“There is a megatrend for locally grown food and consumer demand is increasing, both in retail and food service. There is a misconception that this movement of locally grown food is primarily a phenomenon in the US coastal states. In fact is much broader and can be seen in data across the country, “said Tobias Peggs, CEO of Square Roots, a U.S. vertical farm.
A change for the sector
Square Roots is opening new growers in Ohio and Wisconsin to meet the growing year-round demand for locally grown food in those states. Their modular smart-farm platform enables the company to quickly implement a capital-efficient farm on a commercial scale in any city within months of entering a new market.
According to Tobias, this gives Square Roots the flexibility to build its vertical farms pretty much anywhere and quickly start growing food to meet demand.
A case of unit economy and demand
The already built farms in Kenosha and Springfield each have the capacity to produce more than 2.4 million packs of herbs and green leaves a year, all from a ‘super-efficient’ footprint of just 10,000 sq ft. (1000m2). ‘
The flexibility of the Square Roots platform means they can determine the size of the crop and make specific crop plans to meet local demand. The new places will grow herbs such as basil and coriander in addition to nutritious salad mixes and micro greens.
Square Roots has grown over 200 varieties in research and development. And not only leafy vegetables and herbs, but also tomatoes, beets, strawberries and more. The question “what can square roots grow?” is not really one of capacity, but one of unit economy and local demand, describes Tobias.
“As a company, we are very customer-centric in our approach to bringing new offerings to market. For example, this year we are expanding significantly in salad mixes, based on a huge wave of interest after their first launch in late 2021. Honestly, it was we.We are a little surprised by the amount of responses! But lettuce is a huge market, and a market that has not experienced much innovation in recent years.So our approach to mixing healthy microgreens and crispy baby leaves for a super tasteful, nutrient-packed experience is definitely up for grabs, shake it up, “he says.
Watershed project: CO2 footprint
Square Roots recently completed a project with Watershed, an independent third party, to measure their scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (in accordance with GHG Protocol standards). This was done to quantify their current CO2 footprint and then develop a specific reduction plan in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions.2emissions by half by 2030.
Tobias adds: “Watershed has made a fairly comprehensive analysis, but most importantly, our net operating emissions for 2021 were 4,747 tonnes of CO₂. Although this is a fairly low figure in absolute numbers, it still equates to about 2,000 return flights. car. We would like to have it reset. “
Gordon Food Service Partnership
Square Roots is now working with its strategic partner Gordon Food Service (GFS) to bring online a solar panel with additional battery storage capacity that will power the newest farm located at their distribution center in Springfield, OH.
These initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg, Tobias says. “Becoming CO2 neutral does not happen overnight, we are now able to look at all aspects of the business through the sustainability lens and start systematically implementing quantified reductions.”
For example, in March, Square Roots announced a new partnership with URB-E, originally in NYC, to supply their products to more than 100 local merchants using their fleet of electric vehicles. Tobias notes that the URB-E solution will obviously not work for all Square Roots locations (NYC is a very unique market given its density). “But almost all of our retail partners in the city are within 5 miles of the growth site. But this is the beginning of our commitment to zero-emission delivery everywhere, in the end.”
Products supplied by electrically powered vehicles in collaboration with URB-E
As Tobias explains, GFS is a food distribution giant with more than 200 distribution centers and stores throughout North America. The new vertical farms in Wisconsin and Ohio are located at GFS distribution centers, meaning GFS customers can now access Square Roots’ fresh produce within hours of harvesting. These growth sites are key implementations in what is a continental program that will eventually see Square Roots grow sites at each distribution center.
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