Hydroponic farming in California generally brings to mind marijuana growers.
But one Rancho Cordova man says the technology can be used for many other green crops – and he’s cashing in.
Fred Chavez purchased a 40-foot by 8-foot shipping container farm from Boston-based company Freight Farms. The $82,000 setup allows Chavez to grow lettuce year-round, with minimal work and ongoing expenses.
“I had a small garden at home that was only 8 foot by 4 foot, to grow four tomato plants and a couple zucchinis. I used more water in that garden than this uses to grow 8,000 plants,” Chavez said.
Chavez says he uses just 300 gallons of water per month for his farm, which he calls Rainsville Farms. He named his new business after his grandparents’ farm in Rainsville, New Mexico.
It takes Chavez $1,300 per month to run the farm. Rainsville Farms produces more than 4,000 heads of lettuce monthly; Chavez says he expects to make $8,000 each month selling lettuce to farmers’ markets. Eventually, he hopes to expand sales to grocery stores and restaurants.
Farming can often mean back-breaking labor, but not in Chavez’s case. The high-tech, hydroponic setup means that Chavez spends just 15 hours per week farming. He can remotely control the shipping container’s environment, which is perfectly calibrated for lettuce growing, with an iPad.
“With my iPad, I can control the farm from my house, look at temperature, historical data, humidity, and CO2 output,” Chavez said.
Chavez is so pleased with his 3-month-old venture that he plans to expand Rainsville Farms. He said he is going to purchase another shipping-container farm from Freight Farms within the next two months, and his oldest son will also be purchasing one of the containers.
“It’s a one-man operation. I don’t need a tractor or all that heavy equipment, fertilizer. It’s really-self contained. One person can, by themselves, run two farms,” Chavez said.