When we started down the homesteading / farming road there was one acronym that continuously popped up. It felt like every post I looked at mentioned something called an IBC Tote. The things people were creating with these containers were awesome, but what on earth is an IBC? After some research, I came to find out that IBC stands for Intermediate Bulk Container and they are a standardized shipping container for liquids.
IBCs are used to transport everything from oil and soap to syrup and molasses. They come in two standard sizes 275 gallons and 330 gallons. The footprint of the totes are the same as a standard full-size pallet. The plastic container is surrounded by a metal frame that creates a very sturdy container. This allows forklifts to be used to move them and allows them to be stacked several high during transportation.
Depending on what you intend to use the tote for depends on the type you will need to find. Most things on a homestead or farm require a food grade tote. Totes that held oil or some sort of solvent are often the easiest to find but are not recommended for use if you plan to store something in them your or an animal is going to ingest.
If your tote contained a food product there is a very easy way to clean them out. Put half a bottle of Dawn dish soap in the bottom and fill the tote up with water. After is is 100% full drain the water. Next, put 2 pounds of baking soda in the bottom and fill it up and drain it again. The soap will cut and remove the sugar or whatever was in the tote and the baking soda will neutralize the soap. We used this process when we cleaned a tote to hold maple sap and it worked great.
We first came across the IBC tote when researching aquaponics. We plan to set up a good size backyard aquaponics setup in our greenhouse once it is complete. IBC totes appear to be the standard method of construction for the backyard aquaponics. The general construction method requires cutting the IBC’s into two pieces. The shallower top portion becomes the grow bed and the larger bottom portion is the fish tank.
Another popular use for IBC totes is rainwater collection. A 55-gallon drum is great, but the can fill in just a few seconds with a good spring rain. With the ability to stack totes up to 3 tall, when full this arrangement allows someone to store over 800 gallons of water in a 40″ X 48″ footprint. There are many how-to articles out there, but this is one of the best I have found and it includes a parts list of everything needed.
The other uses for IBC totes are limitless. There are instructions online to turn IBC totes into livestock waters, waste oil containers, compost bins, chicken coops, mushroom grow beds, dear blinds, hot tubs, I had a guy buy one from us that he turned it into an oil change catch tray for his tractors.
We have a plan to turn one of the more beat up totes into a permanent dust bath for our chickens. Two more will be centrally located by the well in the garden as a water tower. Then there is a third that lives in the woods by the maple evaporator used to store maple sap. Once we get the aquaponics system up and running I am sure we will find even more fun projects for these forklift size building blocks.