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The demand for real, local food is growing as more people become aware that agribusiness corporations such as Monsanto, along with lobbying groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have a frightening grip on the nation’s food system.

“Big Food” would rather everyone continue eating highly processed, mass-produced substances packed with genetically modified fillers and artificial ingredients.

The surge in organic and non-GMO sales is a heartening reminder that the power of the purse can make a difference. Farmers markets, where people congregate to buy real, nutritious food and meet the farmer who produces that food, have grown all over the country.

But the availability of real, local food is limited in urban areas, where communities often experience “food deserts” where the only things available are the unhealthiest processed substances of the Big Food industry.

Kimbal Musk – brother of the innovating entrepreneur Elon Musk – and his colleague Tobias Peggs are looking to change that by bringing real food production into the heart of urban areas.

This fall they are launching Square Roots, an “urban farming accelerator” centered on the use of modular shipping containers to grow the equivalent of two acres of food year-round. It’s not just a box, though, but an initiative to join the energy of youth with healthy, sustainable solutions to food production.

“Square Roots builds campuses of climate-controlled, indoor, hydroponic vertical farms, right in the hearts of our biggest cities. We train young entrepreneurs to grow fresh, local food all year round. And we empower them to create forward-thinking, responsible businesses that strengthen their communities through real food.

All this means year-round heaven for local foodies. From farmer’s market conversations to farm-campus parties, from speaker series’ to digital content, Square Roots creates opportunities for everyone to dig into local food – even if there’s two feet of snow on the ground.”

With technology and urbanization, people have unfortunately been losing touch with the basic knowledge of where food comes from and how it is grown and made – which makes the system ripe for abuse by corporate interests and government lackeys.

Square Roots is a brilliant counter to this trend. It not only puts power back in the hands of the people, but also creates opportunity for activities that contribute to the health of body and mind. Gardening is known to make one smarter and happier.

Last week, Kimbal Musk explained why he is “empowering 1,000’s of millennials to become #realfood entrepreneurs through Vertical Farming.”

“Strong communities are built around local, real food. Food we trust to nourish our bodies, the farmer and planet. This is #realfood.

Sadly, many people in our biggest cities are at the mercy of industrial food. The industrial food system ships in high-calorie, low-nutrient, processed food from thousands of miles away. It leaves us disconnected from our food and the people who grow it. As Michael Pollan and others are have pointed out, the results are awful — from childhood obesity and diabetes to a total loss of community in our food.”

For a decade, Musk’s startup called The Kitchen has served real, local food to millions of city residents, while getting kids interested in real food through 300 Learning Gardens across the country. Square Roots will naturally build on this success.

“Leveraging proven technologies like Freight Farms and ZipGrow, Square Roots’ vertical farms are literally built inside shipping containers. They essentially enable three-dimensional growing — giving farmers the annual yield equivalent of two acres of outdoor farmland inside a climate-controlled module with a footprint of barely 320 sq. ft. These systems also use 80% less water than outdoor farms. That’s the potential for a lot of real food grown in a very small space using very few resources.

Best of all: vertical farms can be installed in the middle of cities. Our urban campuses will have anywhere from 10 to 100 farms. Using this platform, Square Roots entrepreneurs can avoid almost all the transport-impact of the industrial food system — by growing real food, at scale, right next to people who want to eat it.”

Their first campus will debut in Brooklyn, New York this fall, and they admittedly “have a lot to prove” in the beginning stage. But all indications point to a huge demand for real food in urban areas, and plenty of young entrepreneurs ready to merge their business drive with sustainable solutions for the planet.


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