One Sure Way to Save Our Soil–Don’t Use Any
In the push for regenerative agriculture and soil rehabilitation, container farming has an important role to play.
The idea behind regenerative agriculture isn’t new, but this year it is front and center as one of the key initiatives of the official Earth Day 2021 campaign: Restore Our Earth™.
According to the Earth Day organization, overfarming has caused soil capacity in the U.S. to decline dramatically, losing soil 10 times faster than it can be replenished. The result is that in many places, the land has as few as 60 harvests left before it is completely depleted. Unfortunately, with ownership of farms increasingly concentrated in the hands of industrial or foreign producers, the promise of short-term profits wins out over long-term solutions that would prioritize soil health.
What is regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative farming takes an opposite position. As a school of thought, it is a method of farming that actively fights soil degradation by restoring carbon to the soil, which has a double benefit of renewing the viability of the land while simultaneously removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. There are many different types of regenerative agriculture, here’s a helpful video to explain the main three:
But between destroying the soil and saving the soil, there’s a third option: not using any soil at all. This is the premise behind container farming.
Container farming to save soil.
Container farming is a subset of the indoor farming industry, which includes everything from greenhouses and warehouses to at-home tabletop setups. The advantage of container farming is the ability to create commercial-scale production within a small space the size of your standard 40-foot shipping container through vertical farming techniques. Inside the container, plants are protected from the external elements and nurtured using nutrient-enriched water, powerful red and blue light, and optimal temperatures.
Notice anything missing? Oh yeah–soil!
Container farming with hydroponics completely eliminates the need for soil to grow food, which is great news for the whole regenerative agriculture movement. Since regenerative farming is based on the idea of protecting soil, container farming is able to take the whole idea to the logical extreme by not using any soil–period.
Not only does container farming prevent the further degradation of soil, but it actually frees up land to be actively regenerated. At Freight Farms, our containers (each capable of growing an average of 2 acres of food) have already saved 700 acres of land… which’s equal to about 530 football fields!
Additional sustainability benefits
Beyond regenerative agriculture, which is primarily focused on soil, container farming brings many additional sustainable benefits. The Greenery S is able to save:
- Water: 99% less water than is used in conventional agriculture.
- Food miles: we move the farms, not the food. Instead of trucking/shipping food from a centralized location, we put the farm as close to the final consumer as possible.
- Carbon emissions: in addition to reducing food miles, we’ve partnered with Arcadia to make it easy and effective for our farmers to get onto the renewable energy grid and make their carbon footprint just one-quarter of what it would be if they were farming using industrial farming methods.
While regenerative agriculture may start with soil, the implications on climate change, food access, and food security are clear. In the same way, container farming is also more than just improving the sustainability of our agriculture system. In addition to saving soil, land, water and reducing food miles and carbon emissions, container farming unlocks many important social gains:
- Independence: when we are not reliant on soil, land, and climate, we can make any place a farm. This makes it possible for us to create the distributed system we need to combat the harmful effects of industrial farming and centralized food systems.
- Equality: independence from soil and land also creates more food equality, since individuals and communities need fewer resources (money & land) to create commercial-scale farms.
- More farmers: Soil is complicated and nuanced, it takes huge amounts of experience and education to know how to do regenerative agriculture properly. With container farming, everyone can be a low-impact farmer.
- More varieties: Conventional agriculture is beholden to monocropping, which improves the unit economics of growing food but also increases the risk of crop failure, blight, and soil degradation. Container farming makes it possible to grow hundreds of plant varieties, introducing people to new types of plants and growing public perception of the diversity you can have with fresh greens. This can have an overall positive effect on market demands and help move the whole system away from relying on mono-cropping.