Is This the Future of Farming?
By Sarah Rich, Oct 26 2011 for The Atlantic
ATLANTA — It’s easy to miss the Podponics headquarters on Ponce de Leon Avenue. We breezed right by before company co-founder Dan Backhaus came out to the curb to wave us in. To look at their setup–six rust-colored, graffitied shipping containers tucked between a Cactus Car Wash franchise and a halfway house–you’d never suspect this was one of Atlanta’s flourishing young startups. But behind the padlocked doors, an urban farming operation is in full swing.
When Backhaus founded Podponics in 2010 with Matt Liotta, the pair had no previous experience with food or farming. Backhaus worked in sales and marketing, Liotta was a software engineer in the telecommunications industry. Liotta’s interest in organic food began after he and his wife had their first child, and he decided to direct his passion for technical invention toward finding a more efficient way to grow vegetables. They chose shipping containers as their growing environment because the structures are identical in scale, and can be easily retrofitted for precise control of temperature and humidity. The hydroponic approach would enable them to run their operation independent of available arable land, and without the weight and cost of soil. Plus, the technique lends itself to a computer programmer’s mind and a food distributor’s logistical demands.
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