IoT Brings Year-Round Farming Into Shipping Containers

‘Shipping container farms’ are entering the Internet of Things with connected features to enable remote management.

That connectivity also extends across individual farms to collect data for better calculating crop growth periods.

In a joint presentation at the Internet of Things Summit in Boston yesterday, Kyle Seaman, director of farm technology of Freight Farms, described how they are using the Internet of Things to enable remote farming.

The original goal of Freight Farms was to enable farmers to grow and sell food local to any region by controlling the climate in the shipping container, anywhere in the world.

Through the Farmhand smartphone app, farmers have access to the air temperature, humidity, CO2 and water nutrient levels in each farm.

Freight Farms transforms shipping containers into fully-equipped 1.5 acre farms, which can operate year-round. Each farm can yield 1,000 mini heads of lettuce per week. One farm located under Route 93 in South Boston can grow 60 pounds of kale per week and sells produce to Boston-based restaurant chain b.good.

“The connectivity of the farm is a big selling point; it gives new farmers confidence that they will always have visibility into their business operations,” Freight Farms’ Seaman told the IoT Daily.

“We're already seeing the connectivity as expected by new farmers.”

Freight Farms uses the IoT technology of Boston-based Xively, a services platform that scales and manages systems of IoT products.

Xively is positioned as operating somewhere between the IoT products themselves and the cellular networks connecting the devices together, according to Paddy Srinivasan, general manager of Xively, who presented with Seaman.

At first, connected devices and sensors were used to make individual Freight Farms operate remotely, Freight Farms’ Seaman told the Daily.

“IoT was more an enabler in making this vision a reality; the amount of time required to run a farm directly impacts the ROI for our farmers,” he said.

“By connecting the farms, we can reduce the time in farm to only necessary actions, such as harvesting and planting.”  

However, expanding that connectivity beyond a single farmer and a single farm into a system of farms connected to each other adds more value to the farming industry as a whole, according to Seaman.

“Connectivity is now enabling new features, where before we had individual farms operating, we now have each farms sharing their data and creating network effects in establishing ideal growing environments.”

Each farm costs more than $80,000 and the presentation did not include details of future marketing efforts to expand the business.

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