Can Kimbal Musk do for farms what Elon has done for cars?


A new food-tech accelerator is promising a host of urban ag start-ups. But just how sustainable will the growing operations be?


For more than 150 years, Pfizer manufactured pharmaceuticals in its 660,000-square-foot factory on Flushing Avenue in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. The pharma giant shut down operations in 2008, and since 2011, a host of food start-ups have taken up residence in the building’s cavernous halls. Starting next year, the bakeries and distilleries and kimchi companies will be joined by a venture called Square Roots. Founded by Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs, the urban farming accelerator aims to empower “1,000s of millennials to join the real food revolution,” as Musk (Elon’s brother) wrote in a Medium post announcing the venture last week.

“Our goal is to enable a whole new generation of real food entrepreneurs, ready to build thriving, responsible businesses,” Musk continued. “The opportunities in front of them will be endless.”

Square Roots’ real-food revolution will be built around container farming: shipping containers retrofitted into self-contained, highly efficient hydroponic mini farms. Beginning next fall, 10 ag-tech entrepreneurs will each develop an urban farming business in their own 350-square-foot shipping container housed in the Pfizer building. The containers will be able to produce the equivalent yield of two acres’ worth of farmland annually, with 80 percent less water than a conventional farm, according to Musk.

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