Freight Farms was founded by Brad McNamara and Jon Friedman in 2010, before the “ag tech” industry existed. McNamara and Friedman were pioneers who envisioned the need for urban agriculture as a competitive industry to make local food a reality around the globe.
Their initial focus was on rooftop greenhouses, but it quickly became clear that there was a need for a modular and scalable design that could yield produce 365 days a year. To perfect logistics and reduce costs, McNamara and Friedman designed their new technology to be housed inside shipping containers, which are widely available, even in areas unsuitable for traditional farming methods.
Now Freight Farms is at the forefront of the fast-growing ag tech industry and the first company to build a farm inside a shipping container. Its customers include restaurants, hotels, entrepreneurs, small businesses, corporate campuses, universities and non-profits in addition to traditional farmers. The company is constantly working on new technology to modernize farming.
The Leafy Green Machine
The mission of Freight Farms is to empower anyone to grow food anywhere. Its miniaturized commercial scale farm, the Leafy Green Machine, fits inside an intermodal freight container, so it’s protected from the elements and erratic changes in climate.
The hydroponic, atmospherically controlled, tech-connected farm was the first containerized farm on the market. With maximization of every bit of cubic space, the Leafy Green Machine produces about a thousand baby heads of lettuce or 500 full heads of lettuce a week with an ebb and flow system (intermittent water flow) for seedling propagation and initiation and a vertical drip system for mature plants.
The plants begin in horizontal beds and are harvested from vertical beds. These ergonomic beds enable easy access to plants—no more stooping to work with seeds and plants in the ground!
SOLIDWORKS Makes Every Stage More Efficient
When designing within a literal box, it’s vital that every piece of equipment and its interaction with the operator and the plants is seamless. SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD was instrumental in the design of the Leafy Green Machine as the team was able to test designs with meticulous accuracy and make modifications without creating expensive physical prototypes.
Freight Farms also uses SOLIDWORKS on a daily basis to quickly grasp the reality of a space. Using SOLIDWORKS mates they quickly identify interference points, and they block out the size of a head of lettuce or other plant to determine how the space must change to accommodate each week of the growth cycle.
According to Freight Farms Designer Derek Baker, SOLIDWORKS’ sheet metal feature is a game changer because it helps him understand the constraints the fabricators encounter when building a part: “When I have that understanding, I’m able to bring that part to conclusion just so much quicker.”
The Internet of Things and Farming
Internet of Things (IoT) farm management and automation have become a way of life with Freight Farm’s easy-to-use digital platform that lets you manage, analyze, and remotely control your farm from any location.
The platform enables you to know exactly how things are running by viewing the current status of all your growing equipment including real-time views of temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and pH levels. You also receive alerts if your farm’s temperature falls above or below your threshold.
Farmers are now no longer confined to where they can farm—urban, suburban, or rural—Freight Farms makes geography a non-issue. Even the unpredictable ways of Mother Nature are minimized with the Leafy Green Machine.
The potential impact of the Leafy Green Machine excites Baker: “I want to make food accessible to the world, and that’s what I would hope people will think about when they think about me or Freight Farms.”