In Start Trek Beyond, Krall records that when he approached Altamid it was completely abandoned.

Captain's Log.... I don't remember the Stardate. All distress calls are nonsense. Of the crew, only 3 remain. I will only die. The entities abandoned this planet long ago. They left behind sophisticated mining equipment and a drone platforms. They had some sort of technology that prolongs life. I'll do whatever it takes for me and my crew. The Federation do not care about us. Probably never see me again but if you do be ready.

Why did the Altamidians leave their planet?

  • Maybe they had mined the planet to a point where it was no longer profitable to continue doing so. Mining towns in the US would dry up and the place would become abandoned with old equipment just left behind. – Jack B Nimble Aug 19 '16 at 14:01

All signs point to Altamid being an abandoned mining colony. Note that on several occasions on the planet we see large swarms of insects that perhaps inspired the creation of the swarmships.

JUNG: We had loftier ambitions about that planet from early on. Justin’s idea was that [the soldiers] were sort of like drones in a way, and that they don’t actually have a lot [of] conscious thought of their own. That sort of answers how Krall would be able to come in and take all this stuff.

But they weren’t a society that had weaponized anything. He took this energy source and perverted it in a particular way, and took over what was essentially a mining colony out there. It was one of those things were we felt that he didn’t have an invading force, but he was taking his skills as an ex-soldier and applying them in a way that he probably never thought he would have to do.

We Talk to BEYOND Co-Writer Doug Jung about Krall’s Soldiers, Deep Trek Connections, and His Acting Debut

As to why they left the planet, the logical answer would be that it was mined out. As to why there was so much stuff (literally hundreds of thousands of ships) it seems likely that Krall/Edison found a small abandoned colony and tasked the drones with building as many ships as possible with the available resources.

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