South Carolina hydroponic container farm makes a large impact with a small footprint

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - It’s been dubbed the gardening of the future, however, it seems the future is here, now that Vertical Roots has planted itself in the Midlands.

The farm, which primarily grows leafy greens, uses a method of growing called hydroponic gardening.

Simply put, it’s soil-less gardening. And as the name suggests, it means the roots are left out of the ground and instead fed nutrients and water directly with the help of technology.

The controlled method of gardening has several benefits, most notably, its efficiency.

By feeding the plant directly, it means Vertical Roots saves on resources that otherwise would be lost to runoff, weather changes or other environmental factors.

Andrew Hare, Vertical Roots’ general manager, explains that hydroponic gardening is actually 95% more efficient than traditional gardening.

“A head of lettuce for us might consume a couple gallons of water during its entire maturation cycle versus outdoors, that’s hundreds of gallons of water,” explains Hare. “It’s not because the plant is consuming more outdoors, it’s because of the evaporation and runoff in the soil, so when you have all that contained, you’re using five percent of what you typically have to use.”

Another added benefit, a longer growing season. Operating in upcycled shipping containers, Vertical Roots is able to control its environment, allowing leafy greens to grow 365 days a year.

The Charleston-based business expanded to the Midlands in 2019 with its farm in Columbia, located at the South Carolina State Farmers Market campus.

Its Columbia location provides its largest farm site with 108 shipping containers growing leafy greens.

To put it into perspective, Hare says, “It’s about 2.5 million pounds a year or a little over 7 million plants per year that that facility grows and it’s on less than four acres of land.”

Vertical Roots products can be found at grocery stores like Publix, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, and more.

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