As cannabis legalization becomes more widespread across the U.S., farmers are discovering new ways to grow the crop.
DeMario Vitalis, owner of New Age Provisions Farms, a farming business based in Indianapolis, has experience growing a variety of crops outdoors, but a couple years ago, he began searching for something new—a method that might provide him more control over his work.
In 2019, Vitalis started to explore cultivating hemp indoors hydroponically—the process of growing plants in soilless nutrient solution, Cannabis Business Times previously reported.
That year, Vitalis began working with Freight Farms, a Boston-based company that provides farmers with cultivation software integrated within a 320-square-foot shipping container. He received his first shipping container from the company in August 2020 and his second one in January.
According to James Woolward, chief marketing officer at Freight Farms, the Greenery S manages the environment inside the 40-foot shipping containers using four specialized systems: air, light, water and nutrient control. It also has sensors throughout the grow area so it can relay information, data and updates about the grow directly to farmhand, an operating system app that growers can download on their phone.
Freight Farms works with farmers who grow several different crops hydroponically inside shipping containers, including lettuces, leafy greens, herbs, flowers, roots and more, but the company recently started incorporating cannabis and hemp.
"We have three or four [growers] at the moment that grow cannabis and hemp," Woolward says. "They’re independent customers, so they buy the farm from us, and then they build their own business. We have quite a lot of customers [who use this as] an addition to their traditional agriculture because you’re removing seasonality, basically."
One of the most significant benefits of growing hydroponic cannabis and hemp in a shipping container is that growers do not have to worry about the outdoor climate, Woolward says. Instead, they can harvest year-round, even in areas that reach extremely hot or cold temperatures.
"We have a lot of customers in Alaska and Canada, and you can imagine during the winter, the [shipping containers] become more of an engine of their business because it gives [them] that control 365 days a year," he says.© Courtesy of New Age Provisions FarmsVitalis
Despite Vitalis’ experience with outdoor cultivation, he says he prefers growing in the shipping container. It has given Vitalis better control over his crops—something he felt he needed, as he can manage his crops even when he’s not in the vicinity. The Freight Farms environmental control system allows him to see what’s happening within and around his hemp crops.
"It reminds me if levels are getting too low or too high to check the app and set alerts," he says. "If I leave the farm, I’m able to get into the app, turn the lights on and make sure the fans and pumps are running. And as that stuff is going,