If you've mastered building flatpack bookcases, soon you'll be able to try building a flatpack urban farm. The new Impact Farm is a ready-made kit that shows up in an old shipping container. About 10 days later—after you figure out an instruction booklet that's a little more complicated than IKEA furniture, and put everything together—you'll end up with a two-story, indoor-outdoor farm that can grow over six tonnes of food in a year.
"The intention was to create a unit that is fast and relatively easy to set up with the unfulfilled potential of underutilized spaces of our large urban environments in mind," says Mikkel Kjær, one of the designers of the new kit.
If a vacant lot is slated for development, the whole farm can be easily disassembled and moved somewhere else. "From the beginning, we were fascinated by the potential of a solution that is designed for disassembly, and that has the potential to almost instantly change the dynamics in and have a positive impact on local community," says co-founder Ronnie Markussen.
The farm runs on renewable energy, collects rainwater, and is made from materials that are either already reused or can be reused again. Using Bright Agrotech's ZipGrow towers—the same technology that can be used to grow food next to sidewalks—it's possible to grow anything from leafy greens to bigger vegetables and fruits.
"You can just take the tower out of the system, and walk out and sell it on the street," says Kjær. The founders also plan to grow higher-margin greens and herbs for local restaurants. Others could use the farms to help provide extra nutrition for a neighborhood, especially in food deserts. It's also meant to be a source of new part-time jobs.
"The idea is to create some jobs for people who are looking for something meaningful to do," he says. "I'm hoping that it will be young people that need a part-time job, and that we can get them excited about growing food in a new way."
This isn't the first design to use shipping containers for vertical farming—Boston-based Freight Farms, for example, sells a farming kit called the Leafy Green Machine that's completely enclosed in a shipping container. But the founders wanted to make something more design-driven.
"We have a different approach to it, and that's primarily because we're not trained as urban farmers," Kjær says. "I think that has been really useful for us, actually. From the beginning we wanted to combine sustainable use of materials and make it aesthetically pleasing, and make it more beautiful."
They started with the ZipGrow towers—something they knew would work—and then worked on creating an enclosure that would look good and be easy to build. "We were really fascinated by these food-growing methods," he says. "How could we spread this in more or less the fastest growing way? How could we create a model that could be easily and fast set up in the city, easily replicated as well?"
The first Impact Farm was recently completed in Copenhagen, and will run as a pilot for the next 10 months, testing the business model as the pair sell vegetables at local farmers markets and to restaurants. The city of Copenhagen and a local nonprofit are helping support the prototype, which was built on a dead-end street.
"Nothing was really happening there," says Kjær. "So I think it's a great spot to try out what's going to happen—how is it going to change the social life in that area?"