Climate change is real, and it is getting uglier. Global temperatures are continuing to rise, placing enormous strain on water and food supplies throughout the world. Many areas have been hit hard by the climate disruption, but none more prominently than California, where the state has entered its fourth year of drought with massively diminishing water supplies and hectares of fallow land.
Water supplies may not be top of mind for many techies in the Bay Area – Tartine and Blue Bottle’s recent marriage is unlikely to be thwarted by some tap water problems. The challenge is that agriculture is a huge industry not just for California, but for the United States. The state produced almost a fifth of the country’s total agriculture output, worth almost $50 billion in 2013. With water supplies tightening, there has been growing attention to the high environmental costs of growing almonds and producing meat in increasingly arid conditions.
Lettuces, brassicas and herbs grow in a Freight Farms container.
Courtesy of Freight Farms
Freight Farms, a startup based in decidedly not-very-drought-like-these-days Boston, is hoping to completely change the future of food production by massively increasing the water efficiency of farming while democratizing farming to everyone, particularly into urban areas.
The company’s product is a freight-truck-sized farm-in-a-box, with all the necessary equipment and storage required to grow produce. Freight Farms follows the “car model” of releasing a new hardware update once per year, and the company just released its 2015 model. Jon Friedman, president and co-founder of the startup, described it as the “culmination of all the performance we have been trying to put into one complete system.”
The current system, measured against traditional agriculture, can save up to 90% of water usage, and may even be able to go off-grid soon through solar or wind energy. Even better, this efficiency is increasing all the time. In a Silicon Valley-meets-agriculture moment, the farms auto-update their software to the latest versions over the internet.