Container farms vs. greenhouses, which is better? Everyone loves fresh produce, and growers know customers will pay a premium for healthy, high-quality fruits and vegetables. However, a problem arises. How can you ensure that crops are correctly produced and maintain their condition from farm to table? Heat waves, pests and long-distance supply chains can blemish even the best harvests. Two alternatives to traditional farming should appeal to farmers and large commercial enterprises: container farms and greenhouses. Container farms can move and operate almost anywhere with a power and internet connection. Greenhouses are especially useful in cold environments, as the inside of the structure retains heat from the sun.
Pros and Cons of Greenhouses
Greenhouses have been a concept since the Roman Empire. The notorious Emperor Tiberius was fond of cucumbers and demanded that his gardeners produce one daily for his meals. Servants covered growing carts with translucent panes to grow cucumbers year-round. While not a proper greenhouse, this was the start of the practice we know today. Greenhouses are roofed and walled structures built with glass and a minimal metal or wooden frame. They use the sun as a light source to maximize crops’ growth without exposing them to an outdoor climate. Crops can grow in soil or hydroponically.
While greenhouses have many benefits, there are also some challenges. Greenhouses are large, sometimes requiring equipment and multiple people to set up. For this reason, greenhouse growing spaces may require more workers to maintain than container farms.
Pros and Cons of Container Farms
Container farms are indoor farms that arrive prebuilt and require less work to get up and running than greenhouses. They are made from repurposed shipping containers and use hydroponic systems to cultivate crops. They are usually smaller in size than greenhouses. Because of their unique construction, shipping containers can be moved from location to location. Instead of soil, hydroponic plants mature in a growing medium, and nutrients are delivered directly to plants via a nutrient solution.
Container Farms Vs. Greenhouses
Quality and Size
Container farms and greenhouses have some key differences in build quality and size. A container farm is smaller and more compact than a greenhouse and has opaque walls that don’t let light in. You can grow crops across multiple layers in vertical farms, meaning more can be produced in a smaller space. High-powered grow LEDs give crops their required energy and receive nutrients from the farm’s recirculating solution.
Greenhouses are larger on average than container farms and have translucent walls and roofing that allow light inside. They often grow on a single layer, as stacking layers will prevent lower levels from getting enough sun.
While the walls of a greenhouse help protect crops from outside weather, the inside environment is less controllable than container farms. While greenhouses are good at retaining heat, they’re less able to handle extreme heat and humidity. Most greenhouses aren’t HVAC climate controlled and use passive coolers and vents to mitigate adverse effects of heat.
You can use controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology in a container farm to help regulate humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide levels. This includes industrial HVAC units, dehumidifiers and system monitoring tools.
Greater control over the growing environment leads to faster-growing plants and higher yields. Even though container farms have more climate control than greenhouses due to their compactness, heat and humidity are still a concern.
Always Check Local Building Codes
Whether you’re looking for commercial crop production, it’s important to remember that either structure may require a permit. Be sure to check your local laws for more information regarding building codes in your area to ensure that your container farm can be in the location you have in mind.
Container Farm or Greenhouse?
Container farms and greenhouses are two impressive structures that can help build the future of agriculture. They differ in size, growing medium, level of climate control, and portability. Knowing what you want to grow before you start can help ease the process. If container farming sounds like the right choice for you, contact us for more information.
Interested, but need to do a bit more research? We have you covered. These five sources below provide further insight into the growing world of container farming: