University of South Carolina

How does your garden grow?

By: Frenche’ Brewer, brewer4@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3691

USC rising junior Scott Harriford IV is literally planting the seeds of a business that may soon make him a household name.

Harriford's big idea -- in a word -- is hydroponics. It’s the process of growing plants without soil.

“The major advantage of hydroponics is the short grow cycles. Unlike traditional farming methods, hydroponics gives the plants light and nutrients on a specific schedule that ensures a proper crop,” Harriford IV says.

Harriford IV, who is majoring in hospitality, retail and sport management, first learned about this hundreds-years-old process as a high school student at Heathwood Hall in Columbia, when he researched it for his senior project.

As the idea for a business germinated, Harriford IV studied sustainable farming, the closest thing to hydroponics, at CityRoots, an urban farm in Columbia, to learn about agriculture.

So convinced that hydroponics is the next big thing in urban farming, that Harriford IV, convinced his father, and namesake, Chip Harriford III to join him in launching Jah Roots, which means “God’s Roots” in Jamaican parlance.

“There’s a growing movement for people to buy locally because there’s a belief that buying locally will make it taste better because if doesn’t come from two countries away,” Harriford III says.

Hydroponics allows farmers to plant twice as many plants compared to traditional farmers. Plants can grow organically without chemicals, herbicides or pesticides.

Harriford III says many people have tried to commercialize the hydroponics process but failed because they had a flawed business model. But Jah Roots won’t make those mistakes.

“They ended up spending a lot of money on bricks and mortar and high tech equipment rather than choosing the obvious, which is that you do this on spaces that nobody wants -- spaces that have been abandoned, spaces that have been left to fall apart,” Harriford III says.

“Let me give you an example…in a 4-by-4-foot square, I can grow 63 heads of lettuce in 30 days. If I grow leaf lettuce rather than a head of lettuce, and if I clip the leaves and bag it, I don’t have to replant that lettuce, so I can harvest that same lettuce for six, seven, eight, nine, 12 months.”

Harriford III says hydroponics is a tried and true process in some well-known places.

“They have tomato plants at Epcot Center that are 15 years old. Epcot’s been doing it 30 years, and NASA uses hydroponics in space to provide for the astronauts.”

Harriford IV plans to turn his business into the state’s newest tourism, educational and retail business. The company has signed on with The SmartState Center of Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development in the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, as its first business promoting agri-tourism.

“We’re creating an urban interactive hydroponic botanical garden and farm that will allow visitors to see high quality hydroponically grown produce, flowers, plants and fish. The goal of the tourism center will be to educate youth about the future of farming and sustainability, Harriford IV says.

 

Posted: 07/22/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 07/22/13 @ 2:20 PM | Permalink