Sustainable America Blog


Growing food in shipping containers seems to be all the new rage. With start-ups popping up competing for the best ways to grow greens in shipping containers, it seems the idea is here to stay. We recently highlighted PharmPods, one such start-up that houses its growing containers in empty warehouse spaces.

PodPonics is a competitor in this arena, but they are housing their containers outdoors in otherwise undesirable locales like an open field next to the Atlanta airport.

Their tagline is “The Future of Farming” and they may be right.

Using a triple bottom line approach (people, planet, profit) to their business they explain the core mission:

“By growing lettuce at or near the point of consumption, PodPonics helps reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, reduces carbon emissions, eliminates pesticide and fertilizer runoff, conserves water and land while producing healthy, nutritious food, generating investment and creating jobs.”

Food miles, the distance and energy involved in getting your food from farm to plate, and the realities of industrial farming, with problems like pollution, waste and chemical inputs, are issues essential to the mission of Sustainable America. By growing food closer to market and utilizing energy efficiency during the production process we can make our food systems inherently more sustainable and our diets healthier.

The GrowPods are made of old shipping containers that are carefully climate controlled. Inside, they utilize hydroponic technology so there is no soil involved.

If you’re wondering about the carbon footprint of all the energy used to run the GrowPods, PodPonics has addressed the issue. They maximize energy efficiency by, “by using next-generation high-efficiency lighting and control all environmental factors optimally to avoid waste. This includes using innovative reflective ceramic insulation on the outside of our Pods, along with integrated heat-exchange mechanisms which further reduce our energy consumption.”

In the near term future, they are focused on switching to renewable energy sources like solar or biomass as soon as those become financially and technologically feasible. And since the growing takes place entirely indoors in a controlled environment there are no pests and thus no pesticides used.

The ultimate goal for PodPonics is worldwide dissemination of the GrowPod technology. They call this a “local everywhere” approach. Co-founder Dan Baukhaus explained to the Atlantic, “Our ultimate vision is to get 80-100 pods next to the Publix distribution center in Florida or the Walmart distribution center so that we can harvest right there in the morning and plug it directly into their supply chain. We’re mainlining fresh produce into the regional distribution network.” It doesn’t get more local than that!

With $750,000 in seed funding and a new 8 acre test site near the Atlanta airport, PodPonics is well on their way to becoming a driving force in the future of how we think about farming.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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