Urban farm/market sprouting in shipping containers

September 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

It’s too early to tell if Ben Greene is a genius or a dreamer, or maybe a little of both. We’re betting on him, though, because he’s thinking “inside the box” and that alone is just plain refreshing.  In this case the box is a shipping container with some greenhouse components. The mission is to bring sustainable food production to a convenient location in the city where food can be bought on the spot while it’s still growing. It’s called The Farmery.

Ben’s dream is to launch an urban greenhouse/ farmer’s market inside four 40-foot shipping containers in Raleigh. He says they will grow Shitake mushrooms, micro-greens, strawberries, Tilapia and more inside the contraption, and you’ll be invited in to pick your own. Food will grow in a greenhouse structure on the upper level; he’ll ring you up downstairs. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. The whole thing is about 55′ x 55′, which makes it easy to tuck into an urban space. He’ll supplement what he grows with local goods from local farmers.

Where did he get this  brainstorm? He wrote it up for his master’s thesis in industrial design from N.C. State University, one of the best design schools in the country. So maybe he IS a genius.

Check out the video.

Why the Farmery?

“We’ve recognized how difficult it is for supermarkets to offer locally grown produce, primarily because of the inconsistent supply,” Ben says. “When the grocers do make attempts to sell locally grown produce, they have nothing more than a sign to differentiate the locally grown produce from the conventional, nationally grown produce located next to it.”

The Farmery offers a new way to shop for food where the story of the farmers and their food is experienced throughout the shopping experience itself.

“The entire structure of the Farmery is used to grow food, so customers can be surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of their food growing as they are making their purchase decisions,” Ben says. “This helps customers understand and appreciate the added value of small-scale, artisanal farming.”

After testing this container for a year, Ben proved that his concepts worked and he began looking for additional funding sources. In 2011, Tyler Nethers moved to Raleigh to help Ben. Together they built a more refined second prototype in Raleigh. They are now seeking funding on Kickstarter.com to construct the third prototype. After the third prototype is built, they will begin construction on the initial Farmery.

Their story

Ben, 29, grew up on a farm in Polk County, North Carolina, where his interest in food and nature’s system began. He ended up pursuing Sculpture at Clemson where he developed a thirst for original ideas. His college career was interrupted by a deployment to Iraq where he served as a combat engineer as part of the invasion force in 2003. He resumed college after his deployment and went to North Carolina State University’s industrial design program.

While Ben was at NC State, his grandfather began trying to sell homegrown produce to local restaurants and markets. Ben saw the frustration that his grandfather experienced and decided to look for solutions that would make producing food on a small scale profitable. He got the idea for the Farmery, he says, from reading shipping container architecture books and reading articles about ideas in vertical farming.

Tyler, 29, from Indiana, has always had an interest in natural systems and looks for opportunities to pursue these interests wherever he can. He majored in sustainable development and managed the campus greenhouse at Appalachian State University, graduating in 2005. After a few years designing biological systems for commercial developments, he took a job in Hawaii growing endangered species plants. He learned about the Farmery after a web search and after a couple of visits to Ben’s prototypes, he decided to move to Raleigh and join the team.

Why shipping containers?

Shipping containers dramatically lower the cost and difficulties of construction. “They also make the structure easily scalable and allow us to prototype the entire system and then just place the containers when the system is refined,” Ben says.

If Ben and Tyler can attract enough funding via Kickstarter and other sources, he hopes to begin construction in 2013. “We currently have about a third of what we need,” Ben says. You can help by donating through Kickstarter here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1937968320/the-farmery

Entry filed under: Farmers' Market, food access, Local Investing, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Urban Farming. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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