Since the summer of 2017, ECU has been home to a very unique piece of farming technology located behind Jones Hall – Freight Farms.
Freight Farms is a climate-controlled, hydroponic farm that produces a variety of leafy greens. The farm is housed inside a shipping freight container, where we get a sneak peek into the future of farming.
So, What Exactly Is Hydroponic Farming?
Hydroponic farming is an alternative farming method that grows plants without the use of soil. Instead, the plants are submerged in nutrient-rich water that provides the plants with all of the nourishment they need.
Hydroponic farming is more than just another way to grow plants. This technology has the potential to change the future of food cultivation. With hydroponic farming, we are freed from the soil beneath our feet, allowing farming to be brought into an environment where climate and lighting can be completely controlled, maximizing plant health and production capacity.
From Seed to Salad
The entire process in the Farm, from seedling to produce in your salad, takes 8 weeks.
We first place the seeds into seedling plugs. These plugs are flooded with water while in a seedling trough, before being moved to germinate. With the right amount of moisture, the seedlings will germinate for a week in an ideal environment with controlled humidity and 16 hours of light a day.
Once germinated, they are moved back into the seedling trough for another two weeks where they are flooded with water every eight hours.
Then, the plugs are transplanted into crop columns where they will continue to grow for five weeks before being ready for harvest.
After being harvested, the produce is delivered the same day to the dining hall for use – it doesn’t get much more locally grown than that!
Are the Crops Grown In The Freight Farms Organic?
Yes, all of the crops grown in the Farm are organic! Because a hydroponic farm does not require the use of soil, and rather, utilizes nutrient-rich water, there is no concern about the use of chemical fertilizers. Additionally, because the Farm is an enclosed, climate-controlled environment, the threat of pests and bacteria on crop yield is greatly reduced compared to conventional farming methods. Any chemicals used within the farm are plant-safe and organic.
Our Future Goals for Freight Farms
With our seed-to-salad process, the Freight Farm is capable of producing 500 heads of lettuce every five weeks – the equivalent of growing two acres of crops, every five weeks.
Annually, with 10 growing cycles in the Farm, we have the potential to produce 5,000 heads of lettuce a year.
Can the Freight Farm Only Grow Lettuce?
While we are currently only growing lettuce, that is not the only crop we are able to grow here in the Farm! Various leafy greens are regularly grown, such as kale and arugula. Herbs like parsley, basil, and dill are easily grown in the farmers well. Freight Farms also has the potential to grow a handful of experimental crops, such as flowers, carrots, and beets. Experimenting with these crops is a goal for our future.
For more information on the extent of crops available to be grown in the Farm, please visit www.freightfarms.com/container-farm-crops.
Where Can I Get Freight Farms Lettuce On Campus?
Currently, Freight Farm produce is only available at Todd Dining Hall, although we hope to soon expand into more dining locations across campus!
Want to Know More About the Freight Farms?
For more information about Freight Farms, please visit https://www.freightfarms.com/home