Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) Industry (also known as: Hydroponics, Greenhouses, Vertical/Indoor Farming, Container Farms, etc.)

The purpose of this thread is to discuss “shipping container farms”, which are essentially indoor/vertical farms typically built inside of a 50’ shipping container. This has been attempted thousands (not hundreds) of times around the world, by universities, businesses, and non-profits. This has allowed many to experiment with combinations of LEDs, HVAC systems, and irrigation systems, on a smaller scale.
There have been dozens of companies started to create products based on this technology. These companies have found success selling these systems to people in the United States, mostly from urban areas, that are interested in switching careers or pursuing their own businesses.

Plants are complicated and creating a system to manage their root zone and canopy zone automatically is very difficult. This means that no matter what type of equipment you buy, as of March 1st, 2023, you still need to know how to grow plants in order to be a successful farmer. When the auto industry began, every part of the car was made by the automakers (remember Ford’s rubber trees?) as the industry matured though, suppliers began to specialize. This took decades though and it’s unreasonable to think that any company in this market is able to source LED/HVAC/Irrigation systems that can easily be integrated into a single controller/software interface.

While I see a lot of value in the process of designing, building, and testing, a “shipping container farm” I think that in most circumstances purchasing one “off-the-shelf” is not a wise decision. This is particularly true if your goal is to produce enough product in that container farm to make a living. Anyone who sells you a product that supposedly will work the same in any season, regardless of whether you’re in Arizona, New York, or Louisiana - is full of hot air.

Why getting your HVAC right in an indoor farm is so difficult:

  • lights are generating heat.
  • water is evaporating.
  • plants are transpiring.
  • gasses are accumulating and being exchanged.
  • crop populations are fluctuating.

A few links about this topic:

I’m very open to questions/comments/critiques and would LOVE to hear from you about this topic!

Great overview of startups (most have received venture capital financing of $1M-$200M+) in the Controlled Environment Agriculture industry. This is a visual called a “market landscape” that was created by “The Mixing Bowl” and distributed publicly in this article: Inside Indoor AgTech - Mixing Bowl. I’ve seen teachers print these out and have students pick a company to do some research on - it’s a cool way for them to learn about ag-tech companies. you might be interested in the other shipping container companies listed under “Container Systems”
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If you’re interested in seeing more of these market landscapes with lists of companies in the ag-tech industry, here’s a link to a google image search with dozens of them.

One of the best tours I’ve ever had of a vertical farming facility was at the demonstration farm of SANANBIO, located in in Las Vegas, NV. They have a very impressive line of modular rack systems designed specifically for Indoor Farming applications which they demonstrate there a 80,000 sq/ft operational indoor farm. Here is a brochure all about their products, I’m not sure about their pricing but I’m sure you could learn more through their website: