IKEA Trials Container ‘Circular’ Indoor Farms
One of the most important non-intended uses of shipping containers is as indoor farms. Now Swedish home retail giant IKEA is piloting them to produce food for its staff and customers.
While selling hydroponic indoor growing equipment to customers, IKEA is feeding its staff with lettuce and other vegetables grown in a container outside its Malmö and Helsingborg stores. Let’s look at the project.
Sweden isn’t a great place to farm
For thousands of years, Sweden’s climate has been too poor to reliably grow vegetables. This is because much of the country is inside the Arctic Circle with zero sunlight much of the year and cool temperatures much of the rest of the year. Though this may change as the climate does, during winter the country has to import its vegetables.
Limp, sick veg doesn’t have as good a nutrient content as crisp, fresh veg! This is why IKEA is trialling indoor, vertical ‘circular farming’ in shipping containers outside its stores. In a temperature and light controlled shipping container, veg can be grown year round.
The Gateway Gazette has looked at indoor farms several times over the last few years. In this example we looked at how Inuit communities just over the Atlantic from Scandinavia in Canada are using container farms to combat malnutrition.
We said, “The Growcer startup company has developed a shipping container farming system that meets most of the needs of Inuit communities. The farms are heavily insulated so optimum growing temperatures can be maintained no matter what the temperature is outside.”
IKEA has a different agenda to that of mere survival, however. The company wants to go ‘carbon positive’, which is to say it wants to take more carbon out of the atmosphere than it puts in. That would make the mega million dollar company one of the most sustainable in the world.
In order to go from being a net polluter to a net carbon cleaner in carbon terms, one of the answers has to be to grow all its food within metres of its operations. This is why it is working with circular farming company Bonbio.
Bonbio takes food waste and extracts the methane for fossil fuel production in bioreactors. The bi-product from methane extraction is a nutrient rich liquid. Though some bioreactors dump the ‘slurry’ produced, Bonbio sells the liquid to its indoor farming clients. This is fed through the hydroponics system in the shipping containers, and the vegetables use that to grow. Once eaten, the leftovers and offcuts such as roots are sent to the bioreactor and the cycle begins again.
IKEA is trialling this system at two stores, feeding its staff with the produce but with plans to feed its customers at its legendary food halls around the world.
Climate change and container farms?
Much of the world is seeing devastating climate change. Once arable land is either drying out and turning to desert (as over here), or being flooded out. Successive storms, heatwaves and deep freezes are hammering other regions that used to be the breadbaskets of the world.
Though the container farm idea was once considered for missions to Mars, there could be good reason for them to be considered in the Outback and other locations that could soon be uninhabitable – or certainly unworkable as outdoor farms.
Does that trigger some ideas for you here in Australia? Have a look through the Gateway Container Sales back catalogue of articles on indoor farms. You will see that with the right equipment you may be able to help your community get fresh, crisp veg of its own without having to have it imported from hundreds of kilometres away in all weather conditions!
Sound like a good idea? Give us a call to discuss your ideas and we’ll help turn your project into a reality.