Urban farming seems to be a hot trend over the past year. And you know the concept has some traction when one of the infamous Musk brothers is attempting to capitalize through a business venture. Kimbal Musk, the brother of Tesla and SpaceX’ Elon Musk is attempting to start-up an urban farm and incubator hub called “Square Roots”.
According to an article from Inc. Musk is setting up the urban farm prototype in Brooklyn, New York, and he hopes to roll it out across North America if it proves to be a successful model:
Each food entrepreneur will have access to a mini farm the equivalent of two acres of land, but the gardens are built vertically in a shipping container, taking up less than 320 square feet. They are climate-controlled and hydroponic, allowing for a year-round growing season using 80 percent less water than an outdoor farm.
“The aim with the campus is to create an environment where entrepreneurial electricity can flow,” says Peggs.
Entrepreneurs will be trained to grow hydroponic, non-GMO food year-round and sell it locally, assisted by technologies like Freight Farms–which makes tools for fresh food production–and ZipGrow–which facilitates vertical farming. Musk hopes to roll this model out to other cities, saying each campus can contain between 10 and 100 farms.
The overall idea is that Square Roots will allow entrepreneurs to develop their vertical farm start-up into an actual business within the incubator space.
I know many urban farms that have started up in previously used industrial buildings, harnessing the large warehouse areas for hydroponic farming, but this is one of the first large-scale endeavors to grow produce in shipping containers. The containers will be located within an old Pfizer factory in Brooklyn. With such a large glut of shipping containers in North America (due to higher volumes of imports than exports), this makes a great re-use of the containers. I do wonder whether the shipping containers could be located outside, or they are required to be within an industrial building. We have already seen shipping containers used as housing and shopping spaces, but urban farming seems like a logical choice if you can properly maintain the temperatures required.
Combined with his previous venture of a farm-to-table restaurant, it seems that Kimbal Musk is attempting to become to food sustainability, what his brother is to cars and space exploration.