Increasingly, farmers are realising the value of containers for storing produce, supplies and tools.
By nature, shipping containers are designed to be readily portable and weather-resistant. This makes them ideal for a range of farm storage needs – which, like crops and weather conditions, fluctuate with the seasons.
On-the-spot dry storage
Dry cargo containers are available in standard lengths of roughly 6 or 12 metres, about 2.4 metres wide. They can be rented or purchased, and conversion work may be done to meet specific needs. For example, it’s possible to add features such as additional doors, windows, shelving, electricity points, security bars and more.
Consider these advantages of container-based dry storage on farms:
- it’s cheaper and faster to put in place than brick and mortar structures
- it can be moved to where it’s needed
- it’s secure; a container is made of marine-grade steel and is vandal-proof
- it’s hygienic; a container is easy to clean and treat, and once its doors close, it doesn’t admit pests
- it’s fully weather-proof, potentially helping prevent produce or feed from rotting.
“Plug ‘n chill” refrigeration solutions
In 2016, CNBC Africa reported that African farmers lose as much as 40 percent of harvested produce before it reaches retailers.
The use of refrigerated containers, also known as reefers, as on-farm cold storage facilities could significantly reduce losses due to spoilage.
Refrigerated containers are an affordable alternative to conventional chill rooms, and they’re much more flexible – one or more reefers can be rented to meet seasonal storage needs, as and when required.
A reefer supports cold storage temperatures ranging from -20° C to 10° C.
As on-farm cold stores, refrigerated containers also have these potential advantages:
- portability – you can transport a reefer where you need it, when you need it
- durability and toughness – reefers are weather and tamper-proof
- hygiene – reefers are constructed of aluminium and are easy to clean
- scalability – if you need more cold storage space, you can simply add another reefer.
Ripe and ready: ethylene control in insulated shipping containers
Shipping containers are fully sealed and can easily be insulated. This makes them suitable for creating controlled climate environments, complete with ethylene management systems that control the amount of the gas present in the air.
Ethylene is a naturally occurring hormone that’s released during the lifecycle of a plant to initiate the ripening process. By managing ethylene production, farmers can temporarily arrest or accelerate that process, to suit their best interests.
For example, seasonal farmers can ship fresh produce to its destination via slower, cheaper, modes of transport, without compromising on quality or incurring losses due to spoilage.
Farming in a box
Innovative, urban farmers have succeeded in gaining unusually high yields through the use of shipping container farms.
Documented advantages of container farming include:
- high yields in small spaces – with use of vertical space and clever farming methods, a single container farm can yield 80 to 120 times more plants than the same space on a traditional farm
- significantly reduced water usage
- much less labour-intensive farming
- year-round control over growing conditions, with UV lighting, an irrigation system and environmental sensors that balance temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide levels.
The beauty of container farming is that it makes it possible to grow produce in or near heavily populated urban environments – and this means there are no major transport costs to erode farmers’ profits.
Not all container farming happens in cities though. Especially for speciality crops, containers can be an affordable alternative to on-farm greenhouses.
Best priced container rentals for seasonal farm storage
Big Box Containers is a leading supplier of new and used shipping containers in South Africa.
If you’re looking for seasonal farm storage that’s clean, secure and hygienic – and delivered to the site of production – we can help. We rent and sell high-quality dry cargo containers and refrigerated containers, ideal for storing produce. Contact us online or call us on 0861 447 474 for a quotation or to find out more.