Upstate farmer grows plants without soil - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate farmer grows plants without soil

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When you walk into Two Chefs Restaurant in Greenville there's a lot to choose from on the menu. Servers and chefs dish out a lot greens for salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

"We have our romaine, we have our spinach, and we have our micro greens," Bill Balsizer said.

He's the owner of Two Chefs and when he heard about the Romaine Lettuce recall, he checked his produce, which he had stored and had not served.

"I grabbed the product, pulled it and got rid of it," Balsizer said.

Public health administrators with the CDC advise shoppers to avoid romaine because of an E.Coli outbreak that made dozens of people sick in several states. Balsizer says he called his food service representative.

"I called them and said I got a recall on your romaine because Yuma, Arizona just recalled all their product," Balsizer said."They're tracking the stuff from individual plots of field."

As a precaution, some restaurant chains like Chipotle and Mcalsiter's Deli also pulled lettuce.

"Food safety is something we take very seriously," Ryan Oates said.

He's the owner of Tyger River Smart Farm in Greer and knows all about leafy greens.

"Certainly everybody wants their food to be safe and wants it be something healthy to them, not harmful to them," Oates said.

He doesn't grow his greens in a field.

"We use hydroponics and basically that's growing plants without soil," he said.

The plants start in a room with red and blue LED lights, which are designed to drive photosynthesis and are then moved to a greenhouse where water is pumped into small channels.

"We supply the water that goes to those plants with all the minerals that it needs," Oates said.

When the plants are ready they are cut and bagged.

"Everything that we do is inside and in an enclosed environment," he said.

Oates hopes the high-tech process decreases the risk of contamination. Right now, public health officials believe the source of the outbreak came from the Arizona region. 

"Oftentimes it can be when produce gets washed or when produce is chopped or processed," he said. "I want to make sure we're doing everything we can possibly do to make it as a good as we can."

As of Wednesday, April 25, there are no E.coli reports related to romaine lettuce in the Carolinas.

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