No soil? No sunlight? No problem for Saanich farmer
Tamara Knott grows fresh lettuce, kale and herbs in a closed steel container for 1.5 acre harvest
Tamara Knott has found a way around the sky-high real estate prices that are a barrier to many would-be farmers on southern Vancouver Island by growing fresh lettuce, kale and herbs in a closed shipping container.
Knott runs Bright Greens Farm, which sells its produce to local residents and businesses on the Saanich Peninsula.
"It's a bit unique, but it's something that's becoming more known," Knott told On the Island's Khalil Akhtar, who toured the 40-foot long, eight-foot wide and nine-and-half-foot high container.
"Ours is the first in British Columbia."
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The crops start as seeds planted into compostable peat plugs.
They are transplanted into one of 256 towers hooked to the ceiling and are ready for harvest in four to six weeks.
The pre-assembled hydroponic farm, developed by Boston startup company Freight Farms, lights and heats the container with low-energy LEDs.
The farm is nearly completely automated. Lighting times, watering and nutrient delivery are all controlled by a computer on board.
Knott said she can monitor her crops by phone using the "farmhand" app.
"The estimate is it produces the equivalent of about an acre and a half of land, with 90 per cent less water " Knott said.
"I don't have to worry about the deer and the slugs, and then there's no weeding."
Knott opted for a shift into hydroponic farming after a career of desk jobs.
She said she wanted a more active job that contributed to her community.
Hundreds of the high-tech growing containers, nicknamed "Leafy Green Machines" are already operating in the United States, Knott said.
Freight Farms advertises their Leafy Green Machines for $82,000 US, although Knott said she purchased a demonstration model at a discounted price.
"Compared to the price of land here on the peninsula, or trying to establish a new farm on the Lower Mainland where some of the land is a quarter of a million dollars an acre and above, it's a reasonable way to begin," Knott said.