The City Magazine Since 1975

Farm in a Box

September 2018
Farm in a Box

Local agricultural technology may change the way we eat

(Clockwise from top left) A lighting system nurtures infant greens; Tiger Corner Farms general manager Stefanie Swackhamer and her dad, AmplifiedAg CEO Don Taylor; green oak lettuce, nearly ready to harvest.

For conscientious eaters, the holy trinity of organic, local, and in-season can be difficult to come by. Leafy greens, in particular, are tricky to grow in the Lowcountry, and thus tough for the likes of schools and grocers to obtain. Local start-up Tiger Corner Farms has a solution: aeroponic farms built inside shipping containers, where humidity, light, nutrients, and carbon dioxide levels can all be controlled, yielding a year-round supply.

Controlled environmental agriculture is booming nationwide, but Tiger Corner has an edge: it’s part of a parent company called AmplifiedAg founded by former Benefitfocus CTO Don Taylor. AmplifiedAg’s two other divisions are Boxcar Central, an automation software platform that lets users dial in exact specifications for any plant, and Vertical Roots, whose growers operate farms in Summerville, off Clements Ferry Road, and outside Daniel Island eatery Dockery’s (which serves the greens).

“We have a continuous feedback loop that allows us to quickly make adjustments to our product to best serve the farmers,” says Tiger Corner general manager Stefanie Swackhamer about Vertical Roots, which sells to GrowFood Carolina and retailers like Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and Earth Fare. They also supply greens to Dorchester District Two schools, and “This school year, we’re implementing a farm at Ashley Ridge High School to allow students to get involved in the growing process,” says Swackhamer.

Head Count

How many farms—and leafy green plants—is Tiger Corner Farms producing? Take a look at the numbers:

A full, turnkey farm—including 4 pods and a “clean room”—takes about 4 weeks to build and costs $550,000.

Each pod yields 3,800 to 7,000 plants (depending on variety) per month.

Tiger Corner has built 18 pods since 2016, making its very first sale to The Citadel.

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Photographs by (4) Melissa Sommer