A (non-GMO) tree grows in Brooklyn—in a shipping container.

By Danica Lo
Updated May 24, 2017
Square Roots
Credit: © Square Roots

You'd have to be living under a rock to not know that the world is on the brink of a food crisis. With a population projected to reach nine billion in 2050, and growing concerns over sustainability, farming, and the environment, an enormous opportunity has emerged for innovators and entrepreneurs to develop creative solutions to feed both local communities and the population at large. Enter Kimbal Musk (co-founder of The Kitchen) and Tobias Peggs, who, today, will announce the launch of Square Roots, a new "urban farming accelerator" currently taking applications for its first class of new-gen food entrepreneurs.

"Young people contact me all the time to articulate issues with the industrial food system, but they are frustrated by their perceived inability to do anything about it," says Musk (who is, notably, the brother of superentrepreneur Elon). "It's relatively easy to set up a tech company, join an accelerator, and progress down a pathway towards success. It's more complex to do that with food. Seeing this frustration—and pent-up energy—was a big part of the original inspiration for co-founding Square Roots."

Square Roots
Credit: © Freight Farms

The first Square Roots location, at the old Pfizer factory in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, will house "climate-controlled, indoor, hydroponic vertical farms" where non-GMO produce will be grown year-round. Using key learnings from Freight Farms and ZipGrow, food entrepreneurs will be able to harvest the equivalent of two acres' yield from a 320 square foot urban space—using 80 percent less water than outdoor farming.

"Our goal is to empower young people to become real food entrepreneurs—so selling the food they grow is a big part of that," Peggs says. "We will encourage them to build direct relationships with customers and sell food locally—to families at farmers' markets, to chefs at restaurants, and more. A big part of the mission is to help reconnect people to their food and the people who grow it. That means Square Roots entrepreneurs getting out there and becoming an integral part of the local food system."

Want to get involved? Starting today, Square Roots will be accepting applications on its website to fill ten spots in its first year-long season. If you've ever wanted to become an urban farmer, now's your chance!