Survey Says That Shipping Container Farms are Most 'Overhyped' Technology

The data mavens at Agrilyst have done it again! The 2017 State of Indoor Farming Report provides insight from 150 indoor farmers about their operations, priorities, and even their perspectives on various technologies. Be sure to read the whole report to gain insight into what's working and what's not when it comes to indoor farming. 

Here are three key takeaways that we found particularly interesting from the survey this year: 

1. Shipping Container Farms are Most 'Overhyped' Technology



"While LEDs are one of the things growers are most excited about, it also came in second on the list of things growers think are over-hyped. The overwhelming number one on the list of doubtful technologies was container farms."

The results of Agrilyst's survey adds to a growing number of voices including Nate Storey who are concerned about the performance and scalability of shipping container farms. This collective awareness could mark the end of the "farm-in-a-box era". 

2. IOT & Automation Will Proliferate Indoor Farming in 2018


"Automation tops the list of technologies growers are most excited about. Second to automation is HVAC (heating, venting, and air conditioning) equipment. Third was a tie between data analytics, LEDs, and sensors. Note this was an open-ended question and for sensors, most growers indicated an interest in sensors specifically for nutrient applications. Automation is not a surprising number one. With the high cost of labor, most growers are thinking strategically about investing in technology that can bring costs down." 

These results come after a year where Autogrow announced new API for indoor farming sensors, AeroFarms partnered with Dell for IOT in their farms, and IOT + Ag was voted one of the top 10 Smart Tech trends of 2018. These topics will be covered in detail during the AgLanta 2018 Smart Ag for Smart Cities Conference on March 27 & 28

3. At Least Half of Indoor Farms are Not Profitable Yet


"Of the facility types we surveyed, the most profitable appeared to be indoor deep water culture, followed by greenhouse operations. Of the five most commonly grown crops, 100% of flower operations reported profitability, along with 67% of tomato growers, and 60% of microgreens growers. The most profitable system types were hydroponics and aquaponics.

The facility types with least profitability reported were indoor vertical farms and low-tech plastic houses. Similarly, herbs and leafy greens were the least profitable crops. The combination operations (using multiple system types) were overwhelmingly unprofitable.

Tomatoes, microgreens, and flowers are most likely profitable because microgreens have extremely high revenue per pound, and flower and tomato producers have lower operating costs. Vertical farms reporting limited profitability is most likely because it is a new industry that is just beginning to mature."



Indoor Farming continues to be an exciting and challenging business venture. Remember that proper planning prevents poor performance. Consider hiring a consultant to guide you through the noise and marketing of technology suppliers. Also, be sure to listen to our podcast with Allison Kopf, CEO of Agrilyst and Henry Gordon-Smith, Founder at Agritecture to learn about the 3 main mistakes indoor farmers make and how to avoid them. Listen here. Want to meet Allison Kopf in person? Hear her speak on Smart Resource Management at the AgLanta 2018 Conference. Earlybird tickets on sale here.