Understanding first-hand how hard it was to secure fresh produce while living in the Middle East for 10 years, Heather and Greg Marsh decided to experiment with growing their own. Employing an indoor vertical farming method that grows crops in vertically stacked layers, they tested the concept in 2018 while in Muscat, Oman. When they moved to Canyon Falls for his engineering job two years ago, they decided to do the same thing here. After an extensive search, they secured a warehouse across I-35W from Apogee Stadium in Denton and launched Boterna Vertical Farms last September, and began growing their first crops in March. Within the 10,000 overall square foot facility they grow leaf lettuce, iceberg, romaine, chives, green onion, kale, Swiss chard, arugula, parsley, basil, cilantro, and baby spring mix. Their facility has 42 platforms each of which can produce 500 pesticide-free heads of lettuce every 10 days. “If you were running a head lettuce it would be almost 800,000 a year,” Greg said.
It takes 40-45 days to grow ready to eat including 10-14 days in the nursery and about 30 days on the platforms. They find it far better than typical outdoor growing systems. “Being inside you’re able to grow year-round,” Heather said. “A lot of farmers in Texas can grow lettuce sometimes in the year but there’s the summer heat so they have to changeover crops. In other places in the country, it gets too cold to grow. “You’re also able to get that consistent head size because the wind is not changing, and the nutrition isn’t running off. You can really target nutrition. We use organic-based nutrition for our plants where the water goes down the poles.” Texas natives Heather (Austin) and Greg (Tyler) met while students at Louisiana State University where she majored in elementary education. That career quickly ended when she had three children in three years so something like farming became an option. Their farming dream started after being introduced by mutual friends to Bill Job, a Tennessee man who had a vision of farming in China while the Marsh’s were doing the same in the Middle East. So, they shared technology and ideas and eventually became partners deciding on the name as a combination of botanical and eternal. Like so many people moving to the area, they were attracted to the Argyle school system and accessibility to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport which is why they chose to live in Canyon Falls.
In its short lifespan, Boterna has been selling to the Denton Community Market, restaurants like Uncle Mike’s Bistro in Argyle and Prime Farm to Table in Flower Mound, and home delivery
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to friends, neighbors, and others. It also donates extra heads to The Hope Center. It is now ready to expand to the larger consumer market while working to secure grocery store contracts. Boterna employs a diverse global staff including people from Afghanistan, El Salvador, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Venezuela. Taylor Ediger started as general manager in June. Future plans also call for growing additional foods both themselves and teaching others how to do it to help solve the food crisis many countries and people face.
The hope is the opportunity for local food production anywhere in the world. “We really want to help feed the world,” Heather said. “We want this to be a company that can go to multiple markets. With our experience overseas we’d love this to be a company that goes overseas and helps people go overseas and start a business and help locals grow crops that can be grown. “We want to see everything from rice to wheat, mining crops, and others. The sky’s the limit of what our imaginations would like to see. So many farms just do lettuce, and we don’t want to be pigeon-holed into just that.”
To learn more about Boterna, including online ordering, visit boterna.com.