LEXINGTON, S.C. — Vertical Roots, based out of Charleston, is expanding their hydroponic lettuce farms to a second location at the S.C. State Farmers Market in Lexington County.
CEO of Vertical Roots, Don Taylor, explains hydroponics as farming without using soil as a medium.
"The roots are hanging in the air and the water and water is running over the roots. So, we deliver water and nutrients to the plant with no dirt," said Taylor
The plants are housed in refurbished shipping containers from Charleston's port which allows them to grow produce 365 days out of the year.
"I realized that farming is a very difficult way to make a living and I did not see it as a sustainable way for our community to feed ourselves. I also did a lot of traveling around the world and was many places where people were starving to death. There is not food available to farmers. The soil is depleted and things and not successfully grow."
Growing indoors allows farmers to control environmental variables.
“One shipping container uses about 10 gallons of water a day and that is with 34-hundred plants. So, in this facility here we use abut 200 gallons of water a day. Which is probably less than most houses will use in the course of a day," Taylor says is the number one factor that makes hydroponics sustainable.
95% of lettuce comes from California and Arizona, so local distribution of the crops means a smaller carbon footprint and a longer shelf life of the lettuce. Also, the ingredients and nutrients are 100% organic.
For the farmers it is incredibly rewarding to be a source of locally grown food.
Farm supervisor, Justin Porter, was previously a chef before turned to the other side of the food industry.
“I love it. One of my biggest attractions o this company is getting food out to people where the might not necessarily be able to get it. And for the ability for us to be able to do something at the level and keep is sustainable, and good for the environment and the community.
Construction of this new Vertical Roots location is still underway planning to surpass the size of the Charleston location, which means they are still looking for farmers.
Taylor says,“Our core objective really is to get food to as close to the point of consumption as possible and create jobs for farmers.”
Customers are able to buy their various lettuces at Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, Lowes Foods, Russell House, farmers markets, and more to come.