Containerized Farm Contract Manufacturing for Freight Farms

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Columbia Tech

Recycled Shipping Containers Serve an Ecofriendly Purpose

Supporting innovative ideas with world class engineering and manufacturing services is the core facet of the Coghlin Companies business model, and Freight Farms is certainly an idea that stands out. The Boston-based startup was founded in 2010 by Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara, two entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity to change the way urban residents access fresh food.

Freight Farms systems are designed to make urban gardening a feasible reality for anyone wanting to grow produce closer to home. The containerized farms, called “Leafy Green Machines” (LGMs), are insulated, modular, hydroponic gardens that enable users to grow herbs, lettuces, brassicas, and more in virtually any location. They are designed to produce maximum-sized crops in limited space and can be remotely monitored via cell phone.

Containerized Farm Contract Manufacturing for Green Results

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Every great enterprise begins with a great idea, and that is exactly what Jon and Brad had; their plan to urbanize agriculture by designing and selling “farms in a box” is revolutionary.

Designed with great versatility for both challenging environments and the average backyard, the Freight Farms’ LGMs have the ability to positively and profoundly change urban agriculture forever. Restaurant owners who pay top dollar for “farm-fresh” vegetables will now be able to ease the strain on their budgets and likely grow their own, on-site, certifiably organic produce. Urban residents who do not always have access to fresh produce will also have the option of producing it themselves.

There were some challenges to overcome before the LGM idea could become a reality. First, Jon and Brad needed access to retired freight shipping containers, and then a cost-effective method for converting the recycled containers into functional and reliable greenhouses. They initially brought the idea to a small fabrication shop. Machinists and welders at the shop were capable of producing the container-based micro environments in very small quantities; however, the final specs on each container were inconsistent, with individual units displaying slightly different dimensions and requiring varying methods of construction. These inconsistencies, identified early in development, were likely to lead to longer production times and potentially challenging field serviceability issues.

The Freight Farms team realized that, while this methodology was acceptable for prototype lots to establish a market and feasibility, it would not be a long term scalable solution and could negatively impact time to market during a full production phase. That is when they came to Columbia Tech, the product development and contract manufacturing subsidiary of Coghlin Companies, Inc. to help them formalize, standardize and document a finished design leveraging Columbia Tech’s world class and proven concept to commercialization business model focused acutely on modularity and seamless scalability.

Columbia Tech’s engineering team began by assessing volume manufacturing feasibility and utilized their design for manufacturability experience and principles to create a consistent, repeatable plan that could be scaled to match the necessary rate of production. Not only did this provide a standard model which could be recreated to exacting specifications, but it also expedited production time significantly, resulting in a faster time to market. The model improved reliability as a result of its focus on building subsystems to the farms and then testing each subassembly at the lowest level of complexity, ultimately resulting in smooth and seamless final integration with minimal rework required. In a process developed at Columbia Tech, the used containers are refurbished and the internal systems are assembled inside the containers; reducing the production floor space required to manufacture each unit. Each custom shipping container serves as its own production floor and manufacturing space, which decreases factory overhead, build time, and material waste. Because the units are modular, they can be assembled and configured as needed.

The shipping containers were transported by truck to Columbia Tech where their highly technically competent team of Caring Associates produced subsystems, wired and installed the various assemblies, completed final integration and verified key system aspects that allow users to grow and remotely monitor their crops.

freight-farm-interior-400x267Columbia Tech did their part to create a process that aligned with the Freight Farms ethos of environmentalism and waste control. Each unit was produced using a recycled 40-foot freight shipping container. By utilizing their network of suppliers and leveraging existing vendor relationships, Columbia Tech was able to drive down cost, introduce new strategic suppliers and an abundance of technically competent resources, provide materials that lowered overall cost, and eliminated any wait times for resource availability.

Bountiful Partnership: Boston Tech Startup and Experienced Contract Manufacturer

Once the integration of each containerized farm system has been completed by Columbia Tech, the recycled shipping containers are officially Leafy Green Machines—fully operational hydroponic urban gardens capable of producing commercial-scale yields throughout the year.

Each LGM requires a single-phase, 120/240-volt, 60-amp connection and access to potable water. The team at Freight Farms is currently exploring modifications that would make solar power options available in the future as well.

Columbia Tech was the perfect company culturally and technically to help Freight Farms get their innovative product idea to the masses and seamlessly scale it so that the world could benefit in a profound way from this groundbreaking agricultural solution.

About Columbia Tech

Columbia Tech provides time to market services of engineering, design, manufacturing, global fulfillment, and aftermarket services at WARP SPEED™. Its clients include innovation leaders in industries including life sciences, pharmaceuticals, bio-discovery, alternative energy, semiconductors, power management, LEDs, medical devices, data storages, defense, homeland security, and digital and molecular imaging. Columbia Tech is a subsidiary of Coghlin Companies, Inc., a fourth-generation, privately-held, concept-to-commercialization firm. Visit Columbia Tech and sign up for their e-Newsletter.

About Freight Farms

Freight Farms is a producer of modular, hydroponic farming units. Using advanced growing technology and automation, Freight Farms enables consumers to grow their own fresh vegetables in any environment. Capable of commercial-scale yields, the Freight Farms system is here to change the future of urban agriculture. Visit Freight Farms today for more information.

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