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Q&A with Tobias Peggs: CEO of Square Roots

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When you think of farming, wide sprawling hills with rows of stalks and veggies comes to mind.  You probably imagine a farmer as a dude with a plow with denim overalls, not necessarily as an entrepreneur. Square Roots is a startup that is changing the way we think of farming.  Cofounded by Elon Musk's brother, Kimbal Musk, this company is disrupting the industrial food complex by closing the gap between the food that farmer's grow and the consumers who buy them.In the heart of Brooklyn in a old industrial parking lot sits a bunch of unassuming shipping containers.  The last thing you'd expect them to contain would be two acres worth of growing produce, but alas, that is exactly what's inside of them.Your typical apple travels a huge distance from where it was picked to the grocery store shelf.  In the process it looses the vast majority of it's nutrition.  Square Roots attempts to resolve this inefficiency by providing a place for produce to be grown in an urban setting.  It does this by growing produce in shipping containers hydroponically (a method of growing without soil).  Each shipping container is manned by a farming entrepreneur who is responsible for creating their own business plan, marketing and distribution logistics.  Once the produce is ready for harvest, farmers deliver the fresh goods directly to your office/home, connecting the farmer with the consumer in a more intimate and conscious way.A couple weeks ago I took a tour of the urban farm led by of Square Root's CEO Tobias Peggs.  Here's a look at some of the things I learned along the way:

How much produce can one shipping container yield on average?

One shipping container can produce about 50lbs of leafy greens.

How long does it take a plant to get from seed to harvest?

This varies depending on what type of vegetable is being grown but take for example a head of lettuce: it takes about 2-3 weeks for the plant to go from seed to harvest.

Tell me more about the tech that goes into growing food in shipping containers.

To replace sunlight, we use red and blue LEDs, which are really the only two types of light plants need for photosynthesis.  Each shipping container is modular with a controlled climate.  My background is in artificial intelligence, so every aspect of the conditions in each shipping container is controlled by AI.  Say we had an heirloom seed that grew in southern Italy in the 1800's.  We can look to see what the climate was at that time and replicate it's environment within the container.   This way, instead of literally shipping food from southern Italy, we just ship the data about that environment and use it to grow exotic foods locally.

What control do farmers have over what they grow?

Our farmers are 100% entrepreneurs.  They decide which seeds to use.  They also are responsible for their own branding and marketing and how to distribute their goods.  This is our first cohort of farmers, they don't have to use the Square Roots name, but most choose to.

Is there anything like this currently being attempted?

There's one in particular being attempted in Japan.  A large portion of farmland was rendered unusable after the meltdown in Fukushima.  Because of this Japanese consumers now have stamps on the food which literally says "Proud to be grown indoors".  So people are attempting it, all of them in different methods. I would say we were the most modular.After the tour I got to sample some of the shipping container-grown produce.  The picture above is from a mustard green.  Believe it or not it was really spicy!  I never thought of leafy greens as spicy, but regardless it was bomb as hell in my salad.As populations rapidly grow and change in cities, so must the way we produce and distribute food.  Not only does the current method of industrialized farming diminish the quality of our food, but it also disconnects the farmer from the consumer.  Square Roots presents us with a wildly innovative solution to these issues.  Where does your salad come from?  Mine came from a badass shipping container in Brooklyn.

What's up!? I'm Katrina. I'm wandering, collecting, witnessing and learning. I'm drawn to all things found at the intersection of art and technology. If I could go back in time, I think I'd be best friends with Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Cleopatra. When I'm not obsessing about the human endeavor or the nature of time, I'm probably cooking or dancing.

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Business Insurance And Why You Need It

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business insurance
Business insurance is a requirement that you should not ignore even if you are in a low-risk workplace. For certain business sectors such as healthcare industries, mechanical workshops or amusement parks, getting a liability insurance is essential. Finding the best insurance can be a challenging and complicated process, but it is better to get an insurance coverage. Disasters happen, and you need an authorized protection to save you from severe economic loss.

Why is business insurance necessary?

If you start a business and employ some people, you need to have business insurance. It is a legal requirement. The insurance coverage varies from one country to another. Almost all countries have made it compulsory for the companies to get a liability insurance. You may think that your business is small and has less risk. You can also think that you can afford the losses your companies might face. The business experts always advise getting a proper insurance for every kind of business. There can be natural disasters like floods or earthquakes. Fire accidents and thefts are not the only risks. Your business can incur massive losses due to disruption of work. There can be cash crunch, skilled labor crisis, road work, police barricades and criminal acts too. You should consider all the aspects before buying an insurance coverage for your company.

General Liability Insurance

Almost all trades have some liabilities. So, a general liability insurance is essential. Before you hire some employees for your business, get a liability insurance first. Your company becomes the ‘employer.’ It becomes a legal need if you wish to make your business a limited company. If any of your staff falls ill or faces any fatal accident during working hours, your company becomes liable. You need to discuss with your insurance broker about the amount of liability insurance cover your business needs. If there is any death because of their work in your company, you need to arrange appropriate compensation. So, you should avoid any expense trimming while buying insurance for the company.

Professional Liability Insurance

It is also known as errors & omissions (E&O) insurance. This is not a one-size-fits-all insurance. Each industry has different concerns while running the business. So, you need customized coverage for your business. The professional liability insurance protects the business from the claims that the company was negligent in performing their services accurately. When you buy the E&O insurance, make sure you appoint an attorney for your company who can defend the lawsuits filed against the company.

Property Insurance

Property Insurance is a must when you run a business. Be it your own building or leased property, you need coverage. This insurance covers your business inventory, equipment, signage, and furniture from any losses due to fire, storm or burglary. Home based businesses still do not get much coverage from property insurance. You need to ask your insurer for extra coverage.

Product insurance

Apart from the above-mentioned insurance policies, you should get an additional product insurance to cover your manufacturing business. It covers any loss due to manufacturing, distributing and retailing hitches.Buying insurance for your business is complex. You need a trustworthy insurer. Every business needs a unique package based on the requirements of the company. You should always review your insurance policies and keep them in active status.
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How Millennials Are Changing The Workplace

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Millennial
Millennials are reshaping the traditional corporate structure. With new CEOs entering the workforce, more companies have been adapting new tactics for managing, motivating, and improving. Millennial entrepreneurs have set the new standards to doing business, focusing on collaboration and efficiency. Soon by 2025, millennials will accommodate 75% of the workforce. This will replace the baby boomers, who have been recorded as the largest generation in the workforce. This instant switch leaves other generations questioning their management. These are 4 ways millennials are changing the workplace:

Emphasizing Technology

Millennials are the generation born after year 1982 and before 2004. This was essentially the era of technology beginnings. To be raised in the ever changing state of development, this generation foresees big things for the digital future. This need for rapid growth has created various platforms for creators, entrepreneurs, and more. Millennials have a profound belief that technology is the future, and so we should precisely use it to our advantage. Networking has been perfected with Linkedin, while Youtube is colonized by content creators, and Slack has better connected employees.

Open To Change

Millennials were born to alternate between innovation and tradition. To be raised in the era of constant development, generation Y has cultivated the skill to be open to change. Arguably, change is intended for growth, so that is how Millennials greet it. The digital age has disrupted traditional systems for the better, a concept that was impossible in the past. Due to the inconsistency they’ve experienced growing up, millennials have subdue their harsh conditions by advocating innovation. Although innovation is a new idea, generation Y strictly believes this is an optimal lifestyle.This generation does not believe in a constant, that everything has potential. Camden embodies that figure of high potential. Organizations are racing into the city of Camden, for it is the next startup hub for Millennial entrepreneurs. With the economy’s rapid growth and welcoming nature, businesses are rushing in to secure their space. Just outside of Philadelphia, the city of Camden possess hope, just what entrepreneurs need.

Work With Purpose

Millennials differ from baby boomers in one drastic motive. The new generation seek a sense of control and innovation that past generations seem to lack. Millennials deeply value purpose, to even go the extra mile in changing jobs for content. Perhaps it’s due to their entitlement, but Millennials are stubborn to the belief of following your inclination. 60% of employees confess that it is critical to allow them the capacity to do what they do best. Many Millennials will settle in the lower paying job, as long as it allows them the ability to express their talents.As observed in the city of Camden, non-profit organizations scatter throughout in order to rebuild the city of hope. Devoted organizations and passionate millennial entrepreneurs in the city are growing and giving back to the community.

Work Flexibility

The typical 9-5 business hour job is declining as Millennials continue to enter the workforce. The Census Bureau estimated that 13.4 million Americans work from home. The data will only increase when more Millennials start to work. This new career outlook stems from the disfavored opinion against office confinement. In the strong devotion for both work and freedom, Millennials compromised with the issue by creating careers from the comfort of their own home. Freelance work has been the popular option for Millennials, since it allows independency.   
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How To Be More Productive During A Slow Week

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There's always something that needs to be done when you’re very busy with work. But what happens when a project is finished and you get a few days before it all starts again? A slowdown in work is normal but it can be boring especially if you’re used to being in the thick of the action at work. During this time you're probably looking for some things to do just to remain productive. Here are some great ideas to consider if you want to remain productive during a slow week.

Lend A Hand

Other departments or co-workers could be struggling to meet deadlines. Lend a hand to show that you are a team player. Ask if there is anything you can do to help (with your boss' approval). Aside from staying productive, you could learn something new or get a glimpse of how co-workers or other departments work or function and how it affects your side of the job.

Succession Planning

Have you thought about what happens to your work or teammates should you go up in smoke tomorrow? You should consider this seriously and think about succession planning. You basically take your job description and break it down so that each task is outlined per month. If this document does not exist, create it. It will make your job easier should you leave your job and your boss will thank you for it.If you have one, update it. It is important to keep your succession plan alive.

Call To Follow-up

When you're busy, you don’t have a lot of time to spend talking to people on the phone. Now that you have a slow week, it’s time to pick up the phone to catch up with clients, suppliers and stakeholders. Start with small talk because this will gradually become a lengthy discussion when you ask for their thoughts on how things are going. You can also bounce ideas around in order to gain their trust and foster the spirit of teamwork.

Give Yourself An Annual Review

Reflect on your performance this past year and think of ways you can do your job better. Aside from this, you can ask yourself if you're happy with your career or which direction you want to take it. Thinking about these things can help yourself grow as a person and employee. Bring up these insights during your next evaluation. Supervisors like employees who see the big picture.

Check In With Your Boss

Now that you have time to catch your breath, check in with your boss verbally or through email to update achievements and discuss the next steps. Employees sometimes forget to pass on good news to their superiors or to update on the future direction of projects. Catching your breath during a slow week is a good way to get managers up to speed. Aside from this, checking in with your boss reinforces your capabilities for bigger things in the future.Slow days at work are rare, which is why doing these kinds of things are important. Focusing on your interests and staying proactive can help advance your career, improve professional knowledge and keep you on top of things.
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