As fuel prices go up, the cost of shipping produce thousands of miles away rises accordingly. In the past few years, a number of companies have attempted to capitalize on the increasing hunger for locally produced food — we’ve seen rooftop farming startup BrightFarms and Brooklyn hydroponic farming startup Gotham Greens, just to a name a couple.
[Atlanta-based] PodPonics started in 2010 when founder Matt Liotta — a serial entrepreneur who has launched Internet, software, and telecom startups — noticed that demand significantly outstripped supply in the local food business. “[My work] in Internet, telecom, and agriculture is all pretty similar in that the goal was to find a mature industry and come up with a disruptive technology,” he says. “If you wanted to produce fresh produce at the point of consumption in a way that was economically viable, what would you have to invent to do it?”
Liotta decided to use recycled shipping containers as “grow pods,” which are outfitted with organic hydroponic nutrient solutions; computer-controlled environmental systems to regulate temperature, humidity, pH levels, and CO2; and lights that emit specific spectrums at different points in the day. The system provides the exact amount of water, lights, and nutrients that a crop requires—so there is no wasted energy (though the pods are still hooked up to the power grid). In a 320 square foot area, PodPonics can produce an acre’s worth of produce. The pods can be stacked on top of each other for more efficient use of space.