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Posted by Charles Gray on April 3, 2017

I saw an interesting webpage yesterday, about using containers for indoor farming.

 

From the company’s website:

 

What is a Leafy Green Machine?

Also known as the LGM, the Leafy Green Machine is a pre-assembled hydroponic farm inside an up-cycled freight container. It is capable of producing yields at commercial-scale in any climate and any season.

 

It’s an interesting concept, and one that could be very important in coming years. In terms of society, it’s another example of moving from food as farmed, to food as a manufactured product. You don’t need to find good soil, or a place with decent rainfall/river resources, because you provide all of that inside the container. If you can get water and power, you’re good to go. Take a look at all the places in the city where you can fit a TEU and you’ll see a potential farming site.

1200px-line3174_-_shipping_containers_at_the_terminal_at_port_elizabeth2c_new_jersey_-_noaa

“Son, Cabbages are in this year. Better go add some more containers to the back 40…”

 

 

Why should we care?

 

Well, one thing that is likely to be coming for the world is increasingly unstable weather conditions, and understand, I’m not just talking about droughts.  Rain at the wrong time can kill a crop just as effectively as a drought can.  The more we can decouple food production from exterior weather conditions, the better off we’d be.

 

Even better, using containers lets you avoid the question of “how do we get the money to build a big-ass skyscraper farm?”  This is an incremental solution that could be funded by a trickle, instead of requiring an immense amount of funding from the start. Believe me, that’s more important than a lot of people give credit for— it’s a lot easier to get the government, be it national or local, to fund something that isn’t demanding tens of millions or more for the initial start up. Even better, it makes it more open for private actors.

 

But since this is a writing and sci-fi blog, let’s ask: what other developments could this see?

 

Well, the big one is the further marginalization of rural America. Not now, not in the next year, but let’s look ahead to some distant time when A growing percentage of the nation’s food supply is provided by things like these designs. What happens then?  Does big agribusiness go away (note, before people tell me I’m full of it, I do know that the the “profitable price point” for lettuce and things like grain are radically different things. We are, after all, talking about the future.

We’ve already seen how ugly the rural/urban divide can get, so does it get uglier? Or does the ability to decouple a city or a town from larger supply networks see a growth in smaller towns?

I don’t know. After all, sci-fi writers have explored both concepts— the death of the rural society in favor of the megalopolis, and the death of the megalopolis in favor of smaller rural settlements.

And the amusing thing is that many of them have something like our modern day developments in containerized or factory farming as the impetus for the change, or all that they usually fluffed it as “food factories”. It looks like, for good or ill, we may be moving into their future.

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