by Amber

Kimbal Musk: Urban Farm Accelorator

The launch of Square Roots, an urban farm incubator project, was announced by Kimbal Musk on Tuesday.  His latest goal? To help thousands of new urban farm startups come to life across the U.S. The mission? Teaching young entrepreneurs indoor farming and the local food business through hands-on education. Naturally, accomplishing this means you have to start an urban farm. It’s the only kind of class room situation that gives a person a hands-on experience, but each farmer in training needs his own classroom. So, it’s going to be more of a farm campus.

On Campus

The first location they’ve chosen is Brooklyn at the old Pfizer building on Flushing Avenue. It’s a huge property with over 4 acres of parking lot and 575,000 square feet indoors. The first session begins this fall and is open to 10 applicants with a passion for sustainability, and the future of food. Each farmer in training will have his own shipping container farm with access to his crops 24/7. The vertical farm boxes are from Freight Farms and equipped with ZipGrow Towers on a recirculating hydroponic system with LED curtain lighting. They also have independent sound systems, allowing each farmer to enjoy their favorite music while they work.

Herbs and greens are the crops chosen by the Square Roots team for their budding farmers to grow. This gives the new growers an introduction to hydroponic farming with fast growing crops that do well in highly intensive production on a small footprint. An on-campus farm market is being built for fresh harvest sales to the community. With a growing culinary community in the neighborhood, the property is in a great spot to help each grower develop and accelerate a local food business during the year spent in the program.

The Big Picture

According to the Square Root website, they are still taking applications, but will soon have a full house for the 2016-17 session. Who is the perfect applicant? To qualify, you need to want to do more than simply grow food. They’re looking for tomorrow’s leaders who have what it takes to shape the future of food. Besides being a millennial, Kimbal describes them as the following:

“The future of food needs to address a wide range of challenges — from sustainability to tech-enabled farming, from social impact to food policy — and we’re looking for entrepreneurial individuals with these passions and more. If that sounds like you, hit us up.”

There’s no question that ensuring all people have access to healthy food calls for a totally new perspective and a big change in policies and industry. Building that change will take a huge amount of energy, dedication, and a hunger to make tomorrow’s world a huge improvement over what we’re stuck with today. This kind of empowerment may be just the solution.

Future Urban Farm Accelerators

If Brooklyn’s first session is successful, more Square Root campuses will pop up around New York City. Expanding into other large cities across the country isn’t out of the question, but not part of the current game plan. Each campus will have sessions open to 10-100 young people. Wonder no more why they picked a massive building to house 10 Freight Farms containers. The next hydroponic farming season at Square Roots in Brooklyn may be open to dozens of applicants.

Watching what comes of this new program founded by Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs will definitely be interesting. The list of investors, advisers, and mentors is long and impressive.

Learn more about Square Roots, the team, and their partners:

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.