Putting Down Roots in Indoor Farming

Up-close view of an industrial electrical panel

June 26, 2023

Sometimes going green is literal. Square Roots, headquartered in New York City, specializes in climate-controlled indoor farms that grow a diverse range of crops in a small, modular footprint. This is high-tech farming; Square Root’s cloud-connected farms collect millions of data points which are analyzed to optimize crop yield and taste. We recently facilitated these smart farms by designing the industrial electrical panels for a new Square Roots indoor farm in an undisclosed urban setting. We also provided switchgear, lighting panels, and lighting controllers.

New to indoor farming, our team worked up several different conceptual layouts and size arrangements to best meet the client’s needs. Despite potentially long lead times, Interstates was able to keep to the client’s schedule and get the panels delivered before Square Roots even broke ground.

Indoor Farming a Timely Solution

Multiple factors – from climate change to pandemic-related supply chain issues – have impacted farming and food availability worldwide. Food shortages can be eased, in part, through the kind of indoor farming done by Square Roots. Since indoor farms can grow food almost anywhere, including urban areas that may have previously been “food deserts,” they can deliver produce to local stores within hours of harvest. Indoor farms use less water and less land than conventional field farms, and their hyper-local food sourcing helps eliminate the complexity of the supply chain.

According to Jesse Richardson, Manufacturing and Quality Engineer at Interstates, “On this project, we supplied the electrical panels for an urban growth center so the client could control everything from one central unit.” At this site, comprising 22 modular containers for growing, Square Root’s top priority was staying ahead of schedule. “They have an aggressive expansion plan,” says Richardson, “so we wanted to make sure we helped them stick to their timeline goals.”

Vendor Connections Beat Long Lead Times

Any project involving technology is currently facing material delays and shortages, but we worked its connections on this project for a quick win. “One of the reasons we were chosen for this project was our ability to deliver the panels fast,” says Richardson. Certain components had anywhere from 20- to 50-week lead times, but our long-standing vendor relationships and supply agreements were valuable. “We worked with one of our vendors and turned this around for the client in just five weeks, getting our product there before the other contractors had even broken ground,” he adds.

Flexible Design Keeps Costs Down

Constant communication with the client and all the Interstates parties involved (from supply chain experts to accounting to prefabrication) helped narrow in on the best design for the project. “The option we ultimately went with was our third design,” says Richardson. Our initial concept for the modular electrical room was comprised of 3-6 components on a prefabricated skid that could roll into place. “This plan was going to result in longer lead times and more cost, so it turned out to be best to split up the devices. It took us a few design iterations to get there, but the end result could be easily pieced together and installed on-site,” says Richardson.

Taking the time to consider what would be best for the client in the long run and adapting designs helped Square Roots stay on schedule. With the panels already delivered, the client can focus on other construction concerns. “The biggest pain point is over, and now they can have an easy, quick install,” says Richardson.

We will be adding control panels and switchgear for upcoming projects, continuing to grow a strong relationship with Square Roots. Richardson says, “We work well together because they value the same things we do, business-wise. They are progressive, understand the ag business, embrace the modular concept, are open to improvements on industrial control panels, and prefer a contractor that can give them a turnkey solution. Those things are in our wheelhouse, so it was a good fit.”