Maryville Freight Farm Arrives on Campus

Innovative farm-in-a-box is first in Missouri

by Andrea Fandino

Maryville is planting new seeds of sustainability by hosting the only Freight Farm in the state of Missouri and one of the few in the nation. This farm-in-a-box is built entirely inside a 40-foot long shipping container and provides a suitable environment to grow produce 365 days a year. The Maryville Freight Farm arrived at the campus in Fall 2017 and will see its first harvest before Thanksgiving break.

The farm, located in the loading dock area outside of University Library, is optimized to grow a variety of organic leafy greens, like lettuce, kale, and arugula. Fresh Ideas hopes it will wholly supply the dining hall and the salad bar.

“I am excited to bring really fresh, flavorful greens to campus and making the best salad bar people have ever had,” said Olivia Engel, production manager for the Maryville Freight Farm. “With the freight farm, people are going to get better nutrition and have their worlds open to salad.”

Inside of a Freight Farm

These crops will grow without any soil, natural light, or large amounts of water; they will be fed hydroponically with nutrient-rich water and LED UV lighting.

“Hydroponic farms use nutrient-rich water to very efficiently feed the plants,” Engel said. “Instead of the plant taking things out of the soil, you nourish them with a special water that gives them everything that they need.”

This vertical hydroponic farming system will produce the same amount of food that traditional farming would require up to 2 acres of land to produce. Hydroponic farms are extremely efficient and innovative, partially because they run on small quantities of water. The Maryville Freight Farm will produce 1,000 heads of lettuce a week.

The Maryville Freight Farm will enhance the food culture on campus, as it will serve as a sustainable model to educate the Maryville community through partnerships with students and faculty. The farm is intended to make local and high-quality food a staple of the campus culture.

“We plan on having tours, dining experiences, and partnering with academic programs and organizations at Maryville,” said Engel.

This sustainable agricultural initiative is owned and operated by Fresh Ideas, Maryville’s dining service, and will allow Maryville to grow fresh produce year-round while reducing its carbon, water and chemical footprint.