Growing Inside The Box:
The traditional idea of farming evokes images of endless rows of corn and amber waves of grain. Now, Kimbal Musk and Tobias Peggs of Square Roots, are gearing up to change that antiquity with shipping containers. Yes, that’s right, shipping containers. Square Roots has designed an accelerator program to train students how to grow vertical farms with hydroponics. In just 320 square feet they can squeeze out the same amount of produce from two traditionally-farmed acres.
Kimbal and Musk are launching their first round of training this fall in Brooklyn with ten containers and they are hoping to expand. They anticipate moving into big cities all across the US with anywhere from ten to 100 containers.
But how can shrinking farm size be good for the environment? Although it may seem counter intuitive, less land devoted to agriculture can improve our environment on many levels. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farming and ranching are responsible for 68 percent of all species endangerment in the country. Additionally, Agriculture is the largest consumer of water, particularly in the west.
Are Vegetables the Whole Solution?
So growing all our vegetables locally in this compact space could really save some land right? Well, maybe. Last year in the USDA Economic Research Service publication “Major Uses of Land in the United States” vegetable farming took up 3 million acres of land. However, 280 million acres were devoted to Corn, Soybeans, Alfalfa Hay, and Wheat. These 4 major crops consume 80 percent of farmland and all except Wheat are primarily used as feed for livestock. This gives a whole new impression of amber waves of grain, doesn’t it?
Although urban vegetable farming may not have the direct impacts on farmland that we think of at first there may be greater indirect consequences of these initiatives fltizld. More locally grown produce available in urban settings could lead to a shift in diet habits that could have massive impacts on livestock feed and production. Experts disagree over the figures on exactly how much water and energy go into raising livestock. However, they can agree that reducing animal consumption will have a positive impact on our watersheds, land and energy use.
Therefore, urban farming projects could be massively important to the diets of millions of Americans. The local and ubiquitous availability of freshly grown produce can hopefully encourage citizens to consume more greens and fewer animal products. No one has to go vegan, or even vegetarian but one meal a week without meat adds up. You can save water, land, and energy by simply opting for those local shipping container greens instead.
Although Square Roots is just a budding project, we can’t wait to see what they can do for urban residents, the country, and the world.
To learn more about Square Roots or register for the program follow this link: http://www.squarerootsgrow.com/