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Since 2020, Michigan Central and Newlab have teamed up to run pilots with multiple start-ups to tackle local challenges like accessibility to essential resources. Now, after extensive public engagement to identify further challenges, Newlab’s Mobility Studio is ready to begin the next set of pilots.

One such pilot, called Veggie Express, is a collaboration between local urban farms, food distributors, and mobility companies. Together, they’re exploring strategies for creating a more sustainable, cost-effective model for urban farms to improve fresh food access in Detroit.

Local produce logistics startup, along with California-based EV startup BILITI Electric, are developing an electric vehicle-based model for produce pickup to connect local urban farms with processing and distribution centers.

“I’m excited about Veggie Express because it saves me time, energy, and labor,” said Travis Peters from Green Boots Veterans Farm in Detroit. “We cater to the underprivileged, seniors and veterans, so it’s beneficial for me to be here on the farm, instead of spending time on deliveries.”

The pilot will also test a mobile “grocery-store-on-wheels” to bring fresh foods to neighborhood sites, and in the next phase, it will test an autonomous vehicle for delivery service.

“Building community relationships is embedded in our work,” said Newlab’s Connie Loh. “Our new pilots focus on co-creating solutions to mobility challenges with start-ups and community partners. We’re all in this together.”