The challenge was to prototype a sustainable, low-cost, mobile greenhouse. Most importantly, we wanted to value energy independence, water conservation, and space efficiency to grow plants. Using funds raised from the Greenhouse for Good Giving Day, our team meet the challenge with a plan!
The proposed design must be environmentally friendly, economically viable, and address social issues.
Our creative team came up with a concept: an educational, mobile greenhouse made from a reclaimed travel trailer. The versatile growing space could be used to support school gardens and the teachers who run them.
Why a travel trailer?
We needed something mobile. RVs come with truck chassis, electrical wiring, four walls, door, roof, kitchen sink, and water tank. If we could retrofit a discarded one, theoretically, we could convert it to a road-worthy mobile greenhouse that could be hooked up to a truck. This was preferable to other temporary alternatives, like a shipping container, as our target audience was more likely to have access to a truck than a fork lift.
Trailers are compact and use less space than what urban farms typically require. A small-space alternative appealed to individuals and neighborhoods who do not have access to a vacant plot or parking lot. A trailer would only require a driveway or parking space to be viable for growth production.
In our preliminary research, we did not find mobile greenhouses. We did find a truck converted into a teaching trailer, but only twelve days before completing our project. Though we couldn’t incorporate that research, it was exciting to have our idea validated.
Most “mobile” gardens are raised beds that require a fork lift, or other equipment, to move. They are more portable than mobile. We found some good examples close to home (check out what our friends at Big Tex Urban Farms use in the images below). Ultimately, we hoped for something that could be moved with (relative) ease. This brought us to our little trailer.
One of the benefits of working with an interdisciplinary, multi-generational and cross-cultural team is that the challenge was considered holistically. In one of our first brainstorms, emerging questions included:
- In extreme climates or post-disaster zones, how do we regulate food production?
- Can our military take their garden with them wherever they go?
- How can refugee camps or other temporary settlements access fresh produce?
- Could a greenhouse function without a nearby water source or infrastructure to support heating and cooling?
- Can a greenhouse be scaled to an entrepreneur who rents their home or lives in an urban slum?
These questions gave us a picture of all the new applications that were still to come.