Design and Testing of a Modified Hydroponic Shipping Container System for Urban Food Production
Abstract, International Journal of Applied Agricultural Sciences, 2018
In urban centers today, Controlled Environment Agriculture is being proposed as a potential alternative to conventional agriculture using hydroponic methods in controlled spaces as a means to increase local food production and improve urban food security by growing crops. One newly proposed technique, growing crops inside refurbished shipping containers, offers a flexible, mobile, and scalable means of year-round food production in a variety of climates. Despite the benefits of producing food locally, some concerns associated with shipping container systems include high-energy consumption from climate control and electric lightning systems, as well as expensive capital investments. This study investigated the viability and effectiveness of shipping container farms as alternative food production systems through an analysis of system energy requirements and resulting crop yields. A Modified Hydroponic Shipping Container system was designed and a Nutrient Film Technique hydroponics system was tested by growing lettuce plants and monitoring energy use throughout the growth period. Theoretical energy use at full scale was quantified for one year of production by modeling energy consumption of major system components through modeling or extension from results on the bench scale. Baseline crop production and overall energy consumption were assessed using a crop production efficiency metric created to evaluate the ratio of system outputs to inputs. Examination of alternative energy scenarios showed potential energy consumption reductions of up to 53 percent and an improvement of the total system crop production efficiency of up to 55 percent from the baseline. Implementation of suggested energy use reduction strategies could allow for the creation of viable and sustainable alternative food systems using shipping containers capable of providing local, accessible foods year-round for a variety of urban communities.
Keywords: Controlled Environment Agriculture, Crop Production, Energy Consumption, Hydroponics, Shipping Container, Vertical Farming, Urban Agriculture