US (SC): Seawater being used to grow primary crop at Heron Farms

South Carolina Research Authority’s investment affiliate, SC Launch Inc., has invested in Heron Farms Inc. The $250,000 investment will help the Charleston-based startup grow its vertical farming operations that require no naturally occurring freshwater.

In 2022, Heron Farms became an SCRA Member Company and received a $50,000 Acceleration Grant.

Understanding the unsustainability of freshwater consumption, Heron Farms uses seawater to grow its primary crop, sea beans. Freshwater is then captured from the sea bean through a process called evapotranspiration. This freshwater is then used to grow other crops, all without using any naturally occurring freshwater. In addition to being the starting point of this sustainable water cycle, sea beans are an alternative to natural salt that provide a vegan source of Omega-3, more magnesium than avocados, more protein than apples, and more iron than kale or bananas, among other benefits.

“The concept for Heron Farms began as a research question posed by founder Sam Norton while in graduate school; what if two of the 21st century’s largest problems, rising seawater levels and excess carbon dioxide, could be leveraged into next-generation sustainable agriculture? Through his exploration of this exciting possibility grew Heron Farms,” said SC Launch Director Matt Bell. “The company was started with a passion for sustainable solutions and the science to support their work.”

“We focus on scalable sustainability aided by sophisticated technologies which include predictive software, cutting-edge automated data collection, and analysis methods to manage and monitor water salinity, carbon dioxide, growth cycles, and yield,” said Heron Farms Founder and President Sam Norton Heron. “Having a partner in SCRA and SC Launch Inc. is supporting us to continue developing sustainable foods that are also healthy and delicious.”

“With a focus on sustainability, innovation, and consumer demand, the food tech industry is growing, and Heron Farms is part of its growth,” said SCRA Executive Director Bob Quinn. “We are proud to be part of this emerging environmentally-friendly industry that is answering consumer demand.”

Restoring one square foot of marsh for every pound of food they sell, Heron Farms is committed to creating a sustainable agricultural system and restoring marshlands using the planet’s most abundant resource, seawater.


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