If you’ve walked through the Greenway in the past few days, you might have noticed a tall, slick box with a leafy design on its exterior. Inside this box is an automated, internet-connected farm that can produce 200 heads of lettuce a week, and it’s the second product from Boston-based Freight Farms following the release of its shipping container-sized offering.
Called the “LGC,” which can be seen at the corner of Purchase and High streets, the new product’s name is a callback to Freight Farms’ first product, the Leafy Green Machine, or “LGM” for short, which can produce 1,000 heads of lettuce a week by comparison. Whereas the LGM has a massive footprint, measuring at 40-feet long and eight-feet wide, the LGC is about a fourth of its size, meaning it can fit more easily in tighter spaces. And that, along with its smaller yields, means it can be more enticing for potential customers, like restaurants, who want to grow their own fresh produce without something gargantuan.
“A lot of restaurants got intimidated with an industrial-sized one to run while they’re running the kitchen,” Kyle Seaman, Freight Farm’s director of farm technology, told BostInno, which is part of what led the company to make the LGC.
Unlike the LGM, Seaman said, the LGC was developed from the ground up with all of its sensors connected to the internet, which is made possible by Xively, the Internet-of-Things platform provided by Boston’s own LogMeIn. And that means the LGC, which the LGM can now do as well, can be monitored and controlled remotely through Freight Farms’ Farmhand app.
Seaman and Brad McNamara, Freight Farms’ CEO and co-founder, said they started working with LogMeIn after hearing about the company’s big-budget Xively event last fall. From there, they learned that Xively was able to solve Freight Farms’ three largest problems — security, scalability and expertise — in developing and maintained a large, internet-connected product that has multiple sensors and, as a result, a never-ending stream of data to manage.
“Each one’s generating daily thousands of messages across Xively,” Seaman said of the containers.
“Each one’s generating daily thousands of messages across Xively.”
Paddy Srinivasan, general manager of Xively, said Freight Farms is a good example of how the Internet of Things can go beyond the gimmicky realm of products and actually make a difference in peoples’ lives.
“Everyone talks about forgetting milk in your refrigerator when you’re at the grocery store and you want to get notifications,” Srinivasan said. “That’s all cute, but this is somebody’s livelihood, right?”
Since Freight Farms started working with LogMeIn, the startup’s previously unconnected LGM containers have been retrofitted with connections to Xively and all the new ones have the connection built in. Freight Farms has sold over 100 LGMs, Seaman said, and its customers include Google, which uses one to feed employees at its Palo Alto campus.
“The mission of Freight Farms was always to make local food a global reality,” Seaman said. “If you think about climate and other environmental conditions, urban agriculture is such a key pillar to making that real.”
The LGC is expected to cost significantly less than the LGM, which costs $85,000, though the exact price has not been set yet. Pre-orders are expected to open later this year, with updates expected to be made on the LGC’s landing page.
Freight Farms, which is backed by nearly $5 million by investors including Spark Capital, is holding tours of the LGC on the Greenway from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, as well as 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Friday.