- Last-mile delivery provider URB-E has struck a deal to use its fleet of electric bicycle-driven containers to transport freshly picked greens grown by indoor farming startup Square Roots to food stores in New York City, according to a press release on Thursday.
- Under the agreement, URB-E is delivering the produce to retailers in insulated cold storage bags "within hours of harvest" under an arrangement designed to cut down on food waste by reducing supply chain bottlenecks, the companies said.
- The arrangement reflects a growing interest by food retailers to provide shoppers with access to fresh food from local producers.
Square Roots said URB-E's approach to delivering goods to stores meshes well with its objective of making locally harvested fresh produce available to shoppers in cities.
URB-E says its bike-propelled container system gives it an edge over conventional trucks in crowded urban settings by allowing goods to be loaded and unloaded more quickly while reducing road congestion and lowering emissions. The compact containers, which can be folded up when not in use to save space, also offer better protection from adverse weather, according to the announcement.
According to URB-E, a single bike rider can transport more than 800 pounds and 20 of its carts can be squeezed into a single parking space when collapsed.
That approach, combined with URB-E's reliance on battery power, connects with Square Roots' focus on using sustainable farming methods to produce food close to where people shop, the companies indicated.
Square Roots grows green vegetables indoors using hydroponics, a technique that allows food producers to raise crops indoors, where weather conditions are not a factor. The food company grows the greens it sells in refurbished shipping containers stacked vertically to use land more efficiently, according to the press release.
Square Roots said its farming methods require 95% less water than conventional farms and indicated it is looking to work with URB-E in other cities in the future.
"By working with URB-E and utilizing their electric-powered vehicles, initially in New York City, Square Roots can quickly deliver our fresh produce to stores in a way that is better for people and planet, while making good business sense," Square Roots CEO Tobias Peggs, who co-founded Square Roots with Kimbal Musk, brother of billionaire Elon Musk, said in a statement.
Square Roots, which operates farms in Brooklyn, New York; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Kenosha, Wisconsin, sells produce in more than 250 retail locations, including stores run by Whole Foods Market, Morton Williams, SpartanNash, Fresh Thyme Market and Meijer.
In 2019, Square Roots opened an indoor farm at Gordon Food Service's headquarters in Wyoming, Michigan, as part of a project to provide herbs and greens to foodservice customers in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.