Texas couple brings pesticide-free produce to Denton with indoor, vertical farm
Boterna Aeroponic Farm | Amber Gaudet |
IMAGE: Greg and Heather Marsh operate Boterna, a farming initiative utilizing aeroponic technology to grow crops year-round in Denton.
Heather and Greg Marsh’s first experience with indoor farming was in Muscat, Oman, with the couple using aeroponics equipment to grow and harvest leafy greens to supplement the region’s sparse growing season.
“They had a very short season and they could grow watermelon and tomatoes and that was about it, so they’d have a few truckloads when harvest time came, but you would have nothing fresh at the grocery store,” Heather said.
The pair began experimenting with different equipment, eventually finding success with growing crops that otherwise wouldn’t have been available locally. Now they’re helping spearhead a similar effort in North Texas — bringing pesticide-free, fresh local produce to restaurants and farmers’ markets year-round through Boterna.
About two years ago, Boterna founder Bill Job wanted to bring vertical farming to the U.S. and, with the help of David Richards, now vice president of research and development at Boterna, began redesigning equipment for commercial use. That’s when the pair brought the Marshes on board.
They’d lived in the Middle East for nearly 10 years, brought there by Greg’s work in oil and energy. The farming concept they experimented with in the region took off, and they sold it to a local to continue when the couple moved back to the U.S.
Argyle residents, the Marshes brought the equipment here from Tennessee, setting up a 6,000-square-foot growing space in Denton. Focused mostly on leafy greens like lettuce, spinach and herbs, Boterna’s aeroponic system allows them to grow produce in any weather without the use of soil or pesticides.
With aeroponics, the plants’ roots are suspended in the air and are misted with a nutrient-dense water solution, allowing for greater uptake of oxygen which makes the plants more robust, Heather said.
“We’re able to cut down the amount of growing time needed and get a harvest every 10 days per unit instead of every 30 days, which means fresher produce to supply to grocery stores, to restaurants or direct to consumer — that’s the uniqueness of how our system works,” Heather said.
That means more eco-friendly produce, drastically reducing the length of the supply chain. Research has also shown that local food has more nutrients, since the longer it takes to get to your table, the more vitamins and minerals are depleted.
The Marshes have put their time abroad to use in other ways, too. They employ refugees from South America and the Middle East, helping them navigate life in the U.S.
“We know what it’s like to live in another country so we can really relate and we enjoy getting to walk alongside them,” Heather said.
The company also partners with the Cross Timbers Hope Center to donate crops that would otherwise go to waste.
Though leafy greens are the easiest to grow in an aeroponics system, Boterna hopes to eventually expand to include a range of produce.
“We hope to continue to learn new things. There have been other things grown in the system, we’re just kind of wanting to start with some variety and then keep expanding our offerings,” Heather said. “The sky’s the limit in a sense of what you can do, especially when you’re creating your own equipment because you can adjust and adapt things.”
Restaurants interested in samples can contact Boterna through their website at boterna.com. Boterna sells direct-to-consumer produce at the Denton Community Market and the Downtown Sanger Farmers’ Market.