Boston startup Freight Farms has partnered with dining services at Stony Brook University in New York to give students a taste of crunchy, fresh greens that are also locally grown.
“They’re going to work on a few different lettuce crops to use in their salad mixes,” said Brad McNamara, co-founder of Freight Farms. The company’s primary product is a shipping container called the “Leafy Green Machine” that’s converted into a temperature-controlled hydroponic farm and tricked out to include LED lighting and water treatment — all controlled by an app on the phone.
The goal at Stony Brook, the newest partner, is to give students an opportunity to experience the concepts of sustainability and food sourcing first-hand. “It was something the students and faculty can see, feel, and taste,” McNamara said. Stony Brook will initially grow lettuce in the containers, and then branch out into greens for a salad blend.
McNamara said that Google also hosts a Leafy Green Machine at its campus in Mountain View, Calif., where it supplies salad greens to two restaurants on campus. A Courtyard Marriott hotel in Concord, N.H., also sources greens from a freight container that it owns.
The containers are also being used by small farmers in Texas, Minnesota, and Canada, who’ve used it grow items ranging from kale, to chard, cucumbers, and peppers.
Closer home, a husband-and-wife team grow produce for the Boston Public Market from four “Leafy Green Machines” stationed on a gravelly lot in East Boston. Co-owners of the “Corner Stalk” urban farm, they were able to harvest greens through February because the containers are temperature controlled. But they did have to shovel their way to the door of the boxes to get in.