Over the years, we've seen a variety of creative uses for ocean containers, the steel 20- and 40-foot "boxes" that travel around the globe by ship, rail, and truck. The most common applications include places for people to live and work—homes, temporary retail stores, and medical clinics in remote areas. Now comes word of a very different use for the big boxes: as greenhouses for growing vegetables.
You might think that a watertight steel box with no windows would be a less-than-ideal environment for growing lettuce or tomatoes. But Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman, proprietors of Freight Farms in Worcester, Mass., say they have it all worked out. According to an article in The Boston Globe, the two have outfitted a shipping container with plastic-and-foam "growing channels" on the walls, a drip-irrigation system on the ceiling, and LED grow lights. The project is still in the test stage, but the partners said they hope to sell greenhouse containers to schools, restaurants, or food distributors by year's end.
Another company, Higher Ground Farm, also has plans to develop greenhouse containers. Co-founder John Stoddard told The Globe that he likes the containers because they can be easily moved around a city. Another advantage of "container gardening": It minimizes travel distances, greatly reducing in-transit damage and the produce's carbon footprint.