Quantcast

Two Young Entrepreneurs Offer Way to Grow Food Even in the Dead of Winter

Popular

As the Eastern U.S. deals with sub-freezing temperatures and lots of snow (looking at you Boston), two young entrepreneurs, Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara, who happen to live in Boston, have a solution to produce food locally even in the middle of winter. Freight Farms, which Friedman and McNamara started in 2010, sells insulated shipping containers, which they've nicknamed Leafy Green Machines, as part of what they call "the next generation of food supply."

Founders Jon Friedman, left, and Brad McNamara, right. Photo credit: Freight Farms

The converted shipping containers are "outfitted with vertical hydroponics, high efficiency LED lights and an automated climate control system," according to their website. The automated system allows users to easily produce "high volume, consistent harvests." Yesterday, Friedman and McNamara joined Jeremy Hobson of NPR's Here & Now to discuss their start up.

Friedman, McNamara and Hobson stood outside in sub-freezing temperatures next to four Leafy Green Machines. Inside these converted shipping containers are (you guessed it!) thousands of varieties of leafy greens including lettuces, herbs and brassicas.

"We can take this all over and to places that don't have access to food," says McNamara. Their idea has been met with skepticism from some, but everyone understands when you explain that "if you want lettuce in New England right now, it's coming from really far away," says Friedman.

Is this catching on? The two have sold 25 units so far, starting around $76,000 per unit. "Between 50 and 100 people a month come in and say I want to get involved with this," says McNamara. Growing food might be the world's oldest profession, but Friedman and McNamara are bringing food production into the 21st century.

"Each farm is a wifi-enabled hotspot, so your farm ... is immediately on the web and all of our farms are connected to our network," McNamara says. "All of our farmers use our farm hand mobile app to monitor their farms 24/7. They can set alerts. They can set alarms."

Sean and Connie Cooney are two happy Freight Farms customers. With their Leafy Green Machine, they can monitor temperature, nutrient and pH levels, and even watch live video of their plants from anywhere with the company's mobile app. "We like to think of it as farming by computer but we still get our hands in there," says Connie Cooney.

Sean Cooney said they chose to buy one because "it seemed like the only scalable way" to grow food in a city and make money doing it as opposed to needing "acres and acres of land further away from the city." They sell most of their greens, including cilantro, mustard green, wild mint, kale, purslane and sorrel, to restaurants. The plants grow more quickly and can grow all year long, and they taste as good or better than what you would buy from a "dirt farm," according to Sean Cooney.

Friedman and McNamara estimate the annual operating costs at $13,000 a year—for electricity, water, packaging and growing supplies—but with plans to incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar panels, that cost could drop significantly.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

10 Foods That Make You Smarter

Nestlé to Dump Artificial Colors and Flavors in U.S. Candy, Something It Did in Europe Years Ago

Move Over Food Trucks: Eco-Friendly Food Bikes Hit the Streets

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A new report spotlights a U.N. estimate that at least 275 million people rely on healthy coral reefs. A sea turtle near the Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef is seen above. THE OCEAN AGENCY / XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY

By Jessica Corbett

In a new report about how the world's coral reefs face "the combined threats of climate change, pollution, and overfishing" — endangering the future of marine biodiversity — a London-based nonprofit calls for greater global efforts to end the climate crisis and ensure the survival of these vital underwater ecosystems.

Read More
Half of the extracted resources used were sand, clay, gravel and cement, seen above, for building, along with the other minerals that produce fertilizer. Cavan Images / Cavan / Getty Images

The world is using up more and more resources and global recycling is falling. That's the grim takeaway from a new report by the Circle Economy think tank, which found that the world used up more than 110 billion tons, or 100.6 billion metric tons, of natural resources, as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

Read More
Sponsored

By Gero Rueter

Heating with coal, oil and natural gas accounts for around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's something we can change, says Wolfgang Feist, founder of the Passive House Institute in the western German city of Darmstadt.

Read More
Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016. Markus Spiske / Unsplash

By George Citroner

  • Recent research finds that official government figures may be underestimating drug deaths by half.
  • Researchers estimate that 142,000 people died due to drug use in 2016.
  • Drug use decreases life expectancy after age 15 by 1.4 years for men and by just under 1 year for women, on average.

Government records may be severely underreporting how many Americans die from drug use, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University.

Read More
Water coolers in front of shut-off water fountains at Center School in Stow, MA on Sept. 4, 2019 after elevated levels of PFAS were found in the water. David L. Ryan / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

In a new nationwide assessment of drinking water systems, the Environmental Working Group found that toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS are far more prevalent than previously thought.

Read More