Shipping containers could bring farming to the heart of the city as hydroponics and mobile phone apps are harnessed for large-scale urban food production.
A Sydney start-up company Sprout Stack has perfected the commercial production of large volumes of leafy greens in shipping containers, producing as much lettuce, herbs or spinach leaves in eight weeks as a hectare of fertile farmland. The containers, filled with towers for growing vegetables, tomatoes and strawberries hydroponically, require only electricity and water.
Sprout Stack founder Francisco Caffarena says the farming containers, which can be leased or bought outright, can be stacked on top of each other in places where land is scarce or unsuitable for growing vegetables, to produce commercial quantities of fresh food all year round.
The container systems uses 95 per cent less water than a vegetable farm with drip irrigation to grow 900 lettuces, requiring just 60-100 litres of water a week for its plants to drink and 60 kilowatt hours of power a day to run its lighting, heating and sensors. All crops grown are pesticide-free because the container’s controlled environment virtually eliminates pests, disease and bugs, while the production of six cycles of crops a year is not exposed to the vagaries of weather.