To meet rapidly increasing demand for locally-grown produce, Square Roots is announcing its newest indoor farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Square Roots broke ground in late December and planted the first seeds in March, three months later. Now the company is preparing for the first harvest, where its fresh produce will be available at grocery stores, e-commerce platforms, and restaurants across the Great Lakes region in the coming weeks.
Kimbal Musk, Square Roots' Co-founder and Executive Chairman, says: “COVID-19 exposed major weaknesses in the industrial food supply chain, and accelerated the already fast-growing local farming movement. Square Roots can now deploy commercial-scale, controlled-climate farms, fast, in locations across America to meet the demand for local food, all year round. My wider mission is to bring responsibly-grown, local food to everyone in America. With Square Roots, we’re going to do it fast.”
From shovels-in-the-ground to first-seeds-planted, the company built its new farm in three months
Growing fresh produce throughout the pandemic
While COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the industrial food system, consumers increasingly valued local food, which in turn accelerated the adoption of indoor-grown produce. Consumers, forced to stay at home and cook, were able to experience the consistent peak-season flavor of the locally-grown greens. "Meanwhile, retailers appreciated the reliability, longer shelf life, and complete traceability of all Square Roots’ products." As a result, the company has seen a big increase in retail demand this year, and produce is now available in more than 200 stores (including Fresh Thyme Market, D&W Fresh Market, Whole Foods Market, FreshDirect, and more).
In parallel, working hand-in-hand with its strategic partner Gordon Food Service, one of the largest food distributors in North America, the company has been supporting and supplying restaurants throughout the pandemic. "We’re as excited as anyone to see diners begin to venture out once more, and the restaurant industry bounce back strong."
Square Roots' new Michigan farm
This new farm in Michigan, Square Roots' third commercial facility, is co-located with Gordon Food Service. It represents another step towards a larger shared ambition to build indoor farms together across the continent, enabling local food at a national scale.
Square Roots’ modular farm-tech platform
Central to the company's ability to move fast and meet demand is its modular farm-tech platform. Capital-efficient and pre-fabricated inside upcycled shipping containers, ready-to-go farms can be shipped and deployed just-in-time to any site in the world, immediately creating the perfect conditions for growing high-quality food, regardless of local climate conditions or time of year. The overall growing capacity of any Square Roots farm can seamlessly scale up or down depending on demand in the local market.
Square Roots produce can be found at more than 200 stores across the Midwest and New York City area
The new two-story farm in Michigan also includes all of the necessary infrastructure to run a state-of-the-art, food-safe and people-safe commercial operation. This includes cold storage, biosecurity, climate-controlled packaging space, distributor loading docks, and more. Meanwhile, all Square Roots farms are Harmonized Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified, in line with the USDA’s standards. They operate strict COVID-19 safety protocols to keep farmers and the local community safe.
The farms are cloud-connected and managed by a combination of skilled Square Roots farmers and sophisticated in-house software. Known as The Square Roots Farmer Toolbelt, its proprietary OS provides day-to-day guidance to farmers while capturing millions of data points throughout growing cycles across their network. This data can then be analyzed to determine how changes in certain environmental parameters impact factors like yield, taste, and texture.
Square Roots' system learns faster as it deploys more farms and the network gets larger. All while helping farmers determine how to grow more, better tasting food with fewer resources. "Training new farmers and empowering the next generation of leaders in indoor agriculture has always been core to our mission. The Farmer Toolbelt is a key enabler in our ability to offer accessible pathways for young people to enter the high-tech farming industry."
Responsibly grown, local food, available everywhere
Square Roots designed its farms to provide responsibly-grown food in areas close to the end consumer. Meanwhile, the latest farm design is easily configured for both vertical and horizontal-stacked growing formats. "This a new and unique capability that means we can grow a wide range of crops to meet a variety of local market needs. To date, we've grown over 200 different varieties of herbs, microgreens, leafy greens, fruits, and even root vegetables—and we’re just getting started."
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