They don’t sound like farmers. With a team comprised of a former high school Latin teacher, a systems engineer, a mechanical engineer, and two technicians, they sound more like characters on the Big Bang Theory than a group of land-tillers. And while Tiger Corner Farms general manager Stefanie Swackhamer will concede that, “we’re probably the biggest bunch of nerds you’ll ever meet,” she also assures us that looks can be deceiving.
It all started on a whim. Swackhamer’s father, Don Taylor, former chief technology officer at Benefitfocus and owner of software development company Boxcar Central, heard about aeroponic farming from a friend in Pennsylvania. Not to be confused with hyrdoponics, aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. Hyrdoponics, a subset of hydroculture, also forgoes soil, but instead of mist uses a water solvent and mineral solutions. While many would be averse to tackling one of the ‘ponics sans an agricultural background, Taylor was simply fascinated by the technology, plus he knew that he could use his company’s software as part of the growing process. Starting to sound a little like The Martian? Spoiler: Matt Damon doesn’t appear, but the rest is pretty damn close.