Michael Ring has found a new use for “retired” semi-trailers: precision indoor farms, he says, could work in any climate in the world.
The 32-year-old entrepreneur, farmer and inventor lives on the eastern plains near Matheson, on land where mountains seem to scratch the sky.
Ring grew up in Colorado Springs and held a variety of computer roles. He learned on his own what he needed to know to set up his mobile farms.
“(I) wanted to be an inventor my whole life, which is why there aren’t any real degree programs,” Ring said. “So I just kept learning.”
Among fields of grass and lonely trees, Ring lives on a 60-acre lot. A herd of goats roam around five specialized semi-trailers which he converted with the help of another local resident, Brent Nunamaker.
Together, the couple design and build solar-powered trailers that serve as “indoor growing platforms,” equipped with digitally-controlled lights, temperature and humidity, among other features, including door locks.
Ring builds the trailers to grow exotic plants and mushrooms; it also sells its specialized trailers to people interested in starting their own indoor farm.
“Growing food this way is honest work,” Ring said. “It’s honestly impactful work.”
Ring sold trailers to buyers in Colorado, Washington and Oregon. He hopes this is just the start.
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“The things we are working on are really worth it,” Nunamaker said. “They are worth doing. If we can do it right then we can leave a lasting mark on the world.”
Ring began designing specialty semi-trailers during what he called the Cannabis Gold Rush. In 2015, he built his first trailer to grow hemp plants in Castle Rock. The business swelled for several years, but eventually went bankrupt when larger hemp farms came online and small farms like his suffered, he said.
“I’ve seen the whole industry crumble on a very, very personal level,” Ring said. “I had friends there who were losing their farms.
Ring decided to pivot his business. He began to cultivate exotic plants like the electric daisy or paracre, the flowers of which make the tongue tingle if eaten, as well as trumpet mushrooms, a culinary delight.
“It’s something that people can eat, they can eat healthy food, all kinds of good things,” Ring said. “And this platform is perfect for them.”
Inside the trailers, Ring and Nunamaker sprout mushrooms in sacks of hemp and straw.
Ring has moved its cultivation operation to its current location after facing a land dispute in Castle Rock. Ring said that by living in the east he could grow up and build “impedance-free” trailers.
While mushrooms and other plants proved difficult to sell in the remote plains, the trailers he built turned out to be lucrative. Ring’s began marketing its trailers and other work, including cultivation operations, on its CleanTec website.
“There are about 12 good reasons why semi-trailers are a win for farm rigs,” Ring said. “Being legally declared machines and being zoning compatible is one of the main reasons I selected them. You can place them anywhere you can place a tractor, so it opens up a bigger world. ”
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While Ring’s income is derived from his trailer operation, his big ideas don’t end there.
Behind the Ring Trailer Center is a Chevy Tahoe with a gear attached to the roof; with that, Ring says he can run his vehicle on more than gasoline.
“We have a solar panel supercapacitor, fuel cells, and a fleet of deep cycle batteries that are charged by the power grid, which produces consumable fuel that is sent to my engine,” Ring said. “This Tahoe gets 33 to 36 miles per gallon, using this system for about six hours, give or take. Without it it gets 14 or 15.”
For Ring, designing, building and selling high-tech trailers is a way to finance his passion for inventing.
“Elon (Musk) never noticed,” Ring said. Then he pointed to the Chevrolet and added, “He might notice this one.”
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