Brooklyn Farmers Are Growing Crops Inside Shipping Containers

Square Roots first broke ground by financing and mentoring local entrepreneurs who are growing tasty, nutritious greens in, of all places, a Brooklyn parking lot. Now it’s taking things a step further — right to your New York City office. 

The new “Farm to Local, by Square Roots” initiative delivers snack-size bags of salad greens to workplaces. It already has subscribers at Vice Media and Kickstarter, said Square Roots CEO and cofounder Tobias Peggs.

“Your farmer will literally come to your desk and drop off same-day-harvested greens,” he said.

These farms aren’t your traditional sprawling upstate acreage tended by laborers or a guy on a tractor in bib overalls. Set up near where Jay Z grew up, they’re 10 steel shipping containers converted into hydroponic vertical farms, meaning crops grow in tower formation with recycled water and without soil.

Inside the LED-lit modular containers are rows of panels sprouting pesticide-free plants in a controlled climate — so freezing temperatures and snow pose no problem. Each container produces an annual harvest equivalent to an estimated two acres of land.

Square Roots raised seed financing to build the campus, which cost more than $100,000. Then, 10 young farmers were chosen from more than 500 applicants for a yearlong stint that started in November.

One of them is Electra Jarvis, 27, an Alphabet City resident who grows kale, mustard greens, and Salanova lettuce and is working on cilantro.

“At farmers markets, people are always impressed with the shelf-life and the taste,” said Jarvis, who had been a master’s student in sustainable environmental systems at Pratt Institute and interned with a hydroponic research and development company and an urban farming consulting firm.

The farmers work about 30 hours per week, splitting their time between working on the crops and sales, Peggs said.

“They build a big network of mentors and learn how to build a sustainable business,” said Peggs, whose background is in technology. “Then they are in an incredible position to go off on their own entrepreneurial journey.”

Germination of the idea

Peggs, 44, arrived in the U.S. in 2003 from the United Kingdom. A few years later, he met Kimbal Musk (whose brother is the entrepreneur Elon Musk). Musk, a chef, had cooked for firefighters at ground zero after 9/11. “That’s when he began to see the power of real food and its ability to strengthen communities,” Peggs said.

Peggs and Musk worked together in social media analytics, until Musk broke his neck in a skiing accident and, “realizing life can be short,” shifted his focus to The Kitchen, a farm-to-table restaurant group that started in Colorado, Peggs said. In 2014, the duo began developing the idea for Square Roots.

“What we saw was that millions of people, especially in our biggest cities, were at the mercy of industrial food,” Peggs said. “This is high-calorie, low-nutrient food, shipped in from thousands of miles away. The results are awful, from childhood obesity to adult diabetes to a total loss of community around food.”

For example, Peggs said, a supermarket apple may have been traveling for nine months and is coated in wax. “You think you’re making a healthy choice, but in that time the nutrients have broken down, and you’re basically eating a ball of sugar.”

Square Roots aims to expand to 20 metropolitan areas by 2020.

Until then, in Brooklyn, they’re growing mainly leafy greens (spinach, arugula, chard) and herbs (basil, shiso). Peggs believes berries and tomatoes could follow.

“At the end of the day, if the food doesn't taste amazing, no one will buy it,” Peggs said. “So we focus every day on making sure the food tastes amazing. And it does.”

734 East 5th Street, Unit 2R

734 East 5th Street, Unit 2R

Kensington, Brooklyn

2.5 Beds  |  2 Bath

Offered At $775,000


New to market! 2 BD, 2 BA, convertible 3, CONDO with extremelty LOW monthlies! Apt features 2 Private Balconies and a deeded large private storage room. This spacious 2 bedroom apartment is easily convertible to a 3 bedroom or home office. The East facing balcony floods apartment with morning sun and west facing balcony off the 2nd bedroom in the back is perfect for afternoon light. Also enjoy beautiful bay windows in master bedroom. The open living and dining area is perfect for lounging or entertaining. Hard-wood flooring through-out every room. Open kitchen is custom made with walnut stained cabinets, white marble counter tops, stainless steel appliances, gas stove, Sub-Zero refrigerator and double sinks. Bathrooms features deep soaking tubs and Toto toilets. Master bath equipped with jetted tub. Also includes Bosch Stackable Washer/Dryer, Central air and video intercom security. Additionally, building is wheelchair accessible with indoor/outdoor elevators. With super LOW taxes and Common Charges, this apartment is a STEAL. Tax abatement until 2026. F train close by at Ditmas Ave. Plenty of shops at 18th Ave to choose from or take a short walk to trendy Cortelyou Road. Sorry, No Pets Allowed

First Look at Downtown Brooklyn's 1,000-Foot Supertall Tower - Curbed NY


The rising Brooklyn skyline is about to get one edifice that leaves the rest in its shadow, at least figuratively. JDS Development Group's planned 1,000-foot mixed-use tower at 340 Flatbush Avenue Extension in Downtown Brooklyn finally has a first rendering courtesy of New York YIMBY that shows off a shiny and slender supertall. The rendering should be taken with a grain of salt, though—it isn't often, if ever, that the first look at a skyline-changing tower represents what will actually rise. In any case, YIMBY reports that the SHoP-designed tower will stand 90 stories and be composed of 550 residential units and 140,000 square feet of commercial space. The tower will include the integration of the landmarked Dime Savings Bank, but just how that will work out has yet to be seen. YIMBY also reports that Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecake and Desserts, which shares a block with the development site, will also be razed in the process. This seems unlikely, though, given the restaurant's full-blown rejection of a $45 million cash offer late last year for the site. No demolition permits are on file with the city for the beloved cheesecake destination. [UPDATE: A rep for the project has confirmed that JDS doesn't own the property Junior's sits on. The restaurant will continue on its merry way dishing up cheesecake.] Curbed has reached out for a comment from JDS. Stay tuned. [UPDATE: JDS has declined to comment.] —With writing from Evan Bindelglass.

Source: First Look at Downtown Brooklyn's 1,000-Foot Supertall Tower - Development Watch - Curbed NY