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Companies Build New Hydro Shipping Container Gardens


Maybe you've seen the conventional grow box, but you're wondering what other kinds of systems people can use to get their own fresh foods into their local areas. Some of the newest ideas have to do with the kind of automation and modern engineering that current technology makes possible. That, combined with the simplicity of the hydroponic philosophy, can produce amazing results.

For instance, how easy is it to set up a full grow room in a shipping container, and transport it around the world?

CXT, Inc. has the answer. The Spokane Valley-based company has started to partner with a company called Vertical Harvest Hydroponics LLC in Anchorage, Alaska to produce prebuilt container systems that anyone can use to grow plants hydroponically.

The Purpose

Originally, leadership teams at the two companies have told press outlets their intention was to make it easier to grow fresh food in climates that didn't have a lot of heat, or a lot of sun. Think Reykjavík Iceland or somewhere that has a shorter growing season.

What these companies are showing, though, is that this kind of system can be beneficial nearly anywhere. Right now, CXT and Vertical Harvest are selling to grocery stores and other larger businesses, as well as some hobbyists and others with deep pockets. But it doesn't have to take a huge amount of money to set up a container garden.

What's Inside

Inside each shipping container, you get six stackable growing racks. Each one can hold 300 to 450 plants. There are computer systems for handling lighting and making sure that temperature and pH levels stay stable. Nutrient delivery tools are also included.

The Setup

Interior pictures of these prebuilt container systems show simple rows of tray tables for plant pots to sit inside. The lighting is similarly linear, with some space for vents or fans or something else to keep air from stagnating. You would imagine adding a small heater or other component to control temperature inside of the space. None of this is overly mechanically complex -- and while these companies build to an economy of scale to save on materials, there is really no reason hobbyists couldn't do this for themselves.

The Business of Container Gardens

Still, companies like CXT see this as an opportunity to scale up hydroponic growing at a corporate level.

“It's a really appealing green business model.” says CXT plant manager Darren Stuck in a Washington newspaper piece. “These units amount to huge savings, with fresher, high-quality foods being more readily available.”

As for costs, these units aren’t going to be cheap.

“Customers have to weigh those costs against the cost of purchasing food from other sources over time and judge whether it’s worth it.” says Vertical Harvest founder Dan Perpich. “Our research so far indicates that it is.”

By the same token, it can be cheaper over time to set up your own smaller hydroponics garden than to continue to go to the store to scan prepackaged parcels of things like kale, lettuce and asparagus that have traveled thousands of miles to get to your door. Yes, there may be a little bit of upfront expense, but look at what it will save in the long run.

Think about the ways that these larger container systems mirror the possibilities of what you can do in your own yard corner or office, or in a room of your home, and you might be inspired to try this innovative type of growing for yourself.

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