Square Roots has built urban farming facilities in refurbished, climate-controlled shipping containers, which it uses to grow food and train farmers in a year-long program.
Until now, it has operated out of a single location in Brooklyn, which meant you could only purchase Square Roots from select locations in New York City, and it was only working with 10 farmers in each cohort. CEO Tobias Peggs (who founded Square Roots with Kimbal Musk) said this partnership changes all that.
The idea is to open Square Roots locations in or near Gordon Food Service’s distribution centers and retail stores across North America, and then to sell the resulting produce through the food distributor’s channels.
The companies aren’t revealing how many locations they’re planning to launch, or when they’ll open, but Peggs described it as “a long-term partnership,” adding, “There is a lot of potential with this partnership. They’re coast-to-coast in Canada, with big swaths in the United States.”
Peggs suggested that by working together, Square Roots and Gordon are answering a growing demand for locally grown food “at scale, across big swaths of the country.”
Gordon Food Services CEO Rich Wolowski made a similar point in the announcement, saying, “Customers want an assortment of fresh, locally grown food all year round. We are on a path to do that at scale with Square Roots and are excited to be the first in the industry to offer this unique solution to our customers.”
Why work with Square Roots? Peggs said the company’s approach requires less water and space than outdoor farms, while also requiring less investment than other indoor farming technologies, thanks to its “modular approach.”
“Certainly, it’s less of a dollar number to add a farm in a shipping container than it is to build a big plant factory,” he said. “What we’re able to do is very cost effectively, just-in-time deploy that capital expense.”
While this deal will allow Square Roots to expand, Peggs said the company will continue to operate its own facilities and handle its own sales in Brooklyn, and the company could still take a similar approach “in other markets where it just makes sense to go direct.”