An unconventional, innovative farming venture is looking to sprout along the Davenport riverfront.
Friday’s Fresh Market has begun preliminary discussions with the Davenport Levee Commission about the possibility of bringing a hydroponic, vertical farming operation in a 40-foot, insulated shipping container to Freight House property.
“We’re in the business of sustainable agriculture and doing what we can with the technology that we use to take unsalvageable land and buildings and basically convert them into grow facilities,” local farm owner and manufacturing consultant Andrew Freitag said.
Freitag said the 40-foot shipping container is just one of the models his company uses to promote sustainable farming practices.
The riverfront venture would actually not be the first of its kind in Davenport.
Freitag has operated another grow operation in the 2900 block of Hickory Grove Road for the past year and a half and supplies fresh crops to the Quad-Cities Food Hub in Davenport, Hy-Vee, Hemispheres Bistro in Bettendorf and Crow Valley Golf Club, to name a few.
“Our initiative is to help supplement a health food source and reduce carbon footprint,” Freitag said. “We’re trying to implement these efficient methods and go away from traditional farming, which leads to soil erosion and water loss.”
Freitag said the shipping container model utilizes an LED lighting system and uses 90 percent less water and 50 percent less nutrients than traditional farming methods.
It can grow an acre and a half of food each month in 320 square feet of space, which equates to more than 30,000 pounds of food in a year.
Although he primarily produces leafy greens and microgreens, Freitag said he rotates through about 125 items year round to give his customers more variety.
Freitag said it made sense to bring the venture to the Freight House property on River Drive where it could be a year-round source for the Food Hub and farmers market.
“We’re actually ramping up our production as the other farmers are dwindling off,” Freitag said.
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With the idea of having the venture near the farmers market and Food Hub, Freitag said he was open to how the levee commission would want to design the outside of the container to tie into those themes.
Freitag’s proposal has piqued the interest of Levee Commission, but executive director Steve Ahrens said there are a lot of details, such as location and rental price, yet to be worked out before the idea could come to fruition.
“There’s lots of approvals yet to come, so this just a preliminary discussion,” Ahrens said.
Commissioner Bill Ashton cautioned against getting too far into discussions without checking with other regulatory bodies in the event there were factors that could torpedo the venture.
Although many questions remain, the commission has elected to gather more information and move forward in the discussion process to see if Freitag’s idea can become a reality.
“I just think the whole idea of something so innovative and to showcase it down at the farmers market would really speak to the innovation of the city for taking on something like that,” commissioner Shelley Chambers said.