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Why College Campuses Should Consider Container Farming

College students heading to a container farm.

If you’re a college student or even part of the faculty, you’re probably used to hitting the student food court or maybe the nearby restaurants for a quick bite, lunch, or even dinner. But what if you could grow your own produce and have it available for the entire campus? In this article, we’re going to explain why college campuses should consider container farming, how colleges and universities can benefit from having their own vertical indoor farm, and how a few colleges have gone green with this concept.

What is Container Farming?

What exactly is container farming? Container farms are refurbished ISO refrigerated ocean shipping containers, which can be used to create hydroponic or aeroponic environments to grow leafy greens, microgreens, and herbs.

Container farming can offer universities and colleges a wide variety of opportunities.

5 Reasons Why Colleges Should Be Container Farming

1. Educate Students on Sustainability

Both current and future college students are focused on making the world a better place.

These students, who hail mostly from the Millennial and Gen-Z generations, are looking for both education facilities and businesses to show that they care about the environment.

In a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 80% of millennials preferred to work for employers that had sustainability practices in the workplace and in their mission statement.

And in a 2019 survey by the Princeton Review, 64% of students entering college stated that knowing about a college’s commitment to environmental issues would be a factor in their application decisions.

2. Fulfill Campus Nutritional Needs

Have you ever heard of the “freshmen 15”?  A common expression that describes weight gain for the first year of college. In other countries like Australia and New Zealand, it’s known as the ‘fresher five’ or the ‘fresher spread’. Given the increase of obesity in the US, making sure that college freshmen (and sophomores, juniors, seniors, and grads) are able to receive healthy food options while on campus is an important aspect of considering container farming.

Container farming would not only promote health, wellness, and better nutrition, but it also adds to the educational benefit of creating new learning opportunities, as well as the ability to grow their own foods and eat them in their student unions or food courts.

3. Hands-On Experience

Do you think only your agriculture and biology students would benefit from a container farm? Nope! Container farming is a great way of getting all students, from all disciplines, to interact and learn in operating the container farm. For example, while those in agriculture and biology will learn about the process of growing with hydroponic technology, engineering and design students can learn about the mechanics that make up a vertical farm.

Business and marketing students can get real life experience by creating business plans, marketing materials, and financial analyses. Computer science majors can help maintain or even create automation and remote-control systems and dashboards.

4. Partnerships with Neighboring Restaurants and Schools

Colleges and universities usually have some partnerships with restaurants or cafes that are located on campus. Why not further foster these relationships by providing fresh produce and fruits to their chefs? Restaurants and chefs are looking to provide fresh and locally grown leafy greens, microgreens, vegetables, and herbs to serve to customers.

Not only can you use this container farming opportunity to further develop your school’s relationship with restaurants, but you can also use this as an opportunity to partner with other schools, like high schools, junior highs, and elementary schools. Offering tours of your container farm is a great way of furthering outreach on sustainability, but can also get students and schools interested in partnering with you.

5. Show your commitment to sustainability

As we mentioned earlier, current and perspective students want to know that their next adventure will include a business or school that not only says they are committed to sustainability, but are also living it. “Green” colleges and universities are growing in number, ensuring that the school, its staff, and faculty are helping to make the world a better place, while also helping to educate students, and providing healthy meal options.

Those are 5 reasons why college campuses should consider container farming, but are campuses really growing their own food? Yes they are! Check out these 3 universities who are doing just that!

3 Colleges Using Container Farming

Citadel Sustainability Project
Cadets participate in a sustainability project at The Citadel.

1. The Citadel – Charleston, South Carolina

We wrote about The Citadel and their Citadel Sustainability Project, which is designed to create new experiences for the military cadets and meets a wide variety of needs for the college itself.  The project sees cadets learn about the fundamentals of aeroponic farming, the importance of fresh and nutritious produce, and the future of sustainability. CSP is part of the college’s mission to become a ‘green’ campus by reducing waste; some of the other project include a campus wide recycle program and competition.

2. Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas

The first public institution of higher learning in Texas, Texas A&M has continued to be a leading university for students. Just recently, their Department of Soil and Crop Sciences introduced a new learning initiative called the Texas A&M Urban Farm United or TUFU, which is an urban farm that utilizes tower gardens or vertical towers to produce specialty crops. Director and former student Broch Saxton and assistant Lisette Templin started the urban farm project and have plans to use the project to help feed other Aggies on campus.

3. Arizona State University – Tempe, Arizona

ASU has committed to sustainable operations across all of their campuses. Their Garden Commons provides a space for hands on learning opportunities and connecting them to organic, local foods that are grown and harvested there.

A few years ago, an undergraduate engineering team known as Aquaponos began using aquaponics as part of the EPICS program and have begun to transition into a startup for producing sustainable fish and produce for restaurants and caterers.

As you can see, container farming is a great way for colleges to support feed their increasing student population. More and more students are looking towards colleges to not just provide education, but the ability to address and help concerns about sustainability, while colleges and universities are looking to provide more sustainable options for both their campuses and students.

If you’d like to learn more about container farming, visit our website and fill out a contact form or give us a call at 602.753.3469 to get started!


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