Good Thinking

Container farms add local flavor to fresh fruit production

Container farms add local flav...
Agricool focuses on growing fruit in its shipping container farms, rather than leafy greens
Agricool focuses on growing fruit in its shipping container farms, rather than leafy greens
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Agricool focuses on growing fruit in its shipping container farms, rather than leafy greens
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Agricool focuses on growing fruit in its shipping container farms, rather than leafy greens
Agricool uses vertical grow-walls rather than stacked trays as this makes it possible to grow more crops per square meter
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Agricool uses vertical grow-walls rather than stacked trays as this makes it possible to grow more crops per square meter
Agricool's containers can be tended by people with no experience of farming, with the company actually monitoring and running the farms remotely
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Agricool's containers can be tended by people with no experience of farming, with the company actually monitoring and running the farms remotely
Each Agricool container is able to house more than 4,000 strawberry plants
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Each Agricool container is able to house more than 4,000 strawberry plants
Each Agricool container can produce 120 times more fruit than would be the case on the same area of a field
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Each Agricool container can produce 120 times more fruit than would be the case on the same area of a field
The closed loop system for water and nutrients that Agricool employs uses around 90 percent less water than would be required for conventional growing
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The closed loop system for water and nutrients that Agricool employs uses around 90 percent less water than would be required for conventional growing
Agricool optimizes growing conditions for taste, like nutrients, irrigation, lighting and CO2
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Agricool optimizes growing conditions for taste, like nutrients, irrigation, lighting and CO2
Agricool uses electricity from only renewable sources
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Agricool uses electricity from only renewable sources
Agricool developed its own LED lighting for use in the containers
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Agricool developed its own LED lighting for use in the containers
Agricool has three prototype containers currently operating
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Agricool has three prototype containers currently operating
Agricool says it designs every part of the containers itself
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Agricool says it designs every part of the containers itself
Agricool's crops are claimed more vitamin-rich, free of harmful chemicals and pesticides and don't need washing before they're eaten
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Agricool's crops are claimed more vitamin-rich, free of harmful chemicals and pesticides and don't need washing before they're eaten

French startup Agricool believes the fruit flown around the world and stacked onto supermarkets shelves ain't what it used to be, so it has hatched a plan to recapture the authentic flavors of yesterday's fresh produce. The company has just raised €4 million (US$4.2 million) in funding to develop specialized shipping containers that can be used to grow full-flavored fruit a little closer to home.

The firm's fresh fruit approach sets it apart from similar shipping container farm outfits like Cropbox and Freight Farms, which typically focus on leafy greens. The first fruit that Agricool is focusing on is the strawberry, a produce it says is the poster-boy for tasteless supermarket fruit.

Agricool kits out its shipping containers as hydroponic growing units, designed to optimize growing conditions like nutrient levels, irrigation, LED lighting and CO2. The air drawn in from outside is filtered in an effort to minimize the possibility of pollution entering the containers.

"We have 30 engineers in house, working all day to improve the technology," company co-founder Guillaume Fourdinier explains to New Atlas. "If you don't do that, you are only able to grow leafy greens. Our mission is to bring back taste in our fruits and vegetables, and we don't feel that it has been lost for leafy greens."

Agricool developed its own LED lighting for use in the containers
Agricool developed its own LED lighting for use in the containers

Vertical grow-walls, rather than stacked trays, are used as this is said to make it possible to grow more per square meter, with each container able to house more than 4,000 strawberry plants. Agricool says each container can produce 120 times more than would be the case on the same area of a field. The crops produced are also claimed to be more vitamin-rich, free of harmful chemicals and pesticides and conveniently, don't need washing before they're eaten.

The closed loop system employed for water and nutrients uses 90 percent less water than would be required for conventional cultivation and only electricity from renewable sources is used. What's more, the basic tending of the containers can be done by people with no experience in farming, while Agricool actually monitors the health of the crop and controls water and nutrient feeds remotely.

Only 30 sq m (323 sq ft), or the area of two car parking spaces, is required for each container. It is hoped that this distributed mode of growing can ultimately serve whole urban areas, while also helping to cut transportation time, costs and emissions.

Agricool has three prototype containers currently operating
Agricool has three prototype containers currently operating

Agricool was founded last year by Fourdinier and his colleague Gonzague Gru, both children of farming parents, because they couldn't find high-quality fruit and vegetables in cities. This, they say, is because crops are harvested too soon so that they don't spoil during transport and because they're chosen for their ability to travel, rather than for taste.

The firm's first prototype was installed in Bercy, in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, France, late last year and there are now three prototypes in operation. It has spent this year conducting research and development, and the new funding will be used to speed up Agricool's growth, with the goal for next year to roll-out 75 containers, distribute 91 tons of strawberries and begin work on two new types of crop.

Source: Agricool

3 comments
Bob Flint
Not a glint of sunlight .......just LED's, no mention of the cost versus typical outdoor growing methods. Save the power, gather the rain water, run it through sand filters,might as well grow mushrooms.
frogola
i love the initiative. and i can't believe how we have been reduced to eating tasteless fruit and vegetables.the next generation mite not even know the difference.
Don Duncan
I retired and stopped gardening a decade ago. I'm going back to it, using 5g. containers/5g. reservoirs underneath (SIP). I will use use nylon/polyester rope as a wick and air pruned grow pots. I couldn't find decent fruit/veggies at any price consistently. And it's getting worse every year. The farmer's markets have deteriorated in the Vegas area to trucked in low quality, high priced produce. Nothing local. It will cost me about $2-300 for ten pots/ten reservoirs. Cheap at 5x the price. This is a matter of health and quality of life that is not being provided commercially.