The Long-Term Impacts of Indoor Agriculture

Container farming, a version of indoor farming also known as vertical farming, involves growing crops in controlled environments within shipping containers or other enclosed spaces. The advent of this technology, which relies on sensors to control the growing parameters, holds a lot of promise, especially as climate shifts continue to farmers and ranchers in traditional settings. While it’s difficult to predict the future with absolute certainty, it’s now possible identify several potential long-term impacts of container farming.

Sustainable agriculture: Container farming offers a more sustainable and efficient way to grow crops compared to traditional outdoor agriculture. By using less land, water, and pesticides, it can help reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. This could lead to a decrease in deforestation, habitat destruction and the use of harmful chemicals that end up in our food and drinking supply.

Local Food Production: Container farming allows for year-round production of fresh produce, regardless of the local climate. This can reduce the need for long-distance transportation of food and promote local food systems. It may also help address food security and reduce the carbon footprint associated with food distribution.

Improved Resource Efficiency: Container farms can make more efficient use of resources like water, energy, and space. They often use hydroponic or aeroponic systems, which consume less water than traditional soil-based farming. Advanced climate control and LED lighting systems can optimize energy use. Colorado-based FarmBox Foods uses pre-insulated to help energy draws.

Food Security: Container farming can play a crucial role in ensuring a stable food supply in areas with food scarcity or those affected by natural disasters. The ability to control growing conditions can help mitigate the effects of climate change and other environmental challenges.

Job Creation: The container farming industry is growing, creating jobs in areas such as plant science, engineering, data analysis, business planning, and farm management. This can contribute to local and regional economic development.

Technology Advancements: As container farming technologies continue to evolve, they may lead to breakthroughs in agriculture, such as improved crop genetics, pest and disease management, and data-driven decision-making. These advancements are expected to benefit traditional agriculture as well.

Reduced Food Waste: By enabling on-demand production and minimizing transportation distances, container farming can help reduce food waste — currently a significant global issue — because food arrives on the plates of consumers much sooner after being harvested.

Educational Opportunities: Container farming can serve as a valuable educational tool, teaching people about plant biology, technology, and sustainable farming practices. Schools, universities, and community organizations use container farms to engage students and the public, including the South Carolina Governor’s School of Science and Math, Delaware State University, the EPIC Campus in Littleton, Colo., and more to come.

Space Exploration: Container farming concepts have been explored for space missions, such as Mars colonization, where growing food in a controlled environment is essential due to harsh environmental conditions. Research in this area may have applications for future space exploration.

The long-term impact of container farming is likely to be positive, with the potential to transform agriculture, reduce its environmental footprint, and address food security issues. But it will depend on continued technological advancements, cost reductions and successful integration into existing food production systems for it to make a sizable impact as we head into an uncertain agricultural future.

What Types of Plants Grow in a Vertical Hydroponic Farm?

We dedicated more than two years to research and development, figuring out what will and will not grow in our containerized Vertical Hydroponic Farm.

The following list is not meant to be all-encompassing, but rather provide a snapshot of the types of crops that we and our customers have focused on, like yellow onions, collard greens, kale, a range of different micro greens, bok choy, red leaf beet and watercress. Of course, we’re always experimenting and adding to the list.

Vertical hydroponic farm

Peppers

    • Jalapeno- Jefe, Jalafuego
    • Habanero- Helios, Paper Lantern
    • Serrano- Altiplano
    • Sweet Pepper- Lunch Box
    • Cayenne- Red Flame
    • Ghost peppers

Tomatoes

    • Slicer- Mountain Fresh
    • Grape- Verona
    • Cherry- Sakura

Lettuces

    • Romaine
    • Muir
    • Rex
    • Magenta
    • Rouxai
    • Red Butterhead
    • Green Butterhead
    • Green Star
    • Ezflor
    • Grazion
    • Red Oak
    • Tropicana
    • Frisee

Herbs

    • Cilantro
    • Parsley
    • Chives
    • Oregano
    • Prospera Basil
    • Genovese Basil
    • Purple Basil
    • Spicy Bush Basil
    • Dill
    • Lavender
    • Purslane
    • Mint

Greens

    • Rainbow Chard
    • Collard Greens
    • Red Vein Sorrel
    • Arugula
    • Dandelion
    • Golden Frills
    • Kale
    • Tatsoi
    • Red Kingdom
    • Spinach- Lizard, Space

Flowers

    • Viola
    • Marigold
    • Nasturtium

Cucumbers

    • Pickler- Excelsior

Beans

    • Bush Beans

Starters

    • Pumpkin- Jack O’Lantern
    • Sunflower- Giant, Skyscraper, Mixed Colors
    • Marigold- Crackerjack, French Double Dwarf

FarmBox Foods launches indoor farm that grows livestock feed

Trays of hydroponic fodder growing in an indoor farm.

FarmBox Foods LLC is excited to announce the official launch of its Hydroponic Fodder Farm.

The company hosted a public open house on Sept. 27 at our home base in Sedalia, CO. Guided tours of the new indoor farm — the third product line offered by FarmBox Foods — were provided. Attendees also received a tour of the company’s other tech-assisted, containerized farms: the Vertical Hydroponic Farm and Gourmet Mushroom Farm.

What exactly is fodder? It’s a nutrient-dense hay that’s used as a dietary supplement for horses, cows, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, rabbits and alpacas.

(Want to learn more about FarmBox Foods? Watch our July appearance on ABC News here)

By growing fodder on site year-round, farmers and ranchers can avoid supply chain disruptions, sourcing issues and spikes in hay prices. The controlled-climate farms provide a reliable, hyperlocal source of fresh food while shielding the barley fodder from weather and climate impacts, including drought, heat waves, freezes and floods. The farms are housed inside upcycled, insulated shipping containers outfitted with plumbing, electrical and sensors to control conditions inside. The 320 square-foot farms also capture, filter and recycle water for maximum water efficiency. 

Protein-rich fodder improves the overall health of livestock, supplements hydration and adds weight to beef cattle. It also promotes the production of better-quality milk for dairy cows and goats, improves fertility rates, reduces the likelihood of illness, and decreases methane output because of its superior digestibility compared to traditional alfalfa hay.

Because barley fodder requires only a 7-day growth cycle, a staggered schedule allows farmers and ranchers to harvest around 880 pounds of fodder per day.

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

What makes FarmBox Foods a green-oriented company?

A cow eating hydroponic fodder

We use only upcycled shipping containers.
We give used, insulated shipping containers a new life: growing food at scale in areas that struggle with reliable cultivation and/or access. By outfitting them with the components to grow produce, the repurposed containers are kept out of landfills and scrap heaps.
 
The farms we build are designed to promote efficient water usage.
We capture, filter and reuse water in both our Hydroponic Fodder Farm and our Vertical Hydroponic Farm, which requires only about 5 gallons of water per day. Water is often lost to evaporation and transpiration in traditional farm settings. By recycling the water, our farms get the most out of every drop. In times of severe drought and diminishing water supplies, this efficiency is critically important. 
 
The farms were built to reduce energy usage associated with agricultural production.
Our Vertical Hydroponic Farm uses around 190 kwh per day, the energy equivalent of two loads of laundry. The Gourmet Mushroom Farm uses even less, drawing an average of only 80 kilowatt-hours of electricity each day. High-efficiency, low-energy LED lights are used in FarmBox containers to reduce energy consumption.
 
Reduced need for fossil fuels.
Every kilogram/pound of food waste has a corresponding waste factor for energy, labor, water, carbon emissions, etc. It takes a lot to get produce from point A to point B, including diesel fuel to power trucks and trains. Transporting goods across long distances could be a thing of the past, as our portable container farms enable people to grow food near the consumer, thereby reducing emissions and expenses. Hyper-local growing almost entirely removes the supply chain — and its ongoing issues — from the equation.
 
Indoor farms don’t require the use of pesticides.
Because our farms are enclosed, they’re protected from many of the variables that keep traditional farmers up at night, like drought, flooding, heat waves and hail. But it also prevents impacts from pests, and therefore, pesticides are not required in our farms. As a result, the water discharged from the Vertical Hydroponic Farms and Hydroponic Fodder Farms we build does not contribute to groundwater contamination.
 
Fodder consumption by livestock reduces methane output.
Barley fodder is easier to digest than traditional alfalfa hay and other nutritional supplements, and because of this, less methane is emitted into the atmosphere. We’re in the process of gathering more specific data to quantify the reduction of methane from different types of animals, and how that reduction corresponds with their respective intake of protein-rich fodder.
 
Growing near the consumer reduces the likelihood of food waste.
After being harvested, produce grown in traditional outdoor settings often spends a few days on trucks and in distribution centers before it arrives at the store. Hyperlocal growing helps fresh veggies arrive on consumers’ plates and in their refrigerators much sooner — often within 24 hours of being harvested. The produce maintains its shelf life, which provides a longer period of time to eat the food. This results in less food waste at the consumer level.
 
Our farms can run off solar power.
Anyone who wants to grow nutrient-dense food off-grid can do so by hooking their farm up to a small solar grid. 
 
Compost from our Gourmet Mushroom Farms helps promote soil health.
The spent substrate from FarmBox Foods’ GMF showroom model is donated to the local community to be used as nutrient-rich compost. The seedling pods and spent mushroom substrate can be used for further plant-growing compost once they are removed from the farms. The spent mushroom substrate, in particular, is quite sought after for this purpose. These eco-friendly by-products can also be incorporated into the soil, and the substrate will continue to grow mushrooms if properly managed.
 
Soil rejuvenation and less need for agricultural acreage.
Millions of acres of America’s traditionally fertile soil have been stripped of vital nutrients, and farmers are compelled to implement crop rotation and remediation steps like composting to regenerate agricultural land. A FarmBox occupies only 320 square-feet of space (they can also be stacked), does not need soil, and allows farmers to revitalize oft-used ag soil.
Furthermore, clear-cutting forests to make room for agriculture is not necessary for some crops. Farmers can utilize available vertical space to grow more food on a smaller footprint.

Rising food prices influenced by several factors

What is influencing the increase in food prices and what can be done about it?

Rising food prices influenced by several factors

a wall of hydroponically grown lettuce

A confluence of global events and circumstances have some experts painting a grim picture for populations that already face food insecurity.

Recent spikes in food, fuel and fertilizer prices could lead to “destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale,” said David Beasley, head of the U.N. World Food Program.

A recent U.N. analysis shows that “a record 345 million acutely hungry people are marching to the brink of starvation.” That’s a 25-percent increase from 276 million at the start of 2022, before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. The number stood at 135 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, according to an ABC News article.

The war in Ukraine is having a continuing ripple effect on the global food supply. Russia and Ukraine together export 28 percent of fertilizers made from nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, according to Morgan Stanley. The limited global supply has sent prices into the stratosphere — in some cases doubling the cost — and there are fears that high costs or the lack of availability will result in farmers using less fertilizer, leading to lower yields of commodities that are already constrained. 

In early July, the Consumer Price Index report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that food prices in the U.S. increased 10.4 percent from June 2021 to June 2022.

Rising costs for any critical ingredient for running a farm — water, labor, fuel or fertilizer — translate to higher food prices. And when all four hit at the same time, disruption ensues, to the detriment of consumers, especially those who were already hanging on by a thread.

In all, worldwide experts fear crop yields will drop by 10-30 percent, and developing countries will be hardest hit.

The prevalence of “undernourishment” — when food consumption is insufficient to maintain an active and healthy life — continued to rise in 2021. The U.N.-commissioned report, “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” estimates that between 702 million and 828 million people faced hunger last year.

A grain shortage stemming from the Ukraine conflict is also driving up the cost of basic foods and other commodities, and corn and wheat are not getting out to the market because the Black Sea is closed. To top it off, drought conditions are crippling agricultural operations in several regions known for high output. 

There’s a dearth of issues to navigate. But as The Shelby Report points out, crises stoke innovation. Agricultural adaptation is being employed, including the use of hydroponic container farms housed in upcycled shipping containers. The controlled-climate farms allow for uninterrupted, decentralized growing year-round and provide a stable environment to ensure reliable yields. Smart irrigation systems are being used more than ever, and data is driving decision-making at unprecedented levels in order to maximize available resources. Responses to climate change vary by location and commodity. Learn more about how the USDA is assisting food producers.

FarmBox Foods makes appearance on ‘Good Morning America’

Good Morning America visited FarmBox Foods’ headquarters to explain how businesses and nonprofits are using technology to sustainably grow food near the consumer year-round.

GMA Visits FarmBox Foods to Talk ‘Farming Without Harming’


Good Morning America

Good Morning America visited FarmBox Foods’ headquarters to learn how businesses and nonprofits are using technology to sustainably grow food near the consumer.

ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee spoke to FarmBox Foods CEO Rusty Walker June 20 about the company’s mission to build high-tech indoor farms that provide food security year-round for those without reliable access to nutrient-dense food. 

(Watch the GMA appearance here)

Zee also interviewed representatives from two FarmBox Foods customers, Natural Grocers® and Centura Health, about their use of Vertical Hydroponic Farms, which provide a hyperlocal source of fresh produce while reducing environmental impacts and unpredictability associated with traditional farming. The farms are housed inside upcycled, insulated shipping containers that are outfitted with plumbing, electrical and sensors to control conditions inside.

By growing food on site, the companies that use FarmBoxes are avoiding supply chain disruptions, reducing food sourcing costs, improving access, and helping to eliminate food waste because the veggies get to the plate much quicker. 

 

The controlled-climate container farms provide a perfect growing environment for the plants and shield them from weather and climate impacts, including drought, heat waves and flooding.

 

Natural Grocers is growing organic lettuce behind its store in Lakewood, Colo., mere steps from the display case, and plans to expand the program elsewhere. Centura Health, meanwhile, owns three Vertical Hydroponic Farms and uses them to produce food for hospital patients and visitors, and to provide nutritious produce to food banks in the communities they serve.

Adaptation Key to Stabilizing Food Prices

Every consumer knows that sticker shock at the grocery store is now a common occurrence.

Food price increases this year are expected to far exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Every consumer knows that sticker shock at the grocery store is now a common occurrence. 

Food price increases this year are expected to far exceed those observed in 2020 and 2021, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

Supply chain delays caused by, among other things, pandemic-related shutdowns, a truck driver shortage and a logjam at our nation’s ports were already causing issues with the U.S. food supply. Then, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused a ripple effect that we still see playing out globally. It has impacted fuel prices, food exports and the supply of fertilizer needed to maintain food production levels in places like Brazil, a top producer of goods like sugar and soybeans. Even avian flu is affecting the price of eggs and poultry.

The Consumer Price Index for all food in the U.S. increased 1 percent from March 2022 to April 2022, and food prices were 9.4 percent higher than in April 2021. 

It’s an inescapable phenomenon that’s disproportionately affecting those who were already struggling to feed their families. So when will it end? There are, of course, differing opinions on when or even if food prices will level out anytime soon.

The cost of fresh vegetables is expected to go up by 4.3 percent this year, the USDA says, a point that underscores the need to decentralize the production of certain veggies. Hyperlocal production of nutrient-dense food can help control costs, primarily because it eliminates fuel price fluctuations and supply chain delays from the equation. It also helps reduce the rate of food loss, because the veggies make their way to the fridges and plates of consumers much more quickly.

Having a localized level of control takes the power away from negative external influences, and places the power back in the hands of urban farmers, who can nimbly grow at scale using a combination of greenhouses, outdoor community gardens and containerized, tech-assisted farms. A container farm takes up 320 square-feet of space — or about 5 parking spaces — and can be placed anywhere there’s a reliable water supply and an electrical hookup.

Businesses that serve underprivileged communities can come together in the name of food security and provide these food production systems that operate in perpetuity and provide jobs and educational opportunities in the process. Although veggies comprise only a portion of the food consumed in America, it’s incremental changes like this that can move the needle in a direction that eases the burden on consumers.

FarmBox Foods Launches New Tagline, Slogan and Company Values

FarmBox Foods has established a set of core values to guide existing and future relationships, and created a tagline that captures the company’s focus on innovation.

FarmBox Foods, a Colorado-based manufacturer of high-tech container farms, has spent the last four years developing proof of concept in multiple industries by helping people grow gourmet mushrooms, leafy greens, culinary herbs, peppers, small tomatoes and trees. The mission-driven company is focused on helping partners feed those living in food deserts while empowering local communities and providing jobs and educational opportunities.

The new slogan, “Farm Anywhere,” encapsulates in two words what the tech-driven farms allow users to do, and the new tagline, “Innovating to Feed the World,” captures the spirit of FarmBox Foods’ goal of continued improvement in creating the tools that provide communities with a reliable source of nutrient-dense foods, regardless of the time of year or their location.

The company’s revised vision hones in on its core beliefs.

“We believe that no one should go hungry. We see a world where everyone has access to a sustainable source of healthy, locally grown food.”

FarmBox Foods’ newly established company values represent how the organization has conducted itself since its inception, and how it will operate going forward both internally and externally. The values are meant to convey to current and future partners what the company stands for and why.

  • ●  Relationships – The way we connect with people guides everything we do. Our values stem from our conscious commitment to help feed the world.
  • ●  Purpose – We intentionally operate with faith, selflessness, and service to others. We find meaning in making a difference in the world. Our foundation is built on our belief in “values over profit.”
  • ●  Loyalty – Our partners trust us to do the right thing every time. We show up in our relationships with integrity, vulnerability, and honesty.
  • ●  Compassion – We strive to understand the diverse needs and strengths of the communities we serve by continually learning, listening, practicing empathy, showing humility, and expressing gratitude.
  • ●  Determination – We are committed to customer focus through hard work and discipline. We’re passionate about helping others transform their communities through continuous innovation that creates a foundation for food security.
  • ●  Mentorship – We believe that trust, accountability, and initiative are pillars of a successful team. We make time for people and cultivate an environment where we’re all leaders and learners.

Go to www.FarmBoxFoods.com/company-values to learn more. 

Fighting Back Against Hunger and Improving Food Access

“The world is at a critical juncture.”

That’s the headline of an article about the state of food security and nutrition in the world. In painstaking detail, the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations uses the article to describe how the number of people affected by hunger globally increased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It estimates that between 720 million and 811 million people faced hunger. If you go with the middle of the projected range — around 768 million — 118 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019. How does this happen and what’s being done about it?

The Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations says that unless bold actions are taken to accelerate progress, especially actions to address major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition and inequalities affecting access to food, hunger will not be eradicated by 2030, as the U.N. had hoped.

After remaining virtually unchanged from 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of undernourishment climbed to around 9.9 percent in 2020, from 8.4 percent a year earlier, the article says.

According to FoodBankNews.org, all of this activity is happening against a backdrop of heightened emphasis on nutrition from the USDA, which in mid-March released a report outlining its commitment to nutrition security (in addition to food security). The USDA noted the importance of nutrition in fighting diet-related disease, which is a leading cause of illness in the U.S., accounting for more than 600,000 deaths each year, or more than 40,000 each month.

Sadly, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, especially when it comes to access. New farming practices, including controlled-environment agriculture, are increasingly being recognized as a potential solution to fill the gaps and avoid supply chain delays entirely. 

Strategically placing container farms in and around population centers could have a dramatic effect on providing a sustainable and secure source of nutrient-rich food. These farms can produce 200-300 pounds of fresh food weekly and help feed people in marginalized communities. They can also be used to help train the next generation of urban farmers and create jobs, providing ancillary benefits that can reverberate for years to come.

Container Farms on School Campuses – Community Supported Agriculture

With a foundation in technology and science, there’s greater interest in container farming among students of all ages. Controlled-climate farming enables people to grow food almost anywhere in the world, helping to eliminate food deserts.

Container Farms on School Campuses – School districts and teachers are always looking for new and innovative tools to capture their students’ attention and promote enthusiasm for learning.

Teaching students how their education is interwoven into later professional success just might bring purpose to those who currently find none in a traditional classroom.  When you place students in a setting with engaging hands-on projects that give them practical experience, the potential for future success is limitless.

An operating container farm has a unique ability to touch multiple subjects and areas of interest for young students, especially those who want to find ways to better our world through science and tech.  A container farm shows the next generations how to do more with fewer resources by engineering concrete solutions that promote sustainability.  These applications have positive real-world implications, including improving our ability to feed people in food deserts and reducing the use of fossil fuels for shipping food over long distances.

Emerging technologies, including those that rely on sensors, have opened up new avenues and ideas and solutions for longstanding problems.  This is an exciting prospect for a generation that increasingly is looking to eschew the typical 9-to-5 office grind and, for lack of a better term, get their hands dirty.

From using cultivation methods that require less energy and water, to developing a solid business plan, to maintaining the mechanisms that enable containerized farms to thrive, to demonstrating and quantifying the sustainability of such operations, there are many skill sets needed to make the endeavor a success.  

Adding a container farm to a school campus offers high-level learning opportunities in perpetuity and equips students with expertise and experience that few other young professionals or college applicants can claim.  It’s a tech-driven differentiator for schools and districts that pride themselves on thinking outside the educational box, and it could produce a wave of future entrepreneurs.

Today, container farming is a glimpse into the future.  Soon, it will be the new normal, and it’s time that students of all ages get introduced to concepts that can help achieve progress that will benefit humankind.

What are the benefits to schools?

  1. Equipping future generations with the ability to use science and technology to grow food for underserved populations.
  2. Feeding students fresh, nutrient-dense foods. 
  3. Reducing costs associated with purchasing transported foods while enabling schools to cheaply grow their own.
  4. Providing foods for students in need to take home with them so they will have quality food they grew themselves.
  5. Create revenue streams for the school through school farmers markets all year long.
Container Farms on School Campuses
An operating container farm has applications to almost every school subject imaginable, from math to science to engineering.

View The FarmBox Gourmet Mushroom Container Farm


View Mushroom Farm