.
An integrated view on water, the biosphere and environmental flows is necessary to devise sustainable agricultural and economic systems that will allow us to decelerate climate change, protect us from extremes and adapt to the unavoidable at the same time, the U.N. says.
The automated hydroponic farms use approximately 90 percent less water than traditional farms, and have a secondary benefit, as they can grow trees that contribute to the overall health of the environment by helping reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. One container farm from FarmBox Foods can grow 35,000 tree saplings per year.
Lakewood, Colo. – Michael Boardman knows it takes exactly 82 steps to get from the GardenBox to the produce display at Natural Grocers’ store in Green Mountain – Lakewood.
Boardman manages the first of what could eventually be more Natural Grocers GardenBoxes, a shipping container-based farm that grows several organic lettuce varieties right behind the store it supplies. That means instead of spending about 10 days going from a farm to a distribution center to a truck to a display case — losing about half of its nutritional value and shelf life in the process — the fresh greens go immediately from the container farm to the aisle.
That’s how Boardman knows it takes precisely 82 steps to walk to what ends up being a vibrant, colorful produce display: he’s done it a few times.
The use of a GardenBox could be a sign of what’s to come. More retailers (and consumers, for that matter) that specialize in healthy living are learning that produce doesn’t need to be shipped in from elsewhere. Natural Grocers is taking its pilot program to the next level, with the help of Colorado-based FarmBox Foods, an innovative company that designs, builds and sells the automated, controlled-climate container farms.
Boardman is creating the GardenBox playbook from scratch. He spent weeks developing a nutrient blend that allows Natural Grocers leafy greens to maintain their certified organic status, while enabling the produce to thrive in a hydroponic farm. So far, the company has tried 8 types of lettuce with great success.
To help promote the idea of produce growing outside the store where it’s sold, Natural Grocers gave away about 1,000 heads of lettuce in late June. The produce is now being sold at the Green Mountain – Lakewood location.
“People have loved it. They have been really impressed with it. It’s definitely a much better tasting green, and it’s fresher,” he said.
Boardman, who has spent 8 years with Natural Grocers and also has a background as a produce buyer, said there are “very few products on the market that are living,” pointing out that shoppers who buy heads of lettuce grown in a GardenBox can actually keep them alive in water until they’re eaten.
From alkindus, brentwood to hampton lettuce and mirlo lettuce, there’s plenty to be excited about. Boardman, who particularly enjoys the incredibly flavorful Marciano red butterhead lettuce grown in the GardenBox, says his favorite aspect of the process has been learning what works best to get the plants to thrive.
“Figuring out the solution to it, how to do this organically and sustainably, and watching this grow and be successful has been the best part,” he said.
The Vertical Hydroponic Farm used to grow the produce can simultaneously hold about 11,000 plants in various stages of growth, including about 7,000 seedlings. The plants go from seed to harvest all within the 320-square-foot space in the GardenBox purchased from FarmBox Foods. It’s a game-changer for helping decentralize the food supply chain and empowering individual communities.