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Urb-E tackles zero-emissions fresh food delivery with Square Roots

New York City residents looking for responsibly grown greens can now be assured their items are not only grown in an environmentally sustainable way but also delivered the same way.

Urb-E, the containerized e-cargo bike provider, is now delivering fresh produce grown by Square Roots in Brooklyn. The partnership will see Urb-E riders deliver items from Square Roots’ indoor farm to retail stores throughout the city.

“Working with local farmers to deliver their responsibly-grown fresh produce — all while reducing emissions by using our vehicles — is part of building the greener and smarter cities of tomorrow, and that’s why we’re glad to partner with Square Roots,” said Charles Jolley, CEO of Urb-E. “Solutions like these not only take cars and trucks off the road, they ensure local, fresh food is available all year round.”

Square Roots’ uses smart-farm technology and software-controlled hydroponic growing systems to grow more food with fewer resources. Its technology allows for the growth of items year-round in New York regardless of outdoor conditions.

The company says its approach uses 95% less water than conventional field farms and repurposes existing urban infrastructure. It uses upcycled shipping containers stacked vertically.


Watch: The challenges of 2-day grocery delivery


“Square Roots strategically deploys our indoor farms close to end consumers, all across the country, resulting in shorter supply chains everywhere — reducing food miles and minimizing food waste,” said Tobias Peggs, co-founder and CEO at Square Roots. “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.”

Urb-E launched in New York with the help of delivery service AxleHire. In New York, AxleHire and Urb-E launched a micro-container delivery system to deliver goods from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Urb-E vehicles can haul more than 800 pounds and still travel in bike lanes. This model case study proved that the delivery network saved on drive time and avoided parking tickets, resulting in a 6x reduction in traffic and a model that is 3x cheaper than electric vehicle delivery vans, the companies said.

In September, the companies announced an expansion of their New York pilot. Long Beach is next and Jolley previously told Modern Shipper he hopes Urb-E will be operating in five cities by the end of this year. In Manhattan, Urb-E is delivering 300,000 packages a month with about 70 units on the road.

One of the big takeaways from the pilot in New York has been the need for a professional driver force and professional fleet. Urb-E works with local delivery service providers for the drivers, but it is building its own equipment, which includes the e-bikes that feature swappable batteries to keep the bikes moving up to 16 hours a day. Each battery can power the bike for 10 to 14 miles. The foldable roll-on, roll-off containers feature a braking system for safety, and when folded, 20 of them take up only a single parking space to make storage easy.

Click for more articles by Brian Straight.

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