Disclosure: AFN’s parent company, AgFunder, is an investor in URB-E.
- Last-mile grocery delivery service URB-E has partnered with controlled environment agriculture (CEA) startup Square Roots on last-mile delivery of the latter’s vertically grown greens to food retailers in urban areas.
- URB-E’s fleet of small electric vehicles is built to haul large loads of product; Square Roots will use the fleet to get leafy greens and herbs from its own farms to its grocery store partners within hours of harvest.
- The partnership will kick off in New York City, where URB-E launched its fleet in 2021 and operates about 1,800 vehicles.
Why it matters:
Brooklyn-based Square Roots has built its business around the idea of putting its vertical container farms as close to consumers as possible, usually in dense urban areas. Besides the farms at its Brooklyn headquarters, the company also operates in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Separately, Square Roots has an ongoing partnership with Gordon Food Service to build farms near the Gordon distribution centers.
URB-E’s battery-powered electric bikes are designed to tow up to 800 pounds of product in attached cargo carts at a fraction of the cost of conventional delivery vans. Headquartered in California, the company operates a growing fleet in New York City in addition to having a presence in its home state.
The modular, temperature-controlled container system with which URB-E equips its fleet can better protect food from weather elements and enables faster loading and unloading times. Both of these benefits can get Square Roots’ greens from harvest to store shelves in a matter of hours, the companies say, resulting in fresher products for consumers.
A 2021 study from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggested that the traditional supply chain, which relies heavily on trucks and diesel-powered vehicles, is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for global food systems. URB-E hopes to change that by using electric vehicles to power the increasingly important last mile in food delivery.