A 2-acre Farm in a Box: Kits Deliver Off-grid Farming Components in Shipping Containers
May 1, 2016 | Anne Craig
San Francisco-based Farm From a Box supplies all the components needed to create a two-acre off-grid farm, packed in a shipping container that will then serve as a farm building. It recently announced a new partnership with Netafim, an Israel-based irrigation firm with offices in 120 countries, to supply the irrigation components.
Farm From a Box is the brainchild of partners Scott Thompson and Brandi DiCarli. Their kits include renewable power systems, internet connectivity, basic farm tools, micro-drip irrigation systems and water pumps that can be adapted to fit either a ground well or municipal water supply.
The concept was born in 2009 in Kisumu, Kenya, where Thompson and DiCarli worked together on creating a youth empowerment center using modified shipping containers set around a soccer field. Realizing that that area and many others around the world were in desperate need of a reliable supply of fresh, healthy food, they began to research and develop what they began to think of as “food sovereignty in a box,” applying the shipping container concept to sustainable agriculture.
The approach is market-based; Thompson and DiCarli intend to market Farm From a Box to aid agencies and multinationals that distribute food in hungry places, allowing the residents to establish self-sufficiency. A prototype, Adam, is up and running in Sonoma, California; the second is getting underway in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia. The kits incorporate Trojan batteries, Sierra Wireless connectivity systems, Grundfos pumps, and SMA solar technology.
“Netafim has developed a complete custom kit that is specifically tailored to the Farm from a Box 2-acre system,” says DiCarli, “designed to provide growers with an easy-to-assemble, precise water delivery solution that lowers labor and maintenance costs while improving crop performance.”
According to Ze’ev Barylka, marketing director for Netafim, the partnership will advance the company’s goals to educate people about the potential of off-grid water solutions to support sustainable farming.
“We strongly believe that education is a key initiative for future adoption of water technologies in general and drip irrigation in particular,” Barylka says. “We believe that Farm from a Box has a lot of potential to connect with education institutions as they provide with a turnkey ‘box’ that includes ‘all you need’ to irrigate a small field.”
Farm From a Box provides customers not just physical components, but also training. They purchase what the company half-jokingly calls a “Swiss Army Knife” kit for sustainable off-grid farming, along with know-how to help new farmers tackle the steep learning curve of permaculture technique.
“Farming is a complicated enterprise,” she says. “We want people to know how to maximize the income from that two acres and truly make this a vocational opportunity. We hope that with the right tools, the integrative technology, and the training, our product will empower people and encourage the next generation of farmers that the world so needs.”
Barylka says spreading that energy dovetails perfectly with what Netafim is all about.
“Farm from a Box provides an opportunity for Netafim to connect with developing markets across the world. Netafim is committed to delivering solutions to all farmers, small and big, growing commodity and high-value crops in developed and developing countries.”
The company was recognized by Ecowatch as one of their “Ten Coolest Eco Products of 2015.” According to DiCarli, every shipping container is highly customized to local needs and conditions on the ground.
“There are so many different variables that you can’t just copy and paste,” she says. “The basic template (which costs around $50,000) includes a renewable kit, a water system, and training, but we can plug in or take out the components that will fit the climate and conditions for the end user. That might be localized production for a school or community or a hyperefficient system for disaster relief. Whatever it is, our goal is to give people an easy jump start for growing off the grid.”