A DESIGN student, Philippe Hohlfeld from London's Royal College of Art, has devised an original way of using the space in the millions of empty shipping containers circulating annually around the world as floating mini vegetable farms.
Mr Hohlfeld has developed 'Grow Frame" - a collapsible hydroponic 'mini farm" that could grow vegetables inside empty boxes on their weeks-long return ocean journey to Asia, notably to China, Reuters reported.
"Grow Frame tackles the challenge that half of all containers going to China are empty, and that means 13 million containers annually are travelling around with just air. And when I heard about that I thought: 'That's not a problem; that's an opportunity," Mr Hohlfeld told the news agency.
The 'mini farms" would cultivate vegetables - notably cabbages, spinach, lettuces and bean sprouts - with plants grown in small individual plastic bags containing all the water and nutrients needed to feed the plant during the trip. Adjustable battery-powered LED lights would provide precisely the right spectrum of light for optimal growth.
To keep the climate inside each container as natural as possible, Mr Hohlfeld is planning to grow mushrooms - which turn oxygen back into CO2 - to help balance the micro ecosystem.
He believes that the energy-efficient lights and the battery would hold enough power for the duration of the voyage, which can be typically be around four weeks for vessels plying the UK-China route.
The design student is now looking for funding to help turn the concept into a reality, the report added. He estimates it would cost around GBP9,000 (US$12,000) to develop and manufacture the first frames, and a further GBP6,000 to pay for a shipping trial, but underlined that the potential profitability of the reusable system would quickly recoup the initial costs.
Source : HKSG.