The Growth Trajectory of a Microgreens Business with Jacob Goldfarb (FSFS258)

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Episode Summary

In this special episode of Farm Small Farm Smart, educator and longtime microgreens grower Chris Thoreau welcomes guest Jacob Goldfarb of Goldfarm Canada to talk about how he grew his microgreens business from 20 trays a week to 120 trays a week, as well as the challenges he faced with growing his farming operation.

Today’s Guest: Jacob Goldfarb

Owner of Goldfarm Canada, Jacob Goldfarb began his microgreens journey in 2019 after discovering their multitude of benefits. Growing out of Guelph, Goldfarm Canada is a steadily growing, family-run vertical farm that specializes in microgreens and edible flowers.

          Goldfarm Canada – Website | Facebook | Instagram

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • Chris Thoreau introduces the episode and guest Jacob Goldfarb (01:24)
  • Jacob Goldfarb’s microgreens operation and setup (03:16)
    • Jacob’s business goals with Goldfarm Canada (05:33)
  • First learning about microgreens (06:31) 
  • Bringing in expertise along with the raw experience (08:01)
  • The process of figuring out the business’ growth trajectory (09:21)
  • Plans for growth in the early days (13:11)
  • Where Goldfarm Canada is now and where it’ll be in five years (15:53)
  • Markets that just don’t fit the business model (18:52)
  • Considering grocery stores as a sales outlet (21:07)
    • The challenges of working with grocery stores (23:48)
  • Major challenges in the growth trajectory (25:58)
  • Concerns on quality as the business scales (27:40)
  • Bringing on and building relationships with the experts (29:24)
  • Deciding which experts to call in when (31:23)
  • Maximizing the skills and interests (33:14)
  • What Jacob Goldrab looks forward to when it comes to his business (41:06)
  • Take the time to commit to the business seriously (43:29)

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FSFS258 � Jacob Goldfarb

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. Today's a special episode. It's a different type of episode because I'm not hosting the episode. What you're gonna hear for this episode and the next few episodes are episodes guest hosted by grower Chris Thoreau.

[00:00:21] The name may sound familiar because Chris has been on a lot of podcasts in the past, at least 10, where we talked about microgreens. While I'm currently focusing on my Carrot Cashflow podcast, which you can listen to by just searching for Carrot Cashflow on Spotify, iTunes, or wherever you listen to podcasts, that's a business focused podcast. I'm looking for people to guest host the farm small farm smart podcast and talk growing.

[00:00:50] Chris is one of those people who's reached out and has agreed to guest host some episodes. If you'd be interested in guest hosting a future episode of farm, small farm smart and talk, growing production, harvesting, whatever you want on the field side of farming.

[00:01:04] Let me know by sending me an email, I would love to hear your thoughts. But for this episode, it's Chris Thoreau, talking to different microgreen growers about their micro green experience, both the successes and the failures. I hope you enjoy it.

[00:01:24] Chris Thoreau: This is Chris Thoreau here from Urbanmicro and seed leaf, and I'm excited and honored to be contributing as a guest host to the farm small farm smart podcast.

[00:01:34] I've been doing podcast episodes with Diego for about four years now focused mostly on microgreens. And so in these guest episodes microgreens will be our focus. I've been producing microgreens at a commercial scale and home scale for more than 15 years, and I'm really happy to be sharing some of that experience with you.

[00:01:54] To keep things here brief, you can check out my current work at and see more of what I've done there. Oh yeah. By the way, I'm based in British Columbia, Canada. So while we'll be focusing on growing techniques, infrastructure, and other aspects of microgreens production, what I really hope to add to some of these podcasts is relating microgreens to real life.

[00:02:17] So not just focusing on growing techniques, but also on how you integrate microgreens into your life, because in many ways, starting a microgreens business or any farming-based business, for that matter, means it becomes your life. In this series, we'll be talking with microgreens growers from around the world with upcoming interviews with growers, from Canada, the United States, Ireland, and Australia.

[00:02:41] And we're not just talking with the most successful growers, you know, whatever that may mean. We're talking to growers with a range of successes and a range of experience, including topics like why my microgreens business failed. So let's get going. In this episode, I'll be speaking with Jacob Goldfarb of Goldfarm Canada.

[00:03:01] Jacob tells us a little bit about his operation based in Ontario, Canada, and then we discuss scaling up and calling in the experts as Jacob looks at growing his microgreens business over the next several years. Yeah. So where I'd like to start out is tell me a little bit about your your microgreens operation and setup.

[00:03:22] Jacob Goldfarb: Sure. So my operation is just over two years old, about two and a half years I've been in operation. I started at home like a lot of growers and steadily expanded over the last two years. As of this October, it'll be one year in my commercial space. And we produce roughly about 80 to a hundred trays a week.

[00:03:44] Chris Thoreau: And when you say we, is that the Royal we, or is that you and some staff?

[00:03:48] Jacob Goldfarb: I do have a staff member now that I hired a few months ago to help me with the labor tasks on the farm.

[00:03:56] Chris Thoreau: Okay. So you're doing 80 to a hundred trays a week. You've got one staff person to help, just reflecting on a previous conversation, how did you take vacation previously?

[00:04:07] Jacob Goldfarb: I did not. There was no vacation that. Well, that's not true. Uh, the longest I was ever able to get away was about 48 hours. And that was really with the help of my mom coming in as a, as a pinch hitter as it were. I'm very fortunate in that my, my ran a horticulture business when I was a kid and has extensive experience with plants.

[00:04:34] And basically didn't have to really teach her much. She just kind of like, you know, timing around watering. And she was even doing some of the planting for me at certain points. So it was great to have that.

[00:04:46] Chris Thoreau: Nice. And, and is that, is that sort of horticulture background, which you would've grown up with, was that helpful in making your decision to go into microgreens?

[00:04:56] Jacob Goldfarb: I would say it introduced me to plants at a young age, but I wouldn't necessarily say it was a straight line from helping my mom and her business as a kid to growing microgreens. That was more the result of just really stumbling into issues around permaculture and aquaponics was actually the first kind of thing that ever drew me into this world, if you wanna call it that, of you know, growing and, and sustainability and stuff like that. So, but yeah, I lean upon kind of that the work ethic that my mom kind of instilled at me in me from helping her, you know, when I was a kid.

[00:05:33] Chris Thoreau: Right. So you talked a little bit about where you're at in production now. What are your goals with this business? Is this something that's a side venture for you and you're gonna want to do other things. Or are you trying to build the South Ontario microgreens empire?

[00:05:49] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah, I, I would say more the latter. This is, this is definitely my full-time gig. And I would even say, say like I called it Goldfarm Canada for a reason, you know? I would be happy having said that I would be happy if, if it was just Ontario, but you know, I think if things go well, there's no reason not to try and replicate this in other markets.

[00:06:12] Chris Thoreau: Right. Absolutely. Yeah. So you, you did have a bit of a horticultural background and, and it's funny, these kids and parents' careers, my son is traumatized by microgreens, so maybe there's gonna be a revisiting in, in the future, but as it is, I don't expect he's gonna follow in my footsteps.

[00:06:31] But obvi I imagine at a certain point. microgreens as a concept might have been new to you or not as familiar as other things. So, you know, how did you become familiar with microgreens in such a way to feel confident in building a business around this, this growing model?

[00:06:46] Jacob Goldfarb: Well, I just did a ton of research. Facebook was really instrumental, the groups that that I've found there. I did a couple of different things. I was willing to spend a little bit of money on some courses and individual consultation with other growers that I know and trust.

[00:07:05] Uh, you, I mean, obviously even yourself, like I, a big part of what helped me understand the numbers, for example, was your crop planner like that, that really was what allowed me to kind of put financial shape to my business to really understand all my costs, how I could do my pricing, you know. The crop planning it ironically was almost like not as important as the rest of the enterprise management stuff.

[00:07:36] So I revisit that document kind of frequently, mostly like on an annual basis to kind of plan things more than using it in a day to day kind of way. But you know, all those kinds of things I started with Nate Dodson's course, I've had consults with other people that I would consider, like at grow like expert growers, and they've been very�I've even visited some and that's been really instrumental in my understanding and approach.

[00:08:01] Chris Thoreau: Great. You've mentioned that idea of research quite a bit. And it sounds like, you know, you're bringing in these expertise, but obviously the process of doing that research makes you more familiar with what you need to expect as well.

[00:08:14] Jacob Goldfarb: I guess I just feel like if you're running a business, you should understand. You should really understand it down to its core. And I feel like microgreens has been kind of touted as a, I don't know, like maybe not get rich quick, but like there are a lot of people getting into it on a lark, and not necessarily taking it as seriously. And I think that people, some people are just more or less inclined to take it seriously and really dig into the research because.

[00:08:47] You know, there's just a lot of stuff that you can find out. And I find a lot of people are just looking for quick answers rather than really doing the work. So I really value not only what I'm able to find through my own digging, but the actual input of, of people who have gone before it and valuing that enough to pay them for it.

[00:09:08] Chris Thoreau: Yeah, absolutely. And I think almost most courses, you know, even if they don't cover anything, are definitely going to cover their costs in saving you money and hassle and stress and time and energy. Yeah. Absolutely. So I wanna shift a little over into growth trajectory. You know, you started in your home, you've now upgraded to a commercial space.

[00:09:29] You have plans for world domination. And so there there's a trajectory there. So I wanna step back a little bit. So in the initial days, thinking out, how well was that trajectory laid out for you or how, how much of a sense did you have of what that might look like? Or is that something you really had to figure out in the early days to lay out?

[00:09:50] And I'm kind of relating that back to this idea of, there is a lot of big numbers out there, but you don't start up in week one and then week seven, you're doing 10 to $15,000 a month in sales. So how well were you able to lay that out in the beginning versus figuring it out as you go?

[00:10:07] Jacob Goldfarb: Sure. And. Just going back to what I said, I mean, I was one of those people who kind of didn't take it that seriously. I thought, well, this is, you know, I can do in my spare time and just, you know, take it very cautiously and casually at first.

[00:10:21] But I think what really helped me was having done sales before and feeling com�and also having worked in kitchens and, and, you know, the focus of my business is really the restaurants and culinary industry.

[00:10:34] That that's my main that my target market. And so being able to be comfortable in having conversations with chefs really kind of helped me feel like, well, wow, if I can go into restaurants, and I know that they're using micros, and I can grow them really well, well, maybe there's really something to it here.

[00:10:53] So it took some early success at a very small scale to feel confident. So I didn't have a plan or trajectory in place. I would say. For the first year that I was in business, it wasn't really, till we moved from Toronto to Guelph, and I had more space in my house to really devote a whole room to it. You know, I went from basically one rack of, you know, with 20 trays up to a capacity of about 120 trays and ran my business for the next year just to doing that.

[00:11:21] And at that point, I started working with a local�I got a, uh, grant Ontario put some money forward to help entrepreneurs with marketing. And I worked with a local marketing company here in Guelph that really gave me the skeleton of what my business is now. And that's kind of what set my trajectory and helped me understand the why of my business, not just the how, because at that point I had finally figured out the how I knew how to grow.

[00:11:47] I knew how to sell, but it was really understanding the why and what do I want and where do I see it going? That was what that marketing program really allowed me to do.

[00:11:57] Chris Thoreau: Right. That's great. And it's actually a really good example of kind of calling in the pros, which is easier to do when you have grant money.

[00:12:04] Jacob Goldfarb: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. That was a phenomenal, phenomenal program by a group in Guelph called the Provision Coalition. And in Guelph, we're actually pioneering�the city is pioneering this circular food program circular food economy, which is connecting, you know, inputs and outputs of any given business to each other to other local businesses to kind of just practice more sustainability and circularity in the food in the food industry.

[00:12:34] So that was the framework around which it was built, which was so great because I do see microgreens as a more sustainable business if as, as a farm if run properly.

[00:12:46] Chris Thoreau: Yeah. And having this idea that you're connecting what you're doing with you know, not, not just your customers, but maybe your packaging, your soil, your, all these different things, which can be, you know, to a degree often sourced locally, but you know, being taking into consideration that local economy.

[00:13:02] So that sounds like a really interesting program. Yeah, it was great. Uh, that's great. So one thing I'm always thinking about in early days, how do I grow? And a question I often ask people when I'm talking to them is okay, you're growing in this room in your house and you have the idea of growing a bigger business.

[00:13:22] What's your plan when you outgrow that room, which could happen very quickly. Yes. Um, so you ended up moving from. From Toronto to Guelph, you went from being able to do 20 trays to 120 trays, which is great, at the further, the way you get from any downtown, the more space you often have available per dollar. But did you, did you have a, what am I gonna do if I grow a plan in the early days as well?

[00:13:48] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah. I, I think once, once we got here, it was just it's it's I don't think that my trajectory was necessarily normal because I was working a full-time job. And I had literally given my notice exactly two weeks before lockdown happened in March.

[00:14:08] As lockdown happened, I was kind of forced into doing this full time. And, and once I was like, okay, I'm gonna commit to this. This is gonna be my main source of income. That's when the planning kind of kicked into overdrive. And I said, you know, I want to do, I want to commit all the way, get a commercial space and really see how far I can push this.

[00:14:31] And it really just evolved from there. So that that's where the trajectory was really set. And I'm probably at a point now where I'm okay in the space that I have, but probably within the next couple of years, we'll start to plan the next step.

[00:14:48] Chris Thoreau: Right. So it sounds like your early days were, instead of setting these goals, is testing the waters, seeing how much you like growing.

[00:14:55] Microgreens seeing how well that, you know, the market takes it up. And then once there must have been a point where you're like, yeah, this is moving along, that you could really start to look at what growth looks like.

[00:15:06] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah. I mean, really, the major growth in my business happened during the pandemic. And it was a huge setback when restaurants were forced to shut down, because that really was my model. So having to pivot doing my first farmer's market this year selling to grocery stores and everything that that entails and starting a home delivery service.

[00:15:30] Those kind of carried me through and got me to the point where restaurants were starting to open up again, and I had kind of bitten the bullet and gotten the commercial space. Before that was even possible. But now that they're back, it's really the market here in Southern Ontario. Absolutely huge. So it's easier now to see the way forward.

[00:15:53] Chris Thoreau: Just that a little delay there. Okay. So that's great. So you talked a little bit about where you've started and where you want to go. So can you talk a little bit about more now? I wanna look at where do you want to go? Let's say you're looking at. Three to five years down the line. And what kind of trajectory are you setting to get there?

[00:16:12] So you mentioned earlier that you didn't have a trajectory, you were just doing it and things were playing out. But I have a sense that now, you know, how well do you have say a year to year idea planned out towards getting to a goal, or how do you imagine creating that trajectory to get to where you wanna go?

[00:16:30] So maybe starting with repeating where you are now and where you want to be in three to five years.

[00:16:36] Jacob Goldfarb: Sure. I'll measure that in terms of output, because I think that that for me is really a good measure to kind of base�now that I have a pretty well-established notion of what I can get portray on average, it helps me kind of plan out from there.

[00:16:52] And also just understanding my strengths has helped me hone and kind of shape the trajectory that, that I wanna follow. And that really is gonna continue to be the restaurants and the culinary industry. I feel like there are fewer options there�fewer business, fewer microgreens businesses are doing more specialty stuff.

[00:17:15] There's a lot of businesses that focus on farmer's markets and direct to consumer models and stuff like that. And I see myself more as a bespoke grower, not that I love that term, but just the idea that I can be a resource for chefs and do custom grows for them. If there's a specific variety that they want, if there's more specialty things that they want, because I do edible flowers as well, for example.

[00:17:40] So if there are more specialty things that I can do, that's been the focus. So where I want to grow in three to five years is to not only have a larger facility for the microgreens, I would say. To put it in numbers, maybe at like an eight to 10 times capacity, which would allow me to produce say about 2000, up to 2000 trays a week to also incorporate indoor growth of edible flowers.

[00:18:08] So really, I would like to, and also at that, at that point, I want to incorporate automation. I think it'll be absolutely vital to have automation, but really just to have a more higher tech and automated facility to maintain being able to keep costs where I do now, or, or relative to that.

[00:18:28] So it's tough to kind of negotiate that trajectory, but with uptake being the way it has, and with Toronto especially being such a massive market, Toronto and the GTA, I feel like there is that room to grow, and there aren't as many competitors at that scale that are doing exactly what I'm doing.

[00:18:52] Chris Thoreau: Right. And so there are, you know, you mentioned a lot of the different markets. You've got caterers and restaurants and farmers markets. There's all sorts of places you can market stuff to. I'm curious, are there markets you're trying to avoid, like, or that you just don't feel are gonna work for you or just don't fit into your model?

[00:19:11] Jacob Goldfarb: Yes. Uh, I would say well, because I phased it out that was the first thing I phased out was my home delivery subscription service.

[00:19:20] I want to mention a caveat, which is that there are obviously people doing this using this model that have been quite successful. So it's not that I don't think you can be successful. It's just not my focus. And for a large reason, that's just where my interest lies. I really love working with chefs and that's what excites me the most.

[00:19:41] So that's where I wanna put the most focus, but from a logistics perspective, since I am the delivery driver for my business, I didn't see the point of running around to do small orders when I could find one restaurant client that would be 10 times the amount at one at one delivery location.

[00:20:05] So, and on top of that, not just the financial side, I just felt like first of all, I think the health benefits of microgreens aren't understood necessarily that well, people tout them a lot, but I don't know that people truly understand all, like what they're saying. It's, it's become a lot of catch phrases and by words and stuff, when it comes to marketing the health aspects of microgreens.

[00:20:29] Yeah. And I just don't know that, you know, that's the best way to market them. At least that's what I found in my research. And also, I just don't really see the model being that effective. Like if I'm personally, if I think about it personally, and I'm gonna order food to my home, I'll order a bunch of groceries all at once and not just my honey from one person or, you know, there are certain businesses like farms that will, you know, you can buy meat or what have you as a delivery, but I just don't feel like microgreens on their own are a worthwhile home subscription to have.

[00:21:07] Chris Thoreau: Right. So in that regard, you know, if you wanted to bump up your volume of sales, even though often at a lower price point, you can look at something like like a grocer, an online grocer who's doing that delivery for you. So what about that is a tr trajectory, your online grocers, potentially other grocers, where your volume is high, but your, your price point is often lower?

[00:21:30] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah, I have worked with a handful or more of home grocery delivery services in Guelph and Toronto. I also am in�I have worked with grocery. I'm still working with a few grocery stores, and I have worked with other grocery stores in the past.

[00:21:44] And I find that they're a little bit different, but they're also both. I don't know. I, I guess I would say unreliable, I find that a grocery store or service that really know has their marketing game down can push the greens, but it's really hard as a brand, any food brand, to just kind of throw your product up on the shelves, whether they're virtual or otherwise and expect them to move.

[00:22:10] And especially during the pandemic, without being able to give out samples or really promote your business, except maybe through online ads or something, I have found, I don't work with any of those grocery services anymore that I was working with. And I was working with a lot more grocery stores and that's been pared down.

[00:22:29] I've been very fortunate that the large kind of upscale grocery store here in the large independent here in Guelph has been fantastic. They've been steady and have been really supportive. And I think that that's slightly indicative of just the local community and wealth and people really wanting to support local, small businesses, but other grocery stores that I've been in in Toronto say I'm not working with them anymore.

[00:22:53] And it was really just that sales were not consistent. And so the grocery store is taking a chance buying this product. And if they're ending up throwing it out, because they're just not moving the sales it's. It's not good business for either of us. So, but restaurants, you know, they have standing orders and it's just easier to work with them.

[00:23:14] I've found and just the consistency piece is there. They know what they want. They get as much as they need. They use it all. They get more the next week.

[00:23:21] Chris Thoreau: Yeah. Yeah. And that's, yeah, I love that model as well. And I know it's interesting to see that you have done some of the grocery sales �cause I know a lot of growers avoid that because it's like, well, you know, then I have to bring my price down and I'm not making as much, but then often forgetting. Oh yeah. But I'm taking 50 units at a time. But in your case, it's it seems more like those grocery stores just couldn't hold up their end of the bargain in getting the stuff out the door.

[00:23:48] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah, that was a big part of it. And then the reason why I still work with any grocery stores, I mean, it's a lot of work, first of all, too, to get your product ready to go in a grocery store, as opposed to selling it to an individual person, even let alone a restaurant you have to have really good packaging.

[00:24:07] You have to have really good labels. You have to potentially have UPCs and barcodes. You have to, you know, it's more important to have certifications, for example, like to be working with Foodland, Ontario, or certified organic or certified naturally grown, these, these things are hugely important, especially at the grocery stores where people are actually buying micros.

[00:24:30] And then at the grocery store level, there's also growers that are larger and more well established than me that are in that space already and have been for longer than I have. Right. You know, so for the grocery that I do have remaining, I really focus on high yield crops that are easy to grow, that I get a large yield so that I can absorb that wholesale cost that I'm giving to the customer.

[00:24:55] Yep. And I also try and work with them to like, really be responsive to what they're saying works for them. Right. And, and that's what's so great to me. And that's what's supportive. Like that's a supportive grocery relationship where they ask me for different mixes or they tell me, you know, and give me feedback about what's working and I kind of base what we're doing on that.

[00:25:18] Chris Thoreau: Yeah, so this, some of the stuff you're talking about there has come up in some of my other interviews and one is like, these are regional things, and it sounds like you really understand what the local markets are and how much they will accept and support local.

[00:25:34] Seems to be a little bit of a shift in that between Toronto and Guelph, even though I know Toronto I'm sure has a very good, you know, good support for local foods and, and then building those relationships, which as the bigger you get, it can be a little tougher to build those relationship because you have so many customers and you just become a brand.

[00:25:53] So it sounds like you're doing a really good job of understanding your market, adapting to that, catering to that. What do you see your major challenges being as you sort of embark on this growth trajectory?

[00:26:06] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah, I'd say that the biggest challenges are going to be in maintaining consistency in my product.

[00:26:14] Really just, and that's why I mentioned before working with a plant biologist or someone to really help me tweak those recipes, because I feel like the larger the awareness gets of my brand, the more important it is to keep the quality of my product as high as possible because I think that that is a, a huge differentiator for me.

[00:26:35] The chefs that I work with, their consistent comment is in, you know, that they prefer the quality of my product. And so that has to really be the focus going forward. And I don't know, I think you hit right on it, which is that it is hard to maintain relationships, but that is, I feel like that is such a, I would say almost the most important thing.

[00:26:57] Those relationships are everything. I've had chefs connect me with other chefs, you know, and other leads. Right. So, you know, I think cultivating relationships is what I've found is what this business is all about. Especially if you're working with chefs. Sure, grocery stores as well, but you know, chefs talk to one another, there's a culture there.

[00:27:17] So, you know, really operating with integrity, having the most high-quality product. That's what I think is gonna continue to differentiate Goldfarm.

[00:27:26] Chris Thoreau: Absolutely. And I know my experience has been, I'll work with a chef at one restaurant. They'll move somewhere else, and we'll start selling to them while still selling to the other one. And you kind of, it's a little bit like a virus like that.

[00:27:37] You kind of just spread through that restaurant community. Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned quality, you know what I would call quality assurance. Are you concerned over maintaining that quality as you scale up? I think there's an ethos that small is better, and as you get bigger, big companies can't maintain the quality that somebody that's local handmade. So is that a concern for you for your own operation?

[00:28:03] Jacob Goldfarb: Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's why I mean, even just hiring the person that I've hired, I tried to be as careful as I could in finding someone that I think could potentially grow with the company because, and I I'm sure at the scale that I'm at right now, I am not the only grower who's feeling this way.

[00:28:22] That they hold all the expertise, whether it's in the knowledge or in terms of the actual growing the, you know, the labor of growing it and knowing, you know, how often to fertilize, how much to water, those little things that really, that really make a difference. So I think the crucial thing will really be, will there come a point where I'm able to hand it off to say a farm manager, to hire someone that I will trust enough to know, to oversee that and maintain that quality?

[00:28:52] So I think that essentially, my commitment at this point is to being that person until it outpaces me and I'm confident in my own abilities. So it's really gonna just be about at that point. And maybe this can�I don't wanna take away the reins of the podcast by any means, but like segue into, you know, talking about calling in the pros, right?

[00:29:14] Like there's a certain point at which you have to understand your own limitations and trust someone else to help you carry out your vision.

[00:29:24] Chris Thoreau: So, so let's look at that, and in a little bit of a reverse order than we discussed. Sure. You know, you mentioned just a few minutes ago about working with a plant biologist in terms of really understanding plant growth what you need to do to ensure that within a controlled environment growing system, so different than growing out in, in soil, which comes with its own set of problems.

[00:29:48] So can you talk about that? You know, it doesn't sound like you are going to take the, I'm just gonna watch a bunch of YouTube videos to figure this out. It's more about finding an expert and harking back on what we just talked about, creating a relationship with that expert as well.

[00:30:05] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah, absolutely. It may actually mean. Hiring that expert as a consultant, you know, if it's not as a full-time or an employee at all, but just working with a consultant could, I think will at a certain point yield real big benefits. And I think that also, you know, I think you kind of mentioned it before, you know, you're growing in a specific room in a specific environment, right?

[00:30:30] And if you're gonna scale, you're moving to a different environment and that could totally throw all kinds of things out of whack. Ventilation is gonna be different. Humidity is gonna be different. Temperature ranges are gonna be different. All of those. So. Everything that you've learned might go out the window.

[00:30:45] And even more than that, when I do scale, my intention is to switch my actual growing systems. So it's gonna have to be this period of transition where I need to know, not only do I need, am I changing the environment, but also the actual production of the micros themselves. So I think that, especially at that point, learning all over again at a larger scale and trying to maintain sales, you know, having somebody come in that can help ensure, help me ensure the consistency and set up, set it up from the beginning properly is gonna be crucial.

[00:31:23] Chris Thoreau: So when you, when you're calling in the pros for something, you know, you could actually call in all sorts of different specialists for the same problem.

[00:31:31] So you, you you've mentioned calling in a plant biologist. What is it about a plant biologist that you think is going to be most beneficial to you or, or why, why the plant biologist instead of a systems analysis or, you know, somebody who's really more focused on the infrastructure than the plants, for example?

[00:31:49] Jacob Goldfarb: Uh, well, I would say it wouldn't be one or the other. I would probably call them both, you know, call in multiple people, especially if I'm gonna be investing the kind of money that it's gonna take to set up that large of a system.

[00:32:01] I think, you know, the bootstrapping, you know, DIY approach that I've taken to this point in terms of actually constructing and building out my current commercial space, I've kind of reached the, the limit.

[00:32:14] I mean, I'm sure I could install, you know, build and install a automated irrigation and all this that I haven't really messed with at this point, I could gain the knowledge, but at that scale, I think I'm not necessarily a pioneer, so why not lean on the people that have already done it? I would want to, and, and maybe there are con I'm sure there are consultants out there that focus on microgreens.

[00:32:39] So there could be a holistic person that can help me deal with all of those, all those things, lighting, watering you know, what have you. But I would be surprised if that person didn't have a team behind them. You know? So, yeah, I think just follow the expertise where it goes, you know, you wanna speak to somebody that knows the in ins and outs of LED lighting.

[00:33:02] You wanna speak to somebody that knows the ins and outs of hydroponics or aeroponics or whatever it is that you're wanting to do. And all the better, if you can find somebody that knows it all.

[00:33:14] Chris Thoreau: Yeah, for sure. So what is it you hope to get from a plant biologist? I've studied some stuff. And as you said that I'm like, I should consult a plant biologist as well, and a lighting specialist. And, and, and like, you I've done some of this over the years, but also done some bootstrapping, but what appeals to you about a plant biologist in particular?

[00:33:34] Jacob Goldfarb: What really appeals to me about a plant biologist is�so what I, what I've run into this is slightly anecdotal, but just up until this point, my biggest problem right now is that the lights that I have and the racking system that I have, they are too intense.

[00:33:51] My lights at the distance that they are, are great for most of my crops, but are kind of burning out some of my, some of my more delicate crops and. You know, I kind of was able to figure that out on my own, but it wasn't until I just happened to have a student from the University of Guelph reach out to me and want to come in and, and ask me some questions and take a look at my setup because they're working with a local company that wants to build new L E D that wants to you know, build more rev, revolutionary L E D fixtures that he did all these measurements that I just didn't even know how to do or wouldn't have thought of.

[00:34:32] Right. So he was able to tell me, I would wanna work with plant biologist because they could tell me if there are nutrient deficiencies that I don't really know how to test for, or I would imagine that they would have a good understanding of physiology in terms of lighting spectrum that different.

[00:34:48] Spectra the different plants benefit from. So, you know, it's, it's really those things where I'm sure I could spend the time. I could definitely spend the time, but I feel like that isn't where my interest lies. Not necessarily that I'm uninterested, but just, I'm not passionate enough about it to do the deep dive that I think would be required to gain the knowledge, so I would rather use my time in how it's best suited and pay someone else to use it for the expertise in which they're best suited.

[00:35:22] Chris Thoreau: Absolutely. So, so the other thing we talked about in terms of bringing in the pros was with lighting and, and you brought some in, so can you talk a little bit about that?

[00:35:32] And maybe as a starting point, was there something that made you go, ah, like something's not working, I need to bring in somebody to solve a problem, or what was it like that caused you to bring someone in?

[00:35:43] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah. So, I mean, I started using the Bea fixtures that like, I would imagine the vast majority of growers use, if anybody knows that name, then you know exactly what I'm talking about.

[00:35:55] They're just real cheap linkable LEDs that work very well for what they are. When I scaled up, I was of a mind at that point where lighting is gonna be the most crucial. Really good quality lights is what I wanted to invest in more than anything else at that point. So I did a bunch of research. I decided on lights that I could buy in large quantity that, and that one of the most important decisions around the lights that I bought is that they're wet location lights.

[00:36:29] Uh, so. And I don't think a lot of people are as aware of the necessity of that, you know, in a microgreens situation. Barrinas okay. Yeah. They'll work at home, but you're not having your home inspected yes. So yeah. You know, and so once you really commit to the commercial model, you have to do things by the book and, and not just because of that, but because you should, it's safe.

[00:36:54] Right? So, and good quality wet location lights are not inexpensive. But I didn't really think through the idea of how much more inten the notion of how much more intense they would be than the fixtures that I was using previously and yet kind of sticking with the distance to the canopy. And, and these were all just kind of suppositions or maybe things that I overlooked a little bit, you know, and, and that's fine, you know, I I'm, I'm learning from that mistake.

[00:37:23] So the fixtures that I bought come in three different spectrums. Right? So it was working. They actually sent me a questionnaire a document to fill out to kind of state my requirements, what I was looking to achieve. So I actually had to dig in a little bit and research stuff about micromoles for example, I had, no, I really, you know, there you go.

[00:37:47] There's a plant where a plant biologist would come in handy, you know, so understanding the intensity of the light that you want at the canopy. That was really what it came down to, what they wanted to understand, but, you know, they kind of guided me to a certain degree and I made as informed a decision as I could, but had I been able to work with a plant biologist there as well? I think that that would've really helped shape either the lights that I've purchased or physically the way the racks are set up.

[00:38:17] Chris Thoreau: Right. Well, and it speaks to the idea of the value of a team, you know, and with a team you don't speak to the plant biologist over here, and then the lighting specialist here, you have a meeting. Yeah. And, and then you can get to that. A lot of that stuff you know, in one. So you're building off each other's expertise. Yeah.

[00:38:36] Jacob Goldfarb: At that point, I was also very focused on like keeping it in that DIY aspect and that bootstrapping aspect and saving as much money as possible. I really didn't have the cash flow and the money behind, you know, being able to do as much as I wanted.

[00:38:52] I really was trying to just minimize my cash outlay at that point. And in terms of any future scale up, it's gonna be a completely different place that I'll be coming from at, at that point.

[00:39:05] Chris Thoreau: Well, one of the goals when I reflect on getting set up and then how things changed as the business started generating revenue and profit. And you bootstrap because you risk you, you lower your financial risk. You've got some investment, but you know, to bring in the experts at a consulting fee in the early days, could financially break you before your business gets set. Yeah. So it sounds like you found that point, like we talked about, you grew the business.

[00:39:32] You, you decided it was worth going bigger and then you had the revenue and you know, available cash to a degree. Yeah. Imagine you weren't swimming in it to a degree to bring in those experts, which is gonna make growth way easier than your initial bootstrapping, because you're not guessing you're really utilizing the expertise that's there. And you're able to do that because you've generated the revenue to pay for it.

[00:39:55] Jacob Goldfarb: Yeah. And I think also there's something to be said for being willing to take a risk and potentially borrowing money to invest. Right. Like, you know, there's a certain point at which you're gonna have to say, well, this is more than I can do right now, but it's what's necessary.

[00:40:12] So I'm gonna take a risk and, you know, make it happen. Like I had to purchase nearly, I mean, what was it? It was like 12 dozen lighting fixtures, you know, like that is not a small purchase for somebody who's trying to, you know, just establish a commercial space, like a small, what I would say is quite a small commercial space. So, you know, it's yeah, I, I think you have to be careful, but you also need to know when to take risks.

[00:40:40] Chris Thoreau: I do remember buying my first pallet of seeds, and I can still feel that anxiety. Um, it's there and now it's yeah, it's a pallet of seeds, you know? Yeah, so yeah, I can relate to that as well.

[00:40:53] So we've covered some great stuff there. To finish things up, I'm kind of curious about what you're looking know. I like to focus a lot on challenges and what needs to be fixed and all this stuff, which is important. But I'm really curious about what you're looking forward to the most in terms of growing your business.

[00:41:11] You you've already gone through a number of iterations from a smaller room in your house to a bigger room in your house to a commercial space. And so you've got this really steady growth and, and to a degree you'll always be evolving your business, but I'm kind of curious about the process you're undertaking and are in the middle.

[00:41:30] What are you most excited about now? And what are you most excited about in the future of your business as a microgreens grower?

[00:41:37] Jacob Goldfarb: Well, I'm definitely excited to start digging into how to do things more efficiently at scale, at a scale larger than what I'm doing now. I do love growing systems and the whole idea of controlled environment agriculture.

[00:41:50] So I'm looking forward to digging into that more and to be honest, I'm excited about being able to step a little bit further away from the labor, from the labor aspect, to be able to have a little bit more of a team that can take more of that off my hands. So I can focus on the bigger picture pieces, the social media piece, and mostly sales.

[00:42:17] I think that that is probably one of the areas that's actually surprisingly where I have the most fun and where I feel like my skills are best used. You. That being that relationship manager and being kind of the face of the business, I guess that's one of the reasons why I'm still the delivery driver.

[00:42:36] You know, I want to have face time with every single chef and customer that that I work with at the, and I still can at this point. So I think one of the things that I'm most excited about is just reaching a point. I don't wanna say a point of equilibrium, but just reaching a point where it makes sense to have a person or people take over the labor to the point where I can truly just focus on those on those other aspects.

[00:43:02] Chris Thoreau: That's great. And I, and I really, I look forward to sort of watching this progress on social media as well. It's kind of how I follow a lot of microgreens companies. So yeah. Thanks so much for sharing that with me. In terms of wrapping things up, like that's a, a really nice place, but I wonder if there's anything you want to add that we, we got into some of these subjects and then I took things where I wanted to go.

[00:43:23] Is there something that came up when we were talking that you wanted to share that maybe we didn't get into as deep as he would've.

[00:43:29] Jacob Goldfarb: No, I think we touched a lot of great topics. I think offline before we started, you mentioned that it, it's sometimes hard to, you know, in these conversations to get to new territory.

[00:43:40] You know, I think that for better or for worse, you know, I would say, especially at least for me, the Facebook groups, you know, can get very bogged down in the kind of repetitiveness, right. People kind of come into this from many different places and at many different points. And so I look for which I'm sure you do as well.

[00:43:59] Having been doing this as long as you have new ideas, new ways of kind of looking at this as a business, and they're out there, those conversations are happening. I think that it's just really being committed. I think a lot of people approach, approach this as a fly by night and it doesn't really if you aren't willing to commit to it as a business, if you're just looking at it as something to generate a bit of extra cash, it's gonna be very hard to succeed.

[00:44:28] So I would just say like, Really, really, for anybody that's thinking about getting into this as a business, it takes full commitment and understanding at all levels. I wear hats that I don't wanna wear that I didn't think I would have to wear. I never got into microgreens to be a social media manager. I never got into microgreens to be an accountant.

[00:44:48] But to build a business like this, you need to be all of those things, whether you like it or not. So I think that that awareness just isn't talked about a lot. And so if I was gonna leave any kind of message, I would just say, like, I would say that be willing to commit to it fully if you expect to have any success.

[00:45:07] Chris Thoreau: I think that's some stellar advice. Uh, thanks so much, Jacob. I really appreciate your time. And again, really look forward to watching growth over the next few years for Goldfarm Canada.

[00:45:16] Jacob Goldfarb: My pleasure, Chris. Thanks so much for having me.

[00:45:21] Chris Thoreau: I hope you enjoyed this episode and be sure to check out more of what Jacob is doing on Instagram at Goldfarm underscore Canada.

[00:45:29] Diego Footer: There you have it. That was grower educator and entrepreneur. Chris throw guest hosting an episode of farm small farm smart. I hope you enjoyed this one. If you wanna learn more about the great work that Chris is doing, check him out at and check out his great crop planning software for micro ring growers at

[00:45:51] Seedleaf is crop planning software for micro green growers optimized to help you save time, money, and make things easier. Learn more about the software at or use the link below. After hearing this, if you are interested in hosting an episode of farm small farm smart, reach out to me via email at hello paper,

[00:46:16] And let me know what you'd like to do for an episode. I'm looking for some guest hosts to create new episodes in the future. And I would love to hear from you if you're interested in taking this opportunity and running with it. Thanks for listening until next time. Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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