Heron Farms is growing sea beans in their vertical farm and restoring marshland from their home base in Charleston, South Carolina. In this episode, I speak with Sam Norton, the founder of Heron Farms. Inspired by the marsh he grew up playing in, he started the first saltwater vertical farm in the US. Heron Farms grows a type of Salicornia, also known as a sea bean. This plant provides high levels of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and, not surprisingly, sodium chloride. Chefs sometimes use it as a replacement for salt on fish dishes, like Crudo or ceviche. Beyond the farm, they're also using Salicornia to remediate salt marshes.
We talk about the ecological benefits of Salicornia and how marshland restoration can help turn seawater into a resource instead of a concern for people living in coastal areas. We also dive into the challenges of starting a vertical farm. And how important it is to balance the negative aspects of controlled environment agriculture, like expensive lighting and plastic, with activities that support the ecosystem.
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