Elon Musk isn't the only Musk looking to revolutionize the way Americans live. His brother Kimbal Musk wants to launch a super-efficient urban farm in Brooklyn, New York, which he says could be replicated in cities across America.
The younger Musk announced Tuesday the opening of urban farming accelerator Square Roots this fall. Backed by a host of investors and advisors including Techstars CTO Jud Valeski and Modern Farmer founder Ann Marie Gardner, the project has plans to incubate 10 new food businesses in its first year, tackling everything from food tech to policy solutions.
Musk made a name for himself by founding The Kitchen, a restaurant that emphasizes community through food and its attendant nonprofit, which helps build school gardens. He's often approached by young people who can articulate problems with the industrial food system, but are frustrated because they don't know what to do about it, according to Tobias Peggs, who will serve as CEO of Square Roots. "Seeing this frustration, and pent up energy, was a big part of the original inspiration for founding Square Roots."
And it's also where the team believes the market is moving. In a post on Medium, Musk says food is ripe for disruption--people want real food, and the market still hasn't caught up.
"Young people especially are turning away from McDonald's towards healthy, locally-sourced options like Next Door and Sweetgreen," he wrote. "Microwave sales have plateaued as people realize that reheated TV dinners give us no joy. The revulsion seen on social media whenDeep Fried Twinkies were announced last week was incredible."
Each food entrepreneur will have access to a mini farm the equivalent of two acres of land, but the gardens are built vertically in a shipping container, taking up less than 320 square feet. They are climate-controlled and hydroponic, allowing for a year-round growing season using 80 percent less water than an outdoor farm.
"The aim with the campus is to create an environment where entrepreneurial electricity can flow," says Peggs.
Entrepreneurs will be trained to grow hydroponic, non-GMO food year-round and sell it locally, assisted by technologies like Freight Farms--which makes tools for fresh food production--and ZipGrow--which facilitates vertical farming. Musk hopes to roll this model out to other cities, saying each campus can contain between 10 and 100 farms. But for now, he's looking for 10 entrepreneurs to get started in Brooklyn. Applications are available on the website.