Are you considering growing microgreens?
Perhaps you are excited by the prospect of growing a tray of sunflower sprouts after realizing they can sell for as much as $20.
And they don’t take up much room and can be harvested in 10 days.
But there’s so much more to consider than you might initially think.
Chris Thoreau of Urban Micro has consulted with many microgreen growers over the years, and for some of them, his best advice has been convincing them why they don’t want to grow microgreens.
Whether you’re looking to start a full-scale microgreens operation, or are just looking to add them into your farm’s product offerings, this episode will give you a lot to consider.
Reasons people typically get into Microgreens
- Values: Want to break away from a job they don’t like and want to start a values-based business, they are inspired by the food movement, and they see the health benefits of microgreens
- Land Access: People want to farm but are daunted by the prospect of getting acres of land. They already have a residence with space they can use and want to capitalize on that.
- Income: They do the math on the revenue end and get excited about the potential earnings.
- Diversify: Existing food growers want to diversify their offerings and extend their growing season. There’s a rapid seed to crop cycle.
Who are the people microgreens aren’t a fit for?
#1 Your Operation is in Your Home
The main reason people typically get excited about growing microgreens is often the same one that can stop them in their tracks; your home is now going to be your work site. It will be embedded in your home. You are going to lose the place that you go to get away from work. Your partner may put up with it at first, but as the business grows they may not. Do you have pets? Moisture and humidity can also introduce mold. The lighting is also overly stimulating and can be harsh.
“Many homes are not suitable for explicit food production.”
Moreover; many homes are not suitable for explicit food production that will pass inspection for food safety standards. You can use it as a prototyping area to learn how to grow and test your product on friends and family, but once you are in business you will need a separate growing area such as a warehouse or greenhouse.
Your operation needs to be Detail Oriented
You need to treat your growing environment much like a laboratory, where you are a detail-oriented scientist. To maintain food safety standards record-keeping and sterile techniques will need to be observed and executed on a daily basis. You should be able to take pride in keeping your operation orderly as there are a lot of detail-oriented repetitive tasks that must be carried out efficiently to make the business profitable.
You want to have infrastructure that is appropriate for your scale
The majority of necessary infrastructure requirements are made for large scale production. You will need to have an entrepreneurial spirit and find creative solutions that will meet inspection standards and not break the bank.
#2 You Need to Be Willing to Do Repetitive Tasks
There are many tasks that must be done for hours a week, like filling and cleaning trays. These tasks can be expedited but should not be rushed as quality work is important. Are you a person that can do these tasks week after week? If you have a passion for microgreens you are more likely to embrace these tasks.
“It is important to be passionate about microgreens.”
A good way to make these tasks more tolerable is to always have someone else there working with you. You want to bring someone in to work with you as quickly as possible.
#3 You Need to Be Willing to Scale
You will not be making enough money to run an exclusively microgreens business until you are selling roughly 100 plus trays a week.
“If you want to make microgreens your main income your gross revenue should be over $125,000 a year.”
You need to hire employees
It will become apparent that you cannot keep up with the work by yourself. While you may be able to keep up with as many as 50 trays a week, you will burn out quickly and need to increase production and resilience by bringing on at least one other person to begin with. Eventually, bringing on a third person is ideal so tasks such as marketing and distribution can be divided in a manageable way.
You are looking for the sweet spot
There is a place where all tasks are accounted for with a necessary number of employees that are paid well. You need to work towards finding what those numbers are for your business as they are different for everyone. The way to do this is to utilize your spreadsheets to track income and work hours and other significant factors so that eventually you can balance the books.
What are the most important considerations for an established grower looking to bring microgreens into their operation?
- A covered wash and pack station that has the infrastructure to cleanly process the product
- What is your time availability like? It is a narrow system that doesn’t allow for much flexibility and needs a lot of attention.
Sometimes the best advice is to not pursue something. While microgreens offer a unique opportunity to many growers, there are a lot of considerations that should be taken into account before getting started on them. A great way to find more detail about what getting into microgreens looks like is to check out Chris on his YouTube channel at Chris Thoreau, or visit his website at https://urbanmicro.ca to view his courses.