Square Roots –a vertical farming accelerator – will graduate its first class of Resident Entrepreneurs this October and is looking for applicants for the next season.
Each entrepreneur is loaned an upgraded shipping container, equipped with vertical growing towers, irrigation systems, and LED lights that promote plant growth. Each container can yield more than more 50 lbs of leafy greens each week and only needs about eight gallons of water a day. They are encouraged to work in teams of two to create a Farming Business Plan which includes a pre-existing customer base, identified sales channels, and farming support. Throughout the year, Resident Entrepreneurs participate in a curriculum consisting of skill-based training, professional development plans, and experiential learning in the following areas:
- Farming – management of production, data life cycles, and assets;
- Business – management of customers, finances, logistics, and products;
- Community – identification, cultivation, and relationship management; and,
- Leadership – culture building, fundamental leadership, talent, management, communication, and, professionalism.
By the end of the 13-month program, it is expected that they’ll be ready to launch an urban farming business of their own.
“We wanted to come up with a model that scaled small urban farming, so literally every consumer of food can have a direct relationship with a farmer,” says Square Roots co-founder and CEO Tobias Peggs. “So part of the engine that we’ve created here is that by training these young people…at the end of that program, they’re armed with the tools that they need to go out and set up their own food business. The hope is there will be tens of thousands of new businesses that end up being formed.”
Square Roots recently received $5 million in seed funding, led by the Collaborative Fund, and is planning to build more campuses in other cities. “It’s all stemming from the mission of real food for everyone,” says Peggs. “Ultimately, we want to put a Square Roots campus in every city in the U.S.”