Walk into the city's fanciest restaurants and you're sure to find well-dressed clientele and even better dressed plates. The produce on your plate,however, could come from a place inside the loop where you're more likely to find barbed wire, vacant buildings and empty lots. It's in the shadow of downtown -- in a shipping container of all places --- that you'll find some of the freshest greens in town.
Acre in a Box founders Andrew Abendshein and Ana Buckman grow a hydroponic garden of kale, lettuce and microgreens available for order by chefs around Houston.
DIGITAL EXTRA: How does hydroponic farming work?
"Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, they call us and say, 'We need heads of lettuce,' and we're here," said Buckman as she stood inside the shipping container surrounded by vertically growing greens.
By using a hydroponic system, the produce grows using a solution of mineral nutrients, feeding the plants in water without soil.
"We have growth 24/7, 365," said Abendshein of the one and a half acres of produce in the 320-square-foot container. "We're able to control the humidity, the temperature and the nutrient levels so plants are in a stress-free environment.
Without environmental concerns, the duo says plants grow faster, taking just six weeks from seed to harvest. Though they're currently working out of two shipping containers, Buckman and Abendshein say their goal is to use the same hydroponic method when they expand to a 7,000-foot warehouse, supplying more locally grown produce to Houston eateries and farmers markets.
Acre in a Box produce is currently available at restaurants throughout the city like Presidio, Pax Americana, Relish, Tiny Boxwoods and Tinys No. 5. as well as the East End Street and Discovery Green farmers markets.
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