“Installing vertical racks from Pipp was one of the major improvements, which brought us from five levels to seven levels of production,” says Joe Alvarez, owner, and farmer at High Ridge Hydroponics, an urban shipping container farm in Connecticut.
When first founded in 2019, High Ridge Hydroponics produced a variety of crops out of an intermodal shipping container designed to be a low-budget proof of concept. The prototype facility was located in Ridgefield, CT, and allowed the farm to conduct research and improve its engineering, growing system, and business.
In 2021, High Ridge Hydroponics moved to an industrially zoned area in South Norwalk, CT, and redesigned its system in a reefer shipping container, which is better insulated than the basic container. From there, Joe built out and improved the overall growing system to include equipment like: LED lighting, climate sensors, an automated irrigation system, precision HVAC controls, and Pipp’s vertical racking system, which allowed the farm to add two layers of production. Another major improvement to the system is the remote monitoring and control software connected to WIFI.
“We’ve gained two more levels with Pipp racks; it’s a more efficient use of space. In our 320-square feet, we can have 448 trays at a single time. They were very easy to put together, and I love the sleek white look. They have antimicrobial properties which prevent contamination and make the cleaning process faster” Joe explains.
Organic, GAP certifications in the pipeline
High Ridge Hydroponics currently sells microgreens at six farmers’ markets and to fifteen restaurants. According to Joe, the farm is working toward both organic and GAP certifications to begin selling through retailers. Once these certifications are obtained, High Ridge Hydroponics will be looking to develop more container farms, first for the farm but eventually for sale to aspiring farmers.
“We’re working out the kinks of the day-to-day tasks, engineering, energy consumption and so on. Then, we can put all of that information together so that when we do go into manufacturing, we can supply growers with actual historical data for their success,” says Joe.
Weaving social impact into container farming
High Ridge Hydroponics has also partnered with the East End NRZ Market & Café in Bridgeport, CT to build a container farm that brings healthy food to the underserved East End, create living-wage jobs and generate educational opportunities surrounding nutrition and healthy lifestyles. The project was awarded the 2020 Viability Grant from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.