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Freight Farms

PantherDining is proud to introduce the ultimate farm-to-table experience…

Freight Farm’s Leafy Green Machine!

Located just yards behind Piedmont North, the Leafy Green Machine is a fully functional hydroponic farm built inside an upcycled shipping container. Configured for the immediate growth of a variety of crops like lettuce, kale, spinach and other herbs, its innovative climate technology and growing equipment allow for the perfect environment 365 days a year.

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Ready, set, grow!! In early July we laid the groundwork for our first seedling tray of Red Butterhead lettuce and harvested it at the beginning of September. Moving forward, we’ll begin adding Buttercrunch, Sparx and a gourmet lettuce mix to our farm! Want to try our freshly-grown produce? Stop by Miss Demeanor’s or Centennial Café to try some on your salad or sandwich!

Here’s a brief rundown on what you can expect from our Leafy Green Machine:

  • Seeds begin in the nursery area, where they germinate and grow into little seedlings.
  • In this area, plants grow in a shallow trough that periodically floods and drains with the nutrient rich water solution.
  • This area holds up to 3,600 plants at one time.
  • After three weeks in the seedling station, the sprouts will grow into a sturdier leafy green. The plants are transplanted into vertical growing towers that hang from the ceiling.
  • This method creates a high-density growing environment and maximizes the cubic footage in the container.
  • Emitters drip nutrient rich water down the vertical grow tower using only ten gallons of water daily to grow over 4,500 plants.
  • The water that isn’t consumed by the plant flows out the bottom of the tower and is then recirculated right back to the water tank.
  • As sunlight is important during photosynthesis, the windowless farm is equipped with LED lighting that mimics the sun’s natural light via growth-optimized blue and red hues.
  • There are 128 lighting strips running approximately 18 hours per day to maximize the growth cycle, with the lights turned off only to give plants time to rest and during peak hours.
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Back in June, our Freight Farmers traveled to Boston for Farm Camp where they learned all about the farm’s operating system, state-of-the-art components and growth cycle of seedlings.

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Our catering director, Betsy, at Farm Camp.

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Our Leafy Green Machine is located directly behind our dining/residence hall and catering kitchen, Piedmont North.

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One of our first pictures taken inside our LGM before we began farming. Inside the futuristic 40’ x 8’ x 9.5’ container is a series of environmental sensors measuring climate conditions that communicate with the in-farm controller.

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Early in July, we planted our first Butterhead seedlings and love watching them grow in each stage of the process.

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Learning all about the proper farming techniques when planting seedlings.

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Progress! Love watching our seedlings grow. It’s amazing to chart their development — not too much longer and they’ll be ready for harvesting.

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And one more of our seedlings before they get moved to the vertical towers for maximized growth.

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Our Buttercrunch lettuce has been growing like a weed.

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August 12 was a huge day for us — our farmers transplanted our Buttercrunch lettuce into vertical towers. Here’s a final shot before the transplanting began!

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Our catering sous chef (and freight farmer!) Cam begins to prepare the vertical planters for the transplant of our Buttercrunch crop.

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One of our baby Buttercrunch seedlings — they just grow up way too fast!

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Baby seedlings getting moved into our vertical towers — here they will be irrigated and continue to grow three more weeks before harvest.

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Up close with our seedlings.

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All 20 seedlings will fit in one vertical tower — maximizing growth.

 

 

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Here’s just one of our vertical towers. The rest of our farm will soon be filled with more of these towers!

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The farm is slowly but surely filling up and we can’t wait for a full container’s worth of produce! Here’s a sampling of some of the Red Butterhead lettuce we harvested at the beginning of September.

 

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Up close and personal — our lettuce seedlings have grown up much too fast!

 

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After only eight weeks it was time to harvest our seedlings! Here’s just one shot of the 450+ heads of lettuce we harvested. Since these are pesticide and herbicide-free, they’re ready for consumption immediately. Very exciting!

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One of our specialty plants — wasabi arugula — ready for a late September harvest.

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We’ve been transplanting, harvesting and repeating. Our farm is half full now!