Near Jay Z’s childhood home and an old Pfizer factory, you will find a set of ten steel shipping containers. Inside those seemingly innocuous containers lies a lush urban farm. Launched by Tobias Peggs and Kimbal Musk, brother to Elon, the containers are part of a project called Square Roots, an urban farming incubator created to support emerging entrepreneurs as they develop their own vertical farm start-ups, which Musk hopes will create a food revolution.
Square Roots is an interactive campus of sorts, where each entrepreneur accepted to the one-year program is able to leverage hands-on experience and receive guided mentorship in running a vertical farm and agriculture business. Vertical farms are ideal for urban settings because they require less space, are able to grow soil-free crops indoors under LED lights and expend markedly less water than traditional outdoor farms. Each 320 square foot shipping container-turned-farm can yield crops that would be the equivalent of two acres of farmland. For all these reasons, exploring the potential of vertical farms is a priority for many –including Square Roots investors such as FoodTech Angels and the USDA.
This November, 10 applicants were selected out of over 500 applications, each coming from different backgrounds and experience levels. While each entrepreneur will not only be able to access invaluable farming know-how and business expertise, the incubator also can serve as a testing ground for the future of vertical farms. For example, exploring how to utilize solar power rather than LED lights, which some say is a drain on electricity. Entrepreneurs received funding and loans from the USDA, Powerplant Ventures, GroundUp, Lightbank, and FoodTech Angels.
The endeavor is one of several of Kimbal Musk’s that are designed to shake up the way we grow and eat food. His other projects include The Kitchen and Next Door, both restaurants that serve dishes from local sources only, and the non-profit The Kitchen Community, which has installed “learning gardens” in over 300 schools. While Square Roots is currently only underway in Brooklyn, the founders aspire to bring the concept to more cities in the near future.
Via Business Insider
Images courtesy of Square Roots