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Montana Container Farm Grows High-Tech Vegetables
Kim Curren, owner of Shaggy Bear Farms in Bozeman, Mont. says she’s found a whole new angle on farming thanks to her containerized growing operation.
    Curren purchased 2 turnkey “container farms” from Freight Farms, a Massachusetts company. It uses Agrotek Computer technologies, synchronized lighting, watering, and temperature controls to grow produce. Curren says it creates the perfect growing environment for plants inside the recycled refrigerated freight containers.
    Setting up her farm involved more than just the space to do it. Curren says “The entire installation includes the two containers, a pole barn, and a solar array along with all of the electrical and plumbing. It cost about $200,000.” Curren was able to use grant money to fund part of the project.
    Curren says leafy plants grow best in this environment, so she raises 15 varieties of lettuce, five varieties of kale, rainbow chard, a variety of Asian greens, arugula, wasabi arugula, red amaranth and sorrel. If she has room she also raises basil, oregano, German winter thyme and Italian parsley.         Each plant variety grows on a different timetable, but usually salable produce is ready within 2 months after planting. And Curren says the real beauty of the system is that fresh, organic produce is available any time of the year, regardless of the amount of sunshine or the weather outside.
    Her two full-sized containers are housed in an open-sided pole barn with the roof covered in solar panels. About 4,000 plants are grown in each container. The plants grow horizontally, in 256 hydroponic rails arranged in 4 long rows that extend the length of each container. The tall vertical towers look somewhat like a wine glass hanger turned on end and filled with a growing medium. Energy efficient full-spectrum LEDs provide light for plant growth. The temperature inside the containers is maintained at 58 to 68 degrees year-around. A felt strip that runs down through the center of each tower keeps the 4,000 plants evenly moist, using only about 10-gal. of water a day.
    Curren says she found her passion for ecologically-friendly farming when she bought produce from organic farms while in college. “I’d soak up as much information as possible from the farmers, and that ultimately led me to start a “farm-to-table” style café. I knew the difficulties of producing organic foods and decided to become a grower myself. The system I have now is extremely efficient and eco-friendly.”
    Curren’s Shaggy Bear Farm has supplied “same-day-as-harvest” organic produce to local restaurants in and around the Bozeman area since 2015.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Shaggy Bear Farm, Bozeman, Montana 59718.

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2018 - Volume #42, Issue #2