We spend a lot of our time evaluating ways to make ourselves more self-sufficient. In an ideal world, everyone would have acres of land where they could grow and experiment with various gardening techniques. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Sure, there are vertical gardening methods that work well in urban areas. Some urban cooperatives have also been successful on a moderate scale. Either way, there are still some people that do not have the time or realize the importance of sustainable food production.
If we can create an interactive food experience, people will begin to cultivate a relationship with their food that extends far beyond the traditional grocery store. At least, that is what Ben Greene and his company, The Farmery, are attempting to prove.
Originally developed as part of his Master’s thesis project at NC State, Ben has been able to include his artistic and design talents into this exciting new project.
What is the Farmery?
The Farmery is designed to be an innovative grocery store where produce is grown and sold under one roof. The modular design of the structure is created from shipping containers. These are cheap and easily accessible building materials making nationwide construction a very real possibility.
Ben cites a few reasons why The Farmery is a better alternative to conventional grocery stores and agriculture production.
The Demand for Locally Grown Food
Although consumer demand for locally grown produce is increasing, traditional grocery retailers are often unable to incorporate these foods into their supply chain. This is mostly because of the volatility inherent to local suppliers.
Many people end up at Farmer’s Markets to find fresh produce. Unfortunately, these markets have limited hours and do not sell regular grocery items. The result is two separate shopping trips.
The Farmery offers customers all of their grocery needs while relying on local suppliers and produce grown in the building using a combination of aquaponics and hydroponics.
Unlike Farmer’s Markets (which may only be open on certain days of the week), The Farmery has “regular” hours meaning that customers can shop when they want.
Eliminates a Mundane Shopping Experience
Traditional grocery stores lack a “shopping experience.” There are no opportunities to learn about the food you eat . The Farmery offers an engaging and educational shopping experience that helps customers understand the growing process and gain a deeper appreciation for food cultivation.
In addition to greenhouses and aquaponics systems, The Farmery incorporates a café that allows customers to eat within the confines of a lean-to greenhouse; furthering the experience for customers as they dine on fresh produce harvested from The Farmery itself.
Inefficiencies of Traditional Agricultural
A 2011 study reported that as much as 30% of all fresh produce is lost between the farm and the retailer. This means that retail stores must charge higher prices to recoup these significant losses.
The current transportation model also affects the flavor of many foods. Once a fruit or vegetable has been harvested, the decomposition process begins immediately. Refrigeration and freezing techniques help to slow down the process but it still degrades the quality of our food en route to the store.
The Farmery allows customers to pick their own fresh produce. This means that all decomposition occurs after the customer has purchased the product. Customers can enjoy the taste of fresh produce while learning about the cultivation process.
Looking into the Future
Currently, The Farmery has a Mini-Farmery set up in downtown Durham, North Carolina as well as two functional prototypes in Raleigh. The Mini-Farmery demonstrates the Farmery business model to customers while allowing them to harvest their own crops alongside locally-sourced produce.
The production prototypes are designed to test various techniques and implementation strategies. These units use custom-made vertical panels that allow plants to grow on the outside of the shipping containers. These vertical panels are the basis for the “living wall” system employed by The Farmery. Inside the containers, mushrooms are being grown with great success.
Although a fully-functional Farmery is still in the works, this idea has already gained popularity on Kickstarter (which funded the Mini-Farmery).
The work being done by Ben Greene and The Farmery team showcases the potential for sustainable food solutions as a profitable business model that enables the community by urging them to take an active role in local food production.