This post is part of a series profiling the 2014 #SoGood Award winners announced at June’s State of Innovation Forum. These worthy winners are companies and individuals who are heavily contributing to social good in Boston and beyond. Read their stories to discover how you can give back this summer.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the desire to make the world a better place rarely pays the bills. Often, social good is sidelined by the need for a “real job” and profit takes precedence over a passion for serving the community. Some do succeed, however, translating a cause into a viable business and creating a company with a soul.

Take Freight Farms. The Seaport-headquartered startup has devised a way to support local farming and sustainable food movement, and make some money along the way. Freight Farms “upcycles” old shipping containers transforming them into fully-functioning hydroponic farms called “Leafy Green Machines.” These “farms-in-a-box” don’t need soil or sun. Instead, nutrient-dense water and LED lights nourish the crops and enable a commercial-scale yield in any climate or season. The result is a phenomenon giving farm-to-table a whole new meaning.

Imagine picking fresh kale smack dab in the middle of Boston in the dead of winter. For Freight Farm customers, this is a reality; the best herbs, lettuce, and brassica variety leafy greens are always at their fingertips.

Freight Farms empowers individuals to not only take control of their own food supply, but enhance the entire community’s. Customers can sell their crops to local restaurants and markets, making fresh, organic produce available to the masses. Restaurants and food distributors can use Freight Farms leafy green machines to cut costs and improve food quality.  

Freight Farms is closing the gap between producer and consumer, eliminating the cost of food production and creating real local food economies across the country.

With every farm that is deployed we are building a foundation for a smarter food supply system.” Freight Farms said.

By being a model for social entrepreneurship, Freight Farms scored the 2014 #SoGood Mission Initiative Award.  

“We are proud to be a part of a shifting food system and with our clients help we’ll really be able to make a difference,” they added.

Read on to hear how Freight Farms got its start, discover what they are up to here in the Hub, and find out what keeps them “up at night.”

BostInno: Share the story behind Freight Farms.

Freight Farms: Freight Farms grew out of the desire to eliminate the environmental costs of food production and distribution by introducing a replicable and sustainable system that was economically viable. Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara…came up with a design that is easily replicable that can be operated by almost anyone. The mission of bringing stability to the food industry is becoming a reality through the individuals who have been using this infrastructure to create real local food economies all across the country.

Why is it important to care about sustainability and locally-grown foods?

There are almost too many reasons for why it is important to care about sustainability and locally-grown foods. Food security, rising population, climate change, and food deserts are just a few of the major issues that will become more pronounced in the future.  A way to mitigate and solve some of those problems is to begin producing food closer to the end consumer in a way that is less harmful to the environment.

How has your company impacted the Boston area and beyond?

At the moment we have 8 operating farms in the city of Boston, soon to be 11 in the Greater Boston area. Each of those are growing a high volume of fresh produce, and will continue to grow throughout all four seasons. With Boston’s climate, that’s almost unheard of. Not only that but people have been building businesses around freight farms all across the country. The milestones have been the success and dedication of all of our farmers, who have been working with us to really make an impact on local food economies and the larger food system. 

What do you love most about being a part of a company with a mission?

The mission is what keeps all of us going. It’s easy to get caught up in the work and stress of day to day responsibilities, but then when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture…it’s a pretty indescribable feeling being a part of something that has the potential to make such a huge impact. It’s definitely motivating. On top of that, we’re constantly surrounded by other thought leaders who are constantly pushing the envelope, and it keeps us on our toes.

How has the local Boston community responded to your company and mission?

We’re incredibly fortunate to be headquartered in such an innovative and forward thinking city. Everyone we have met has been receptive and excited about what we’re doing, and eager to help in any way. Having completed the MassChallenge accelerator as well as TechStars Boston we were propelled into an atmosphere of people willing to share resources and it allowed us to build a strong foundation and keep growing the company. On top of that, the urban agriculture movement has been flourishing in Boston, and the city has been setting the standard and acting as a model for the rest of the country. We’re very proud to be a part of that.

What do you envision for the future of your company?

With every farm that is deployed we are building a foundation for a smarter food supply system. We are seeing how a connected farm network can change the dynamic for food businesses and the community. The opportunity to influence the economic and environmental factors of food keeps us up at night and constantly looking at further ways to empower local food production. We are developing tools that will further enhance the Freight Farm platform and enrich the farming experience. We are excited to see what our customers will do with them and help play a role in their success.

 

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