Federal Realty to bring container farms to Md., Va. retail centers

A shipping container farm sits outside of Freight Farms headquarters in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The company retrofits shipping containers to grow hydroponic produce. Rockville-base Federal Realty Investment Trust has a deal to rent parking spots at it shopping centers to farmers. (Courtesy Freight Farms)
A shipping container farm sits outside of Freight Farms headquarters in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The company retrofits shipping containers to grow hydroponic produce. Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust has a deal to rent parking spots at it shopping centers to farmers. (Courtesy Freight Farms)

Plants grow inside a Freight Farms shipping container farm in this photo provided by the Boston-based company. "Germination, seedling, transplant, mature growth, all optimized around energy efficiency and labor efficiency to allow for each module to be profitable and productive unto itself," said Freight Farms CEO Brad McNamara. (Courtesy Freight Farms)
Plants grow inside a Freight Farms shipping container farm in this photo provided by the Boston-based company. “Germination, seedling, transplant, mature growth, all optimized around energy efficiency and labor efficiency to allow for each module to be profitable and productive unto itself,” said Freight Farms CEO Brad McNamara. (Courtesy Freight Farms)

Four shipping container farms go to work in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The Boston-based hydroponic urban farming company is teaming up with Federal Realty Investment Trust, based in Rockville, to bring these Leafy Green Machines to the firm's shopping center parking lots. (Courtesy Freight Farms)
Four shipping container farms go to work in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The Boston-based hydroponic urban farming company is teaming up with Federal Realty Investment Trust, based in Rockville, to bring these Leafy Green Machines to the firm’s shopping center parking lots. (Courtesy Freight Farms)

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A shipping container farm sits outside of Freight Farms headquarters in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The company retrofits shipping containers to grow hydroponic produce. Rockville-base Federal Realty Investment Trust has a deal to rent parking spots at it shopping centers to farmers. (Courtesy Freight Farms)
Plants grow inside a Freight Farms shipping container farm in this photo provided by the Boston-based company. "Germination, seedling, transplant, mature growth, all optimized around energy efficiency and labor efficiency to allow for each module to be profitable and productive unto itself," said Freight Farms CEO Brad McNamara. (Courtesy Freight Farms)
Four shipping container farms go to work in Boston in this photo provided by Freight Farms. The Boston-based hydroponic urban farming company is teaming up with Federal Realty Investment Trust, based in Rockville, to bring these Leafy Green Machines to the firm's shopping center parking lots. (Courtesy Freight Farms)

WASHINGTON — Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, which owns more than 100 shopping centers in a dozen states and the District, has struck a deal to turn some of the unused parking spots around its properties into container farms.

Boston-based Freight Farms retrofits 40-foot shipping containers with vertical farming technology it says is capable of growing acres’ worth of produce in a fraction of the space of traditional farms. It calls them Leafy Green Machines.

“We optimize each module, so the Leafy Green Machine has everything inside,” Freight Farms CEO Brad McNamara told WTOP.

“Germination, seedling, transplant, mature growth, all optimized around energy efficiency and labor efficiency to allow for each module to be profitable and productive unto itself,” he said.

None of Federal Realty’s 30 or so properties in the immediate D.C. area are on the initial list for freight farming. However, Perring Plaza in Baltimore and Governor Plaza in Glen Bernie will be among the first as are two Federal Realty properties in Charlottesville and one in Richmond.

Under the partnership, Federal Realty will rent parking lot space to farmers, who in turn can partner with restaurants, grocery stores or markets to buy the produce they cultivate.

McNamara said Federal Realty’s retail developments are the ideal locations for startup, container farmers.

“A brand-new Leafy Green Machine freight farmer is co-locating next to great grocery stores, great restaurants, great foot traffic. All the things you would ideally want if you were starting not just a business, but a local farm business,” he said.

The first of the freight farms are expected to start leasing in Federal Realty parking lots this spring. The program will eventually expand nationwide.


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