Local company partners with Dockery's to offer true 'farm-to-table' experience
If you have been to the new Dockery’s restaurant on Daniel Island over the last week, you may have noticed large white shipping containers sitting outside the building.
These shipping containers, which are operated by local sustainable farming company Vertical Roots, are not what they seem. Inside the structures are panels filled with fresh leafy greens grown using an automated aeroponic farming system.
In partnership with Dockery’s and sister Summerville company Tiger Corner Farms, which repurposes the shipping containers and builds the aeroponic farming systems, Vertical Roots has set up shop in the heart of downtown Daniel Island to give residents a true “farm-to-table” experience.
The average head of lettuce found in a grocery store travels up to 2,500 miles before it reaches its destination, explained Vertical Roots General Manager Andrew Hare, but with the one-of-a-kind partnership between Vertical Roots and Dockery’s, the produce will be harvested just hours before hitting the plate.
“What we always say is, ‘Know your food. Know your farmer,’” said Hare. “If you look at statistics, the average head of lettuce and most produce travels anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 miles. You don’t know where it came from. You don’t know what kind of chemicals have been sprayed on it or how they harvested and kept it looking good until it’s getting to your plate a couple weeks later. With this partnership, the chefs are able to walk across the patio here and pull out what they need for the day.”
Since partnering with Tiger Corner Farms and local nonprofit Grow Food Carolina, Vertical Roots has grown exponentially, explained Hare. In April of this year, the company operated one shipping container that held 4,500 plants. As of today, they are operating six containers in the area and have four more in production.
“To give you an idea, we went from about 4,500 plants to now, if you combine everything we have from plants that are propagating as little seedlings to what are actually in the panels for sale, it’s about 70,000 plants,” said Hare.
Although the system can be set up to grow various types of produce, the company’s current focus is leafy greens, added Hare. For their initial roll out with Dockery’s, the greens harvested will be utilized in the spring mix and any dish with arugula.
“Almost everything we do right now is different style head lettuces—a lot more than your traditional bib lettuce,” said Hare. “We have some gorgeous reds and purples and some different, what we call, European style mix greens. Dockery’s will actually be using that in their spring mix. We also do things like arugula, bok choy and kale.”
In addition to the partnership with Dockery’s, Vertical Roots also has plans to roll out a membership program in the upcoming weeks. The plan will allow residents to come by once a week and pick up a box of mixed greens, explained Hare.
“It’ll have their salad mix that they can use, but then they’ll have rotating herbs or different leafy greens, or things that they’ll have that will kind of be a surprise each week,” he said.
The unique aeroponic farming system not only offers residents access to fresh produce, it is also environmentally-friendly, continued Hare.
“The panels have misters that go off every few minutes, so that allows us to use about 97 percent less resources than you would with traditional farming,” he said. “It allows us to maximize our plants. Each month we’re able to harvest about 4,500 plants out of each farm.”
According to Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan, who made an appearance at the inaugural harvest at Dockery’s, these aeroponic farming systems could have a large impact, not only on the Daniel Island community, but communities around the world.
“We’re so excited to have this type of innovation here on Daniel Island,” said Sloan. “It’s a great opportunity to educate the community. This type of product can have such a meaningful impact on communities throughout the world. The plan is in Third World nations, they muster enough funds to buy a few of these and can feed a village.”
To read more about Vertical Roots or to subscribe to the membership program, visit http://verticalroots.com/.