Georgia farmers working to decrease food insecurity in local communities

WSAV NOW

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — One local business is changing up its farming methods to make produce accessible to more people while being more environmentally friendly.

Georgia-based Corner Greens is using hydroponic shipping containers to cultivate their produce. Owners Joan and Rob Flanders say they do it for their community and for the sake of using a more sustainable method.

The technology they use is from Freight Farms — developers of hydroponic shipping containers that allow full control of the climate that the food grows in so it can grow anywhere.

“The shipping container is such an important part of what we do because it allows you to move the farm, not the food,” Freight Farms CMO James Woolard told WSAV NOW.

“Where there’s food insecurity, pricing is an issue, accessibility, most food is grown in California and comes across the U.S., the shipping container allows you to move and have your fresh, hyper-local food,” he added.

All you need for a successful hydroponic farm is freshwater, oxygen, root support, nutrients and light. Soil is replaced with nutrient-rich water and farmers maintain nutrition levels with a liquid solution.

Crop irrigation accounts for 80% of water usage in the U.S. Hydroponic systems use 10 times less water than traditional farming methods.

Plants also grow 30-50% faster in hydroponic farms than in soil.

“What we find is that it has a clear environmental benefit. You’re not moving the food as much,” Woolard said. “There’s resilience in the supply chain so you have that consistency. And we use considerably less water, only five gallons a day. And no herbicidal pesticides. So really, it is sustainable.”

Rob Flanders says hydroponic systems have the potential to be a significant contributor to food production for local Georgia communities.

He says freight containers in urban areas could become more common in an effort to decrease the number of food deserts. Corner Greens is implementing a subscription service to make getting fresh produce to families more efficient.

“Our business model is to serve the local community,” Flanders said. “There are several of our customers that have weekly or biweekly subscriptions. They choose whether they want lettuce only or if they want the farm bag, which has other leafy greens like kale. Then we deliver to them within a five-mile radius.”

Their goal is to improve local food security and provide access to nutritious foods for those who might not otherwise have it, all while taking less transportation to get to your table.

“The saying when someone comes to pick up food from our store, the food miles before they get it are the 25 feet from the container to our shop,” Flanders said.

“The biggest challenge is to get someone to try it the first time,” Woolard added. “But once they taste the product, they taste the difference.”

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