Xively and Freight Farms enable kale-to-kale communication

Freight Farms co-founder Brad McNamara displays a lettuce seedling inside a freight container converted into a vegetable garden.
Freight Farms co-founder Brad McNamara displays a lettuce seedling inside a freight container converted into a vegetable garden.

Add kale to the growing list of objects all connected via the Internet of Things.

Freight Farms, a company based in Boston that sells self-contained farms in recycled shipping containers that grow leafy greens, has licensed software from IoT provider Xively to give farmers precise control over how they grow their crops, and even what they taste like.

Xively, the IoT arm of another Boston-based tech company, LogMeIn, developed software that uses sensors to track variables like air quality, fertilizer use, light exposure and more. The sensors are placed strategically to collect vast amounts of data from thousands of containers in real time.

“All this rich data that tells you, ‘here’s what’s going in to creating kale,’” Xively strategy director Ryan Lester said. “By connecting with the IoT, you know all the conditions that help create a better yield.”

By tracking what goes in and what comes out of the production process, Freight Farms is now able to develop “recipes” for growing the best crops possible, which they can then give to farmers who want a uniform and optimized product. Farmers could also use the data to develop their own recipes, like a hybrid habanero-kale plant, Lester said.

Owners of a Freight Farms container can also use IoT software to perform many tasks remotely, like changing the lighting and administering fertilizer. That makes farming in one of the containers more efficient, Lester said.

“If you can manage and measure demand, you have a significantly higher chance of cutting down on food waste,” he said.

Each electricity-powered Freight Farms shipping container is able to produce about 500 large heads of lettuce per week and takes about 15 to 20 hours per week to maintain.

LogMeIn purchased Xively in 2011, and the software is embedded in millions of devices, connecting them through a network that lives in the cloud. Xively accounts for 10 percent of LogMeIn’s total workforce. The company’s revenue topped $222 million in 2014, and it’s set to disclose last year’s earnings in the next few weeks.

Globe correspondent Amanda Burke can be reached at amanda.burke@globe.com.
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