Drop & Grow: Aeroponic container farms
By 2050, 80% of all consumed food will be consumed in cities. The industrial food system is outdated and insufficient, and is failing people and the environment. Growing, producing and importing food accounts for 30% of the UK’s carbon footprint, with over three quarters of fresh fruits and vegetables imported from overseas. For every £1 spent on food, £2 is incurred in terms of economic, health and environmental cost.
One factor in this failure is the complete disconnection between large swathes of urban populations and their foods’ origin. Providing a space dedicated to growing food 365 days a year in a controlled environment is a solution to this challenge.
D&G is a turn key vertical farm packaged inside a 40ft shipping container. It combines powerful aeroponic technology with advanced farm management software, allowing growers of all abilities and backgrounds access to the freshest produce for communities. With aeroponics, plant roots are irrigated with nutrient rich mist, allowing roots greater access to oxygen and nutrients, leading to faster growing times and healthier plant stock. Communities are able to localise their food system, reduce food miles to metres whilst producing healthy and nutritious food with far less impact on our planet.
D&G container farms can be used as a stand alone system, or integrated with other farming methods to create a more holistic system of urban farming. Vertical container farms are best used to grow fresh herbs, nutritious leafy vegetables and microgreens, and can grow 20-200% faster than crops grown using hydroponics, enabling growers to supply fresh, sustainable produce to more of the local areas. Growing in a controlled environment means that growers use no pesticides, herbicides and can grow and harvest 365 days a year, so growers have a reliable and sustainable source of crops throughout the seasons.
D&G’s Life Cycle Assessment demonstrates that with a grid renewable supply of energy, it has the potential to offset ~4,300 kg/CO2 every month if directly replacing imported crops. It can be incorporated into any urban environment in spaces otherwise unsuitable for growing food. Basements, car parks, rooftops – these spaces then have the ability to be productive and grow fresh food from whom surrounding businesses and individuals can benefit. Providing a space to reconnect people with where their food comes from and freeing up more precious land suitable for schemes that enhance natural capital and focus on biodiversity. Urban neighbourhoods and communities that are disconnected from the food system instantly have access to a working farm, providing fresh healthy food which has been grown and harvested on their doorstep. It also creates new and exciting employment possibilities in the agri-tech industry.
Drop & Grow (D&G) can be used in a variety of scenarios to deliver a range of impacts and benefits to the community it serves. This can range from the provision of fresh healthy produce to creating employment opportunities in a new and exciting agtech sector. LettUs Grow has a comprehensive farm economic model that can be used to build and test viable operation models for D&G in a range of scenarios.
D&G starts at £100k plus VAT. As a stand alone project LettUS Grow aims to model operational scenarios that offer a return on investment of less than 3 years.
Grow It York is one such example of an urban container farming set-up, located in the container park named Spark:York.
Grow It York was first brought into reality by Katherine Denby, Professor in Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) at the University of York, and Tom McKenzie, co-founder of Spark:York. Container farms were used to bring hyper-localised produce to the city centre.
The farm operates using a dynamic model for growing produce. Instead of using the traditional system of growing the maximum yield possible, they only grow and harvest what the local community needs. The benefits of this are practically no food wastage, use of non-arable land saving hectares of natural resources and massively reduced transport by supply to eateries and communities within walking distance.
Grow It York provides an opportunity to reach and enrich areas where the community can become an active part of the food production network, and reap the benefits at the same time. Visitors can observe the crops’ growth journey, and schools from the area have the opportunity to learn from the growers about current food systems, how vertical farms can help provide a solution to some of the issues currently faced in food production and can also learn how to harvest produce themselves.