Shipping container project offers farm infrastructure with low overhead - Albuquerque Journal

Shipping container project offers farm infrastructure with low overhead

Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center agriculture program manager Fergus Whitney demonstrates the outdoor washing basin for the center’s new farm infrastructure project. (Roberto E. Rosales/ Journal)

The Village of Los Ranchos is testing out a new infrastructure project that may have the ability to ease agricultural production for farmers across the state.

The project, jointly created by Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center, New Mexico State University and University of New Mexico students, converts a shipping container into a central system for farmers to use throughout the growing and harvesting process.

Fergus Whitney, Los Ranchos Agri-Nature Center agriculture program manager, said the system has the potential to help farmers since it provides them with critical infrastructure like basins for washing produce, a produce packing area, office space and storage space — all without having to build any permanent structures.

“I was trying to develop something that had a kind of a closed-loop system so it was one piece of infrastructure and it did everything you need on a farm,” he said.

For now, the project is stationed at the Agri-Nature Center in Los Ranchos and it will be used to process produce grown at the center this year.

Whitney said the project will serve as a model for farmers who may be interested in pursuing something similar.

“The whole idea is that we build it here for ourselves, but we tell the story to the community so that it can inspire other people to do the same,” he said.

The entire unit is also transportable, which Whitney said is essential since many farmers lease their land. Portability of the unit means farmers are able to have access to infrastructure for a fraction of the cost and without having to invest in anything permanent.

“We’re encouraging this type of structure because it’s not permanent, it can be … turned off and moved,” Whitney said.

He said cost factored into the design of the unit since many farmers are unable to invest large sums of money into permanent buildings on leased land.

“The land owner in the majority of cases will give (farmers) land and give them water, but they may have very little infrastructure on that land, so this offers a solution,” he said.

The entire prototype was built with a $10,000 grant from the Albuquerque Community Foundation.

Whitney said the project was designed in a way so that farmers could replicate the project themselves over a series of years if needed.

“We wanted to build an all-encompassing system that was central to the success of a farm operation and that it was affordable over time,” administrative assistant Sabrina Apodaca wrote in a news release announcing the project.

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