Touch the Soil News #724 (Feature Photo – Kimball Musk – cofounder of Square Roots, and brother of Elon Musk of Tesla – CC SA 3.0 GNU Free Doc License)
For years, the USDA has been publishing statistics that farmers are getting older and the children are not coming home to the farm. Many young people, who are not farmers, do want to come home to the farm, just not the industrial farm in the hinterlands.
Welcome to Square Roots. It’s a company dedicated to cultivating new farmers. Only these new farmers do not have a farming background, they are staying in the city and their getting set up into high-tech shipping containers. Here is how Square Roots defines itself:
- We are an urban farm accelerator.
- We build urban campuses of vertical farms (equivalent of 2 acres in a 320 square foot container).
- We empower the next generation of food entrepreneurs by choosing good candidates for our 12-month school.
Square Roots recently selected 10 candidates (from an applicant list of 500) for its farming program and then brought in 10 shipping containers retrofitted to be high-tech vertical farms. These farmer candidates will spend 12 months learning not only about led lights, water and plant health, but the basics of business development, sales and finance. Situated in a parking lot of a former Pfizer factory in Brooklyn, it is now called the campus.
Farming out of shipping containers, however. is not inexpensive. Freight Farms, which was one of the first developers of shipping container high-tech farming, sells a fully operational shipping-container farm for about $85,000.
Square Roots’ investment into 10 shipping container farms, with all the attendant start-up costs and location costs could be well over $1 million.