Shipping Container Farms: D.C.’s Food Accessibility Solution?


    A California-based company is bringing their creative food desert solution to the Washington, D.C. area. The Washington Post reports that Local Roots is an indoor farm created entirely out of shipping containers, allowing communities to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables in any climate.

    “You can start to bring that farm into communities that historically had to import their food due to geography, climate, weather, soil or light,” chief executive Eric Ellestad said in a statement to The Washington Post.

    The Local Roots growing system operates through a hydroponic system, according to their website. The shipping containers also include LED lights that can be solar or electric powered, an irrigation system, and climate sensors. And since steel shipping containers have a 25-year lifespan on average, their actual structures are highly durable.

    According to The Washington Post, every 40-foot shipping container can hold about three to five acres of farmland, which allows Local Roots to grow twice as quickly while using less water. The crops are then sold to local food distributors and restaurants. This allows produce to be grown locally within cities. Local Roots will be setting up shop in Laurel, which is near distributor Coastal Sunbelt Produce.

    “We’re pretty excited about the freshness, just having it grown about as local as it can get,” said Jason Lambros, vice president of purchasing for Coastal Sunbelt Produce, in a statement to The Washington Post. “We can be a neat place for them to experiment and grow anything we can dream of, because we have the customers for it.”

    Local Roots is not the only company using shipping containers to make agriculture more accessible. Boston-based Freight Farms recently entered a partnership with Federal Realty Investment Trust to bring their shipping container agriculture technology nationwide. Washington Business Journal reports that the company uses hydroponic technology in their containers as well, allowing vendors to grow produce in unused parking spaces.

    Similar shipping container models are popping up in underserved communities around the country, like Chicago’s new food collective.

    The first Local Roots installment in Laurel, Maryland is expected to be growing strawberries by January.