Upcycled Shipping Containers Are Transformed Into IoT Farms
Joan Thompson posted on August 18, 2016 | 5343 views
The startup company Freight Farms has a simple goal—to grow food anywhere in the world and be smart about it. So it created the Leafy Green Machine (LGM), a project that transforms discarded freight containers into mobile hydroponic farms.

Freight Farms are made from upcycled shipping containers, a resource that frequently goes to the landfill. (Image courtesy of Freight Farms.)
Freight Farms are made from upcycled shipping containers, a resource that frequently goes to the landfill. (Image courtesy of Freight Farms.)

The farms also have an Internet of Things (IoT) sensory system in place that measures CO2 levels, humidity, temperature and water nutrient levels. Users can monitor the interior conditions of their farm units and adjust accordingly.

Recently, the company made the decision to include Xively, which offers an IoT product management platform that allows the user to monitor and control connected assets.


An IoT Platform That was Chosen Because It was Simple

According to the cofounder of Freight Farms, Xively was chosen because its management of multiple IoT sensors was straightforward. Beforehand, Freight Farms was using its own version of an IoT system, which involved putting together different types of sensors and devices from different industries.

While it was able to pick and choose from different sources for its sensory system, Freight Farms found that its finished product was simply not user friendly. The greenhouse manager was really the only person who knew how to run the final farm.

Xively’s system was deemed simple to understand and included a rich feature set. It also operated on open-source protocols and allows businesses to interact with it via application programming interfaces.
Produce that customers can grow inside the farm include lettuces, brassicas and herbs. (Images courtesy of Freight Farms.)
Produce that customers can grow inside the farm include lettuces, brassicas and herbs. (Images courtesy of Freight Farms.)

IoT System Goes Beyond the Farm Itself

There are 10 climate sensors and 40 other devices that are constantly monitored in each freight farm. The company had already deployed 40 of its products by the time it began its collaboration with Xively, so it had to consider the fate of these farms.

In their former state, the purchased farms were operating essentially on their own. Their IoT systems were not connected to processors outside the walls of the shipping container.

Once collaboration began with Xively, Freight Farms was able to think outside the box. Instead of limiting IoT connectivity to within the walls of the shipping container, a new network was developed that connected farmers to each other, providing more opportunity to learn how to optimize growing conditions.

Automated features in the modular farms include the ability to turn off a water pump if it is running too long or discover an issue with the plumbing line that requires immediate action. When this happens, users can control the interior conditions from afar, saving their plants from catastrophe.

LGMs sell for $82,000 a container. For more technical specifications, see the Freight Farms website.

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