Students at Mountain Vista High School were ready to start the year by getting their hands dirty via the Agricultural Business course taught by David Larsen.

“As part of the program, students are responsible for all aspects of the Mountain View Farms business,” Larsen said.

After being introduced to the different business principles, students are tasked with integrating them into running a successful business. Some of these tasks include marketing, social media/website, communications, graphic design, printed literature, handling of money/accounting, customer service, food safety and business plan development.

“Agriculturally, they have to figure out all of the elements including environment, nutrient, tech, engineering and automation to keep the plants alive and healthy for sale,” he said.

For the past two years classes and interns have operated the Mountain Vista Farm, which utilizes a hydroponic growing system called the Leafy Green Machine, innovated by Boston-based agtech company, Freight Farms.

“I think hydroponics is far more sustainable and reliable than traditional farming for the crops we can grow,” he added. “This technology produces absolutely delicious products that are fresh and last multiple times longer than what is sold in stores.”

He said utilizing this machine involves more people in the local production of food, potentially builds community and is a great educational tool for life skills. For students of his Agricultural Business class he said they gain soft skills in terms of being a good employee including punctuality, engagement, responsibility, as well as a good representation of the business to the public.

Another added element to the Leafy Green Machine is the ability of students to use the integrated automation app, Farmhand.

“When we first started Freight Farms, we considered ourselves a hardware platform – but our views quickly expanded for two reasons,” Freight Farms CEO, Brad McNamara said.

The first reason was when he and co-founder Jon Friedman realized their clients needed a way to stay in contact with their farms remotely. The second reason was that they wanted to address a historical challenge in the farming world. Which they said was the lack of reliable and transferable data between farms to increase overall agricultural efficiencies.

“At the time, there wasn’t a turnkey hub for industrial-scale IoT, few if any climate-control apps for hydroponic indoor growers, nor a sophisticated way to bridge the gap between emerging IoT technology and old programming control language,” he said.

So building from the ground up, he said that they developed an integrated software platform called Farmhand. Which would enable its users to monitor and manage farm components remotely, automate tasks and analyze growing data.

“As IoT technology has evolved over the years, we’ve continuously integrated new updates and advancements to help our customers operate increasingly efficient farms with the touch of a button,” he said.

Consumers of Freight Farms products don’t just include schools, according to McNamara their tech has been used at restaurants, nonprofits, retail establishments, hospitality organizations and corporate employee benefit programs.

“We’ve been focused on taking the most advanced hydroponic technology and making it approachable. Enabling people of varying ages, experience levels, and industries to become successful food growers,” he said.