Food Server Documentation (Shipping Container Farms)


Bcause currently there isn’t any documentation publicly available on the actual design of a “Food Server” farm yet I wanted to start to try and compile any information people might have that would be relevant to making one of these. I understand the reluctance to publish any documentation yet, but I also think there will be value in trying to keep people moving in the same direction.

I myself have gotten access to a large amount of obsolete parts that I am currently using to convert a shipping container into a lettuce farm. In designing this I have been faced with many big decisions. What I would like to do is try to get feedback from not only members of the MIT team who have worked on the design, but also from other third party groups working towards a similar goal. There are quite a few design decisions, and I want to try and compile a table of who is doing what where, why they are choosing that design, and how successful it has been.

If you know of any other groups doing similar projects with Shipping Containers let me know and I will add them to the list. My goal here is to make others aware of groups in their own area, as well as bring together people interested in collaborating down the road on building these food servers and sharing lessons learned. Please, feel free and reach out to me if you have any additional information on “Food Servers”.

Open Source

Informational Article

Dosatron Nutrient Pumps
Facebook Live Tour of Media Lab
Food Server (MIT Media Lab Farm) Picture Gallery
Food Server (Shipping Container Farm) Picture Gallery

Urban Farm Units
Informational Article


Arctic Greens
Informational Article
History and Description

Informational Article
Cooltainer Description

Informational Article
Informational Video

Alesca Life Technologies
Website Product Description

Website Product Description

Informational Video

Cubic Farms
Product Sheet
Informational Video

Farm From A Box
Informational Article

Freight Farms
Website Product Description

Fresh Box Farms
Website Product Description

Website Product Description

Build Video
Informational Video

Grow Mobile
Facebook Page

Grow Pod Solutions
Website Product Description
Automation/Software Description

Website Product Description

Harvest Squared
Website Product Description

Indoor Farms of America
Product Sheet
Product Comparison

Local Roots
Informational Article & 3D Walkthrough

Website Product Description

Informational Video

Modular Farms
Website Product Information
Promotional Video

Opcom - (Available 2017)
Indoor Grow Wall

Vancouver Food Peddlers
Build Video

Vertical Harvest Hydroponics
Company Description
Photo Gallery

Anyone interested in building a Food Server
Need help starting all this
OpenAg Germinator
Food Server BOM
OpenAg™ Personal Food Computer v2.0 (beta) [Documentation Release]
Food Server in Guadalajara, by MIT Enterprise Forum Mexico

In Commercial:

Arctic Greens
Vertical Harvest
Smart Greens

Btw, I’m in for the Server/Datacenter :smile:

Ideal ppm for edible plants like lettuce?

Thanks for the links! I did some research on the companies and posted some myself! It’s incredible how many people all over the world are doing this right now.

Correct me if I’m wrong: Smart Greens is just a company who grows using Modular Farms grow systems right? I made that connection but wanted to confirm as you may know something I don’t.



I’m not sure they built their containers, from the zip grow towers, it really look like the Freight Farms…


Hello, everyone! I was fortunate enough to be invited to document the “Food Server” that has been on display at the MIT Media Lab in Boston. I plan to clean up these photographs further I just want to get them out there, as well as add further documentation and process maps. We plan to transport the “Food Server” farm to St. Louis Missouri where it will become part of an exhibit at a free science museum. As we rebuild the farm I will continue to add documentation and share our progress.

Link to pictures of the “Food Server” farm at MIT Media Lab. These pictures show the unit in different phases of deconstruction.

Here are a few pictures of the “Food Server” farms that are in shipping containers at the new OpenAG facilities. These are located just outside of Boston in a warehouse.

Thank You,
Peter Webb

Floating Platforms for FoodServers

Very cool news! Thanks a bunch for sharing your photos. Would you mind if I shared these with the Urban AgTech community? I’ll be sure to give you full credit.

Looking forward to following your story!


Please feel free! I would like to know where you’re posting them just so I can follow responses as well.

We will have a blog post soon explaining “OpenAG STL” and what we hope to do. I hope to make all of our lessons learned in terms of collaboration and getting started “Open Source” as well so as to help enable other cities to do the same. I plan to make a thread soon I would love to have your help brainstorming ideas that might enable smoother/real-time collaboration between OpenAG MIT and other cities, as well as city to city.

Let me know where you end up posting this, feel free to spread the word far and wide!


For some reason I am unable to edit my original post anymore. Perhaps someone has any clue as to why that is?

I wanted to post this though:

Cubic Farms
Product Sheet
Informational Video



Hey Peter - I would be very interested in collaborating on food server designs/construction. We met up on Sunday at Aglanta, I’m the one from Charleston that was asking you about OpenAg. I took your advice and created an account. Cheers!


I missed this thread until the last response brought it to the top. I’d also love to help in any way I can.


I just noticed your Media Lab pictures here–very interesting. Do you have any blog posts or more pictures about what you’ve been doing with the science museum exhibit since December?


I wish I could provide you with more details. Unfortunately, things are taking quite awhile to get finalized and we still do not have the equipment here. We will be working with a local university to continue the research and develop our team locally. Soon as things are finalized we plan to update the community fully.

Additionally, I assure you that soon as we do have the equipment we will continue to document all of our work in it. I really hope to provide as clear of a window into our work as possible. We will be working with interns and professors to decide on crops, but I definitely also plan to take requests from the community (especially if you can provide seed).

I hope that answers some of your questions, sorry I don’t have more to offer yet.



Thanks to @andy for the tip about CropOne

Informational Video


Hi all,

Anyone wants to give a rough estimate of the full materials cost of a food server?
We would like to apply for funding to build one on a Research project we are on back here in Portugal.
Can you share your experience?



These numbers have nothing to do with OpenAg or the Food Servers they have designed. They are just my best estimates based upon personal opinion and experience.

If you are building your own system and can do most of the work yourself you can get started for pretty cheap. It really depends on your goals, for example, the V1 Food Server is a great “exhibit” but isn’t a very practical farm for production. I’m going to assume you aren’t trying to use the food server for actually producing food for sale, and that you are more interested in the research/experience. One could easily convert a room that is already airtight into a “Food Server” by adding hydroponic systems and an OpenAg Brain. This could be done for a few thousand dollars, it wouldn’t allow you to manipulate things like Co2 or be portable but would allow you to start learning quite a bit about growing in a controlled environment. The other end of the spectrum would be trying to build a fully automated container farm, which could cost $100,000+ depending on the level of research you are doing.

If you can give me more information about your goals with the food server perhaps I can be of more assistance.


Thanks. This a Research Project, linked to a Fab Lab, with the ability of building and developing most of the solutions inside.
Is your estimative based on off the shelf or diy solutions?


Heya Peter,

The work you guys are doing is just absolutely amazing and I would like to pick your brains a bit more on the container farm idea.

Is there an email address I can shoot you some questions at?



My estimate would be based upon DIY solutions. I don’t think that purchasing a solution would provide you with a system that is flexible enough for research. My estimate is based upon a similar design to the V1 Food Server in the Media Lab. That being said, I was not involved in the purchase of any of those components and am only getting these numbers based upon what I’ve seen on the market. Here’s an idea of where you’re likely to spend money:

$10,000 Sensors/Actuation - Figure about 5-6 Brain Boxes to create 4’ climate modules.
$10,000 HVAC - Count on purchasing one AC unit for each climate module.
$5,000 Plumbing/Reservoirs - Off the shelf hydroponic reservoirs & equipment can be expensive. Depending on your goals you can build your own, but if looks are important and cost isn’t a problem then commercial ones work great.
$10-20,000 Lighting - Really depends on the quality. Some lights that allow custom spectrums are $5k+.
$20,000 Nutrient Dosing - IMHO this isn’t needed, if you look at my pictures above with the Food Server you’ll see the Dosatrons. While I think they’re an incredible product with a genius design I don’t know if they’re necessary for the applications & research most people want to do.

Please don’t take any of these amounts too literally, I typically don’t like to give estimations but I understand where you are coming from. It really depends on the goals of your research, the design I was giving allows for 5+ separately climates, and you can control for 3 separate photoperiods (theoretically different lights even). You could run them all out of one large reservoir, or choose to manage all of the tanks separately. Every one of those decisions and goals will make an impact on your bottom line .

I hope that helps a little,

Commercial scale of food computer


@hildreth, @rbaynes do you see value in adding content like this post and others more focused on the commercial market to the Wiki? Right now the Wiki is heavy on technical documentation, and I think would benefit from more information about Hydroponics, DIY Urban Agriculture, and the current status of the industry. I think a similar guide to the one I have here about Food Computers would be extremely helpful as well. Doing this sort of market analysis will keep our systems cutting edge and make sure we aren’t missing any innovative ideas. I think it also provides a huge amount of value to our community as well as attracting more people to us based upon that content (not everyone is interested in sensors/data, some just want to find a trustworthy source of information in a very confusing emerging industry).

An example of this is a DIY backyard hydroponic system that I’ve been designing, it has no automation, and would not be considered a “Food Computer” by my definition. I would however like to make it “open source” potentital “Tower Garden” customers to save themselves a few hundred dollars by building their own. My question is, does this belong in the OpenAg Wiki, or even the forums for that matter?

Lastly, is there any timeline established yet for documentation on the V2 Food Server’s? Could we at least get some updated pictures from the ones I posted back in December?