Brooklyn farming start-up aims to feed an urban world

Brooklyn farming start-up aims to feed an urban world.VIDEO: REUTERS

Mr Erik Groszyk used to spend all day at his desk working as an investment banker. Now he cultivates his own urban farm out of a 40-foot shipping container in a Brooklyn parking space.

"'I just found myself not satisfied and kind of yearning for more."

The Harvard graduate is one of 10 "entrepreneurial farmers", selected from a batch of 500 applicants, working with Square Roots, an indoor urban farming company launched in November that grows local food year-round in the heart of New York City.

Now, six months into the programme, Mr Groszyk said his training in farming, artificial lighting, water chemistry and nutrient balance allows him to harvest roughly 7kg to 9kg of produce each week.

"People have lost trust in the food system, right? They want real food where they know their farmer, they know where their food is coming from, and they trust their food," said Mr Tobias Peggs, co-founder of Square Roots.

Mr Peggs, along with his co-founder Kimbal Musk, the younger brother of Tesla's Elon Musk, aim to spread out to as many American cities as they possibly can in the next five to 10 years.

"By 2050 there will be nine billion people on the planet and 70 per cent will live in urban areas. These people need feeding, and they will want local, real food."

Square Roots sells food locally. It also plans to launch more urban farms, for others to operate, and will own a share in those farms' revenues as well.

Mr Peggs says the company, by getting hyper-local, is looking to join a global food revolution.

"America's is the world's great, greatest exporter, right? We exported rock and roll, we exported Levi's jeans. We also exported obesity. And the feeling is, if we can solve that, in America, through initiatives like Square Roots, bringing real food to everyone, getting more people on a healthy, low-cost, sustainable food system, that we'll also be able to export that solution."