Quantcast
Food
Freight Farms

Why This Montana Farmer Grows Food Year-Round in Shipping Containers

By Isabelle Morrison

Kim Curren, owner of Shaggy Bear Farm in Bozeman, Montana, has worn many hats. She worked in the solar power industry for 15 years, owned her own café bookstore and worked a stint as a medical case manager. In 2016, Curren decided to try her hand at farming, because why not?


"People always accuse me of having an [attention deficit disorder] career," Curren said. "I just tell them I'm a Gemini and I get bored of doing one thing."

One day, Curren came across an article about Freight Farms, a company that upcycles old shipping containers into indoor vertical hydroponic growing machines. After doing more research and visiting their headquarters in Boston, she was sold on the idea.

In 2016, with the help of a hefty loan and a $50,000 grant from the Montana Department of Agriculture, Curren had two 40-foot-long shipping containers delivered to her home. With another grant, Curren installed solar panels on her setup. Today, her farm is 30 percent solar-powered.

"When the [first] shipping container arrived, I had a moment of 'Oh my god, what did I do?' because it was like this giant alien spaceship had landed in my yard," Curren said.

But she loved the idea of being able to supply her community with local, chemical-free food year-round, despite Montana's harsh, frosty climate. Her crops are grown without soil in a controlled indoor environment, so below-zero temperatures and pest invasions aren't a worry.

Each of Curren's shipping containers has the capacity to grow 4,000 plants, a wide variety of herbs and leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, chard and arugula. Each container uses only 10 gallons of water per day, 90 percent less than what is used in conventional farming.

"If we can grow this amount of food for 10 gallons of water a day, I don't see why we shouldn't be doing that, especially in places that are severely water-challenged," Curren said.

Her operation allows her to supply six restaurants and her local farmers market with a fresh selection of produce. She prefers to buy her seeds from the local seed co-op, when available.

"I really believe food should be community," she said. "In places that have limited growing seasons, it's a way to keep locally growing food in communities and not be reliant on trucking things in from all over."

Inside the containers, the crops are grown vertically in gutter-like hydroponic towers and exposed to red and blue LED light strips. Nutrient-rich water flows down through the top of the towers, bathing the roots along the way. Excess water is recycled back into the main tank.

Curren can control the water, temperature and light conditions inside her shipping containers remotely, with an app on her phone. She recently installed UV water filtration to ensure bad bacteria can't enter her farm.

Since Curren introduced Montana's first shipping container farm two years ago, four other farmers in the state were inspired to try this growing method as well, one of whom is Brittany Moreland of Elevated Harvest in Red Lodge.

Moreland and her husband spent several days at Shaggy Bear Farm with Curren learning about the farming process firsthand before deciding to purchase their own shipping container farm in 2016. Like Curren, Moreland enjoys being able to farm year-round.

"This time of year, other than onions and potatoes, we have no local fresh food. So even if it's just salad or kale, it's great that it's negative 10 degrees and I'm delivering fresh heads of lettuce that were picked an hour ago," Moreland said.

Elevated Harvest provides for a local catering company and two grocery stores in Red Lodge and Absarokee. She is currently collaborating with other farmers in the state to create a Community Supported Agriculture food hub, with an online ordering platform.

The goal is to make clean, unprocessed, locally grown food easily accessible to the community. Moreland said the food hub will be established by October.

"That's the kind of food I want to eat, that's the kind of food I want to have available to me, and that's the kind of food I think everyone deserves to have available," Moreland said.

Brad McNamara, co-founder of Freight Farms, hopes to transform more everyday people like Curren and Moreland into farmers, and bring transparency to the food industry.

"Everyone's talking about this challenge of how do we feed millions and millions of people?" McNamara said. "The best way to do that is to make millions and millions of people into successful farmers."

The company said it has sold more than 160 shipping container farms worldwide as of December.

"I think it's the way of the future," Curren said. "With our global population on the rise, we have to come up with ways to grow food differently. We don't have enough arable land to feed everyone on the planet, so coming up with models like this are a piece of the answer. They're not the entire answer, but they're a very important piece."

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Energy
Northeast National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Bob Wick / BLM

Trump Administration's Alaska Oil and Gas Lease Sale a 'Major Flop'

Despite the Trump administration's unrelenting quest to drill the Arctic, Wednesday's oil and gas lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) yielded a "disappointing" return of $1.5 million, E&E News reported.

Oil and gas giants ConocoPhillips, Emerald House and Nordaq Energy were the three companies that made uncontested bids on 16 tracts of land out of 254 tracts made available by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) annual sale in the western Arctic.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Dan Sedran

Environmental Changes Are Killing the Livelihood of Great Lakes Fishermen

By Corey Mintz

There's nothing in the fridge at Akiwenzie's Fish & More processing facility. The 918-square-foot building, adjacent to Natasha and Andrew Akiwenzie's house on the shores of Georgian Bay, Ontario, sits empty and dark. Out-front, gill nets lie on the ground, unused for months.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Fire in Yellowstone National Park. Mike Lewelling / NPS Climate Change Response

Poll: Most Americans Believe in Human-Made Climate Change, But a Shocking Number Still Don't

First the good news. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll out Thursday found that 57 percent of U.S. adults think climate change is caused by "human activity" or "mostly human activity"—a stance held by 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists. That's up from the 47 percent in 2012.

The bad news? That implies 43 percent of U.S. adults still have doubts about the global phenomenon, similar to President Donald Trump.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Greta Thunberg and her father Svante at a press conference during COP24 on Dec. 4. JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP / Getty Images

'We Need to Act Now': 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

By Andrea Germanos

Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish activist, on Wednesday called for a global climate strike. The day of action is set for Friday at "your school" or "anywhere you feel called."

Thunberg, who's made headlines for her now-weekly school strikes to urge her home country to take bold climate action, made the call from Katowice, Poland, where she's attending the COP24 climate talks, now in their second week.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Animals
Whale Shark. NOAA

Arabian Sea Sharks May be the Most Threatened in the World

By Joshua Learn

Sharks, rays and chimaeras are some of the most threatened fish in the world. More than 50 percent of species in the Arabian Sea are at elevated risk of extinction due to coastal development, overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. According to an expansive new study, spanning more than a dozen countries, species like sawfish are particularly hard hit with extinction or local extirpation.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

18 Cookbooks for Building a Diverse and Just Food System

By Danielle Nierenberg and Natalie Quathamer

For a delicious end to 2018, Food Tank is highlighting 18 cookbooks that embrace a diverse global food industry. The list features chefs of color and authors that identify as LGBTQ+ working to feed a food revolution that breaks the barriers of race, gender, and sexuality. These books examine everything from building Puerto Rican flavors, conquering the art of transforming leftovers into masterpieces, and grasping what merging queer culture and international cuisine looks—and tastes—like. Whether you cook seasonally, are on a budget, or eat plant-based, there's something here to inspire every reader to diversify their diet!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Fracking
A protester outside the site where fracking restarted in the UK in October. OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty Images

UK Fracking Paused Again After Largest Quake Yet

It would appear that the resurgence of fracking in the UK is on very shaky ground. A company called Cuadrilla restarted the controversial technique at a site in Lancashire, in Northwest England, just two months ago after a seven year hiatus. But it spent a month of that time doing tests with smaller volumes of water after a series of small earthquakes in October, The Guardian reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A reindeer in Sweden. Alexandre Buisse (Nattfodd) / GNU Free Documentation License

Reindeer Numbers Have Fallen by More than Half in 2 Decades

It's a sad Christmas for the world's reindeer—the antlered Arctic grazers associated with all things Santa Claus. Their numbers have fallen by more than half in the past 20 years, and climate change is likely to blame.

The latest numbers come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 2018 Arctic Report Card, which listed the increasing impacts of global warming on the earth's northernmost region, as EcoWatch has already reported. But the loss of Rangifer tarandus—called caribou in North America and Greenland and reindeer in Siberia and Europe—is of note because it threatens to further throw Arctic ecosystems and cultures out of whack. Reindeer are important prey for wolves and biting flies, and a key source of food and clothing for indigenous groups.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!