Thursday, March 3, 2016

Farming in a container

Eric Amyot, principal and founder of Modular Farms Co., told the annual meeting of Ontario Agri-Food Technologies how his team engineered and built a container to grow crops after a shipping container it bought from a supplier in Boston broke down.

They grow mainly green leafy salad ingredients marketed by their Smart Greens division, but sales of their Modular Farms units have taken off since the first one went into production little more than a year ago.

They have been sold to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and farmers in France and Austalia. Twenty are on order to be placed on a site on the Toronto waterfront.

A related technology, ZipGrow towers, can be set up alongside walls. One is in a classroom in Yellowknife, another in Amyot’s living room where the family watches its salads of tomatoes, kale and spinach growing.

A Metro Inc. supermarket in Toronto has eliminated waste of leafy greens by ordering direct from a nearby Modular Farm. A Toronto restaurant has served a salad 10 minutes after the greens were picked.

It brings a whole new immediacy to Grow Local, Grow Fresh.
The company also builds ZipFarms that can be set up in any indoor space.

A Modular Farm can grow a crop with one per cent of the water required for a field crop and the temperature, humidity and air flow can all be controlled to maximize productivity and minimize pests and diseases.

One module is 10 by 10 by 40 feet and can equal the production of one acre per year. 

The modules can be “stacked” to use single germination and packaging centres whereas shipping containers used by competitors require those features for each container.