Food Server Documentation (Shipping Container Farms)


Crazy news in the world of ag-tech today, Plenty received 200m in financing which dwarfs even the closest runner up Aerofarms at 34m.

I wanted to post a few container farms I’ve seen recently that stray from what has become a very competitive segment.


Helical Holdings

@Caleb is there any news regarding documentation for the Food Servers? I heard in your EAT presentation that you’re growing Hazelnut trees which is awesome. I also have been seeing pictures on your Twitter of the Bates Lab. I for one would love to see more pictures of what’s going on even if there isn’t time to prepare formal documentation yet.


Over one year later we finally have a location to build our Food Server here in St. Louis. The donation of lighting has been received and we’re beginning to design the farm now. Our goal timeline is to have an alpha release of documentation in about 3 months. I’m very interested in working with other teams developing food servers so please let me know if you’d like to collaborate. I will be making a formal post later regarding this project.


Congrats @Webb.Peter! Great news.


Update: Here’s our prototype for our aquaponic system. We are going to have one of this alpha prototype finished within the next month.

Still deciding on whether to have three tiers, and whether we will have to use a sump pump or not. If anyone has experience with designing “food racks”. The best example yet on these forums is:

We will be posting a BOM/etc in the future. This is EARLY, I still intend to create a whole separate thread about this in the future, just didn’t want to not follow-up:


This is an excellent whitepaper by Agrilyst on the state of Indoor Farming in 2017. If you want a good read on the U.S. Vertical/Container Farming market - this is a good place to start. Real numbers on operational costs, as well as recommendations of crop types.


What is the progress of this to date? I am interested in setting up at least one container, likely many if it works out.


Hi! I’m Erick from MIT Enterprise Forum Mexico. We are currently also preparing our installation of a Food Server. I was able to contact Tim Savas as I was studying some of the information he has on his personal blogsite. He told me they expect to release the official information at the end of the year, hopefully.

A little more about our work, I need to add a little bit more to our thread as things have changed from that point. We are currently aiming to use a 20 feet container to fit a smaller version of the Food Server v2.0 with the difference that we are not using a refrigerated container so adaptations must be made to include a different HVAC system. I am also having some trouble figuring out the hydraulic system to include nutrition dosing with the proper plumbing. Any information about this would be extremely helpful. In the same way we would be happy to share our progress in the adaptation process.

Best of luck!


Thanks Eric for the link to Tims site. It looks like they did an entirely custom HVAC job on the container. I was hoping that the simple air conditioned units my local container depot has would suffice.


Has anyone done insulation and HVAC for a container and care to share the details?
The containers will be out in the open rather than in a warehouse.


From what I know, they actually modified the stock HVAC sytem included in the container, a refrigerated Triton one. I’m also working in that same topic, Bill. Currently checking with local providers about a suitable option for our container, which will also be in the open. I’ll let you know their response so maybe you can get a similar system.


Based on what Tim said last year they were going to use the system originally on the reefers. Frankly, it’s overpowered. You could probably get by with a mini-split system.

If you can post a datasheet or serial plate they may be viable. Is the intent of your design to do any energy efficiency studies? If so, you may want to really take some time digging into dehumidification systems and sizing a proper refrigeration unit. If you know your lighting and ambients, you can get a pretty accurate idea of the right size system. If you aren’t concerned though, I would recommend running a mini-split or second-hand evap/condenser config from a 10x10 walk-in.

Regarding dosing system, I am a huge advocate of the Dosatrons. I’ve also seen people have good success in hydroponic greenhouses with commercial fertigation systems like BlueLab/AutoGrow.


In our case we are also considering implementing a minisplit and dehumidification system, the major challange is dealing with Mexico’s summer heat hitting the container in the open, some isolation coats are being considered. We’ll share our estimations and solutions once finished.

Is there any thread talking about this Dosatron configurations? I have no experience working with these but I am studying some documentation in Dosatron’s website and trying to compare it with Tim’s video tour of the container’s interior.


I would review Dosatron’s documentation. There’s some good videos showing configurations on YouTube though, here’s an intro:

I took pictures of the Dosatron configuration in the V1 Food Server, here’s the link to those:

GitHub is showing some of Tim’s work on Food Server documentation. They have a project called “fs-waterbot” in the mechanical repo that you might find useful:

I haven’t personally used the Dosatron’s but really like the design and style over other methods using peristaltic pumps, it just seems more reliable.



Many thanks for the info, Peter. It seems quite simple to have an automated nutrient dosing system using this components.
Now I wonder about how many other functions are going on in each rack. Initially, I thought that each rack would include an adaptation of the PFC Brain build fitting the main sensors in the reservoir, which would also manage pH values and others substances but then I saw Caleb’s tour and there it shows this little box mounted on the rack’s reservoir incluiding mainly ambient sensors like humidity, temperature and CO2. I guess this is important because in this build there were separated chambers with independent climates.

Coming back to FS v2.0 build, I just can’t notice any sensor so I’m not sure about the level of control implemented to manage the hydroponic mixture beside the Dosatron stage and excluding the climate control. Or maybe the pH control is intagrated in the dosing system?

Thanks to anyone that could give me a hint on this.



@Webb.Peter, I don’t have any specs. Here in Texas I have access to containers by the hundreds it seems, there are several container depots around. One of them do a “climate controlled” container. No link to it but this is the company.
I suspect they take a regular container and insulate it rather than it being a reefer. but they say it will hold an internal temp of ~70f in the Texas summer. Also I am free to replace the ac unit with whatever I need assuming to don’t have to change the structure. Or at least get approval for the change.

This costs ~$300us per month, so its significantly easier to start with than buying one outright.

This is an experiment so it’s much easier to put the available funds into setting the rest of the container up and see how it goes. And if I decide to kill the project, they come take it away :slight_smile:


See the two blue-ish LEDs in the bottom right corner? There are two additional rectangle shaped PCBs, the last one being yellow. Those are the atlas sensors, the probe cables are coming out from the bottom left corner, just under his hand, and going into the reservoir. This should be replicated for each independent system.


You guys are referring to the “Brain Box” - or at least a modified version they used for V1 Food Server:

In the link to pictures (earlier in this thread) I have a lot that I took of those boxes and their contents.

I’m not 100% sure what they’re doing for monitoring on the V2 Food Servers yet, though I did just find this early BOM: