Two Bros Hydro started in a basement with a bucket of water and a goal to sell high-quality lettuce in the Cape Region.
Bobby McVey of Rehoboth Beach works as a rental agent with his family at the Mann & Sons real estate office. He and Ed Olanowski, a delivery driver for Edible Arrangements, want to provide year-round hydroponic fruits and vegetables to restaurants, residents and visitors.
Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants in water without soil. McVey and Olanowski set up wooden frames to hold plastic piping that carries nutrients to the plants. The water is pushed to plants growing in baskets by a water pump as air pumps infuse oxygen into the system.
Olanowski worked for Dawn's Country Market near Milton and brought the hydroponic operation proposal to market owners Dawn and Wally Goff who agreed to lease the two men greenhouse space so they could get the business out of Olanowski's basement.
McVey and Olanowski completed the greenhouse with four hydroponic systems and a large air-circulation fan last year. This will be their first growing year.
Bright-red strawberries spill off vines in the greenhouse, and little heads of lettuce are just starting to make their debut. Two Bros is also growing tomatoes and has plans to grow blueberries and raspberries.
"It's a learning process," Olanowski said.
The men did online research and built their own hydroponic system, mostly from materials purchased at Lowe's.
Now it's a waiting game to see how the produce does, McVey said. Two Bros has sold bibb lettuce to Chef Hari Cameron at a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach.
"We hope to just keep expanding," McVey said. "At this point, we can put out 10 to 15 pounds every week or week-and-a-half."
Cameron said a(MUSE.) features Two Bros bibb lettuce in its lobster entree.
"Being a young business owner myself, I really connected with them," Cameron said. "I like that hydroponics is a sustainable, year-round product, especially here where summers are too hot to grow lettuce."
He said he likes to work with local growers because he can talk directly to the grower about what he is looking for.
"They offer a quality product at a fair price," Cameron said.
Olanowski said Two Bros plans to market its lettuce to other Cape Region restaurants this summer. Their products are also sold at Dawn's Country Market and Milton Farmers Market.
"We went for hydroponics because we were looking for something we could make money doing," McVey said. "So far, we are happy with our progress."
Two Bros Hydro is active on Instagram and Facebook and has several YouTube videos documenting their experience with hydroponics. For more information, call 302-841-0257 or email Twobroshydro@gmail.com.