Harvesting over 1,600 pounds of fresh herbs and salad mixes since August, the latest Square Roots farm celebrated a ribbon cutting last week.
The 11,200-square-foot farm in Springfield, Ohio, is about an hour west of Columbus and easily accessible from Interstate 70. It marks the company’s third location in partnership with GFS and its fifth overall.
“I grew up in a food desert. Square Roots mission is to grow food locally and responsibly year round. That impact, to grow food and supply jobs 365 days a year speaks volumes to not only our mission, but what I believe is necessary for sustainability in our community,” said Leah Bahan-Harris, general manager of the Springfield location. “GFS has been within our community for 125 years. What makes our relationship splendid is their ability to reach a customer base quickly with a fleet and a team that can access a lot of different people. We’re on three GFS sites right now, and as we grow, so will the number of people who can get our fresh product 365 days a year.”
Housed primarily in repurposed cargo containers, the Springfield farm has over 2 million plants growing at any given time and has the capacity to grow more than 2.4 million packages of herbs and leafy greens annually.
The farm can deliver produce to retailers and foodservice users throughout the Midwest, often within hours of harvest.
“Square Roots’ modular, climate-controlled, smart-farm platform allows us to rapidly deploy commercial-scale facilities at strategic locations across the country—employing local farmers, growing local food, and strengthening local food systems, everywhere,” said Tobias Peggs, co-founder and CEO of Square Roots.
The new farm was deployed using Square Roots’ modular, smart-farm technology platform, which can be constructed at any location on a small footprint at quick speed. It has up to 20 different grow zones, each of which can be customized for different crops.
To help manage the facility, Square Roots employees – known as farmers – use the company’s proprietary, cloud-connected software, Toolbelt, to constantly monitor and control multiple climates, enabling a wide range of crops to be grown to meet local market needs. Farmers can access the software via their smartphones and nutrients, water and light are all calibrated for optimal growing conditions. Square Roots uses hydroponic growing systems that use with less land and water than conventional field farms.
Consumers can scan a QR code on each package to view the company’s Transparency Timeline, which connects to the Springfield farm, showing the complete journey the greens take from seed to shelf.
About 50% of the farm’s harvest is distributed through the Springfield GFS location next to the farm, with shipments often leaving the same day they were harvested and hand-packed in 100% recyclable containers.
“We use significantly less water than traditional farms and that is a huge energy savings,” Bahan-Harris said. “We are always looking to be more sustainable even as we’re growing. With this partnership with GFS, being able to cut that logistical footprint is something we’re passionate about.”
More than 20 people help staff the farm.
“The people that are here are passionate and they here because they want to be,” Bahan-Harris said. “They are happy being here and to see people happy, enjoying our greens, makes you want to establish roots – literally.”
The Square Roots Springfield farm is a USDA, Harmonized GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Plus+ certified facility and is in line with a GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) Standard.
The company operates a total of five commercial farms. In addition to the Springfield location, Square Roots has two farms in Wyoming, Michigan; and one each in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Brooklyn, New York.
Square Roots produce is available at Gordon Food Service customer restaurants, schools, and hospitals, as well as local retail stores in Ohio and Pennsylvania, including Gordon Food Service Stores, Whole Foods Market, Fresh Thyme Market, Meijer, Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market, Busch’s Fresh Food Market, Jungle Jim’s International Market and Fresh Direct.