How Shipping Containers Could Be The Key To Food Sustainability


All over the world there are food aid initiatives put in place to help those who don't have it as easy as the rest of us, and while these are worthwhile causes that can bring people salvation, there may be some instances where these initiatives fall short of a long term goal and become merely a bandage covering an over-arching problem.

But there is an organisation in San Fransisco that exists which intends to answer the question of long term food and farming sustainability. The organisation is called 'Food From a Box', and their answer?Shipping containers.
Brandi DeCarli and Scott Thompson have been in the not-for-profit game for a long time, with a single drive to provide empowerment to those without the ability to easily empower themselves. In 2009, Thompson was working with the United Nations Habitat Program to construct a youth empowerment centre in Kisumu, Kenya. Soon after, he met DeCarli and eventually they began working together on the youth centre, which involved modified shipping containers that were built around a soccer field to provide basic services and resources in education, health and sport for the local youth.

Farm From a Box

Brandi DeCarli and Scott ThompsonUsing the modified shipping containers provided a unique, transportable “plug and play” model to their humanitarian work, and soon DeCarli and Thompson began to think about life's other necessities (food and nutrition). They then considered how the container model could be integrated into this sector. It was at that moment that the idea of 'Farm From a Box' was born.
What Is Farm From a Box?

DeCarli and Thompson like to think of it as "food sovereignty in a box". The mission of Farm From a Box is to provide an enabling mechanism for communities to prosper.

The core concept involves a standard shipping container which has been modified to become a Swiss-Army knife of sustainable farming. The container provides an arsenal of basic farming tools, a seedling house and water purification technology which includes a micro-drip irrigation system and water pump that can be adapted to fit either a groundwell or municipal water supply.

Solar panels are built in to charge all the energy-dependent systems without the need of an existing grid. With all of these features housed in the modified container, a single unit becomes a portable and easy-to-use system which contains all of the core components needed for a 2-acre farm.

Farm From a Box

Farm From a Box also harnesses green technology and pairs it with sustainable farming techniques. It does this by offering information for improved agricultural production via its built-in off-grid weather systems and sensor technology, geo-spatial mapping software and market information. Farm from a Box also integrates an agro-ecological farming approach that actively regenerates life and biodiversity, using natural resources wisely.

How Farm From a Box works

"From dwindling natural resources, to a lack of infrastructure that can support reliable crop growth, we need to provide communities with the tools to grow their own food locally and earn a livelihood," the founders say. "Whether it is growing local, organic food for a school, providing communities and families with the farming infrastructure they need, or helping jumpstart food production after a disaster… we have the toolkit to do it."

According to the organisation's website, Farm from a Box is ideal for a variety of uses:

  • Community Sustained Agriculture initiatives (CSAs)
  • Food and science education in schools
  • Addressing the nutritional needs of urban food deserts
  • Farm-to-table food for employees, restaurants, and businesses
  • Support not-for-profit organisations
  • Turn unproductive land into a farming enterprise.

When the program is fully-functioning, Farm From a Box's strategy is to implement itself where needed, or requested, and then once the shipping container is situation, deliver a training program for future uses which touches upon essential topics like sustainable farming practices and technology use and maintenance.

Farm From a Box

Farm From a Box as an organisation believes that the shipping container initiative will create an enabling mechanism to:

  • Increase yields and extend growing season
  • Build a regenerative, sustainable production system
  • Provide access to power and clean water
  • Bridge the technology "access gap"
  • Improve  and contribute to local economies
  • Build community resilience to challenges
  • Foster greater gender equity and empowerment.

Prototypes of the farming containers already exist and are running in a few select areas, but the organisation is not quite ready to go mainstream. DeCarli and Thompson and the others who work for Farm From a Box are currently engaged in an investment campaign to gain the funds to make their vision, of sustainable farming, healthy food production and assisting income generation, a reality.


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