You probably already grew some microgreens at home, and now you are doing research if growing microgreens for profit is any different. Well, yes. Equipment needs to be suitable for growing on a bigger scale, your planning and time effort needs to be more organized, plus you need some bigger vehicle to drive your little ‘friends’ to your customers. Further on, you will find greatest guide for growing microgreens for profit.
Where to start?
If you are still asking yourself, if this business is profitable, then you should read about our business. In this post you will get some more information regarding building a business in microgreens. To succeed in commercially selling microgreens, you need to know some important points. This guide will help you on its way.
Delivering fully grown microgreens on time to your chefs and customers, is a crucial step. But to get this skill you need to be precise from the beginning and be well organized. Depending on where you live, what weather is currently going on, growing indoor or outdoor, these are all factors that will determine how will you set up your growing system and how many days your microgreens will grow. Perhaps for the start, you could plan for a smaller room (or greenhouse for outdoor), just to get more confident with growing and to gain more customers. But always have in mind, that you will probably need a bigger space, when your business will grow. Or perhaps start as we did several years ago. We knew, that our business will be big, so we planned for a bigger house, but inside, we still have some smaller rooms. With this, we had the option in winter time, to have lower electricty costs for heating. During winter time we are heating to room temperature for just two rooms. There we slow – grow microgreens and the ones, that need to go out soon. In the bigger place inside we have it for ‘cooling’ microgreens or in other words for stopping them grow. With this method, we extend shelf life of our living microgreens. Some herb microgreens could ‘wait’ even for 14 days, the fastest ones, for couple of days.
To master the timing, when to soak and sow, you will get it with several grown batches. To help you even more, we have created a table for 20 different varieties that we grow, with seed density (we will talk a little bit more on this theme at sowing subtitle), which is also very important. Check it out here.
With more and more sowed trays you will become better and better. But to help you on your way, I can share some key points of sowing methods, so that your beauties will look, taste great and be healthy.
The better the soil is, the healthier your microgreens will grow. In fact, poor soil can result in a lot of growing problems, which include mould, inconsistent growth or even crop failure. Since microgreens are such young plants, they absorb nutrients from the soil, which include the organic matter (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) and minerals. Basically, when growing, each seed contains certain nutrients that are meant for nurturing the germinating baby seedlings until they develop enough of their own roots to absorb water and nutrients from the soil.
If you have the option, we prefer to use organic soil, like this one. Try to find some with a mixed composition (compost in general, with some peat moss; perlite and vermiculite are also an option, but they are not necessary). Commercial potting soils or seedling mixes are pasteurized and sterilized to decrease the risk of contamination.
Our hint is to spread the soil as smoothly as you can in the tray. This will enable the seeds to spread evenly around the tray without getting stuck in little holes and rotting (if the soil was not nicely smooth and flattened). We use homemade tools. See the picture above.
Another milestone are good, quality seeds. There are several good suppliers around the world. We have gathered them in this post (*link post regarding suppliers around the world). I am sure you will find someone who will meet your needs. I can tell you that 95% of all problems with growing microgreens, are because of bad seed quality. Let me show you seed of Radish, variety Silk China Rose. The plants are rotten during growth. You will see bad seed, if the germinated plants have some black spots on the leaves and stem. Or you can see the bad seed, if already in blackout dome phase, is covered with mold.
When you grow commercialy, for restaurants and other customer, you would probably want to save as much as it’s possible. One way to do so, is to buy seeds in bulk. When you will look for best suppliers, near to you (or your country), ask them if they sell in bulk. The price per kilogram of seeds can be drastically reduced. A lot of companies provide you with some extra discount if you pay in advance. Since you are (or will) have a serious business, this shouldn’t be the case. But before you buy larger amount of seeds, ask them to send you samples of all varieties, that interest you. Don’t make the same mistake that I have. Firstly I didn’t ordered samples. Afterwords, if seeds weren’t good quality, it’s better to throw them away and start with new one. Another mistake that I made, was, when I tested all samples that I wanted, and then when I ordered a bigger amount I didn’t specify that I want the same LOT, that was with the samples (because this one I already tested).
Seed density. Cruical to healthy living microgreens. We have gathered 20 common varieties that are usually used with microgreen growers. You can get it below in the picture. If sown too dense, then plants wouldn’t have enough space to grow vibrant and tall, and they will fight for light. But if you sow them too rare, then you won’t be able to sell them as living plants, or you will need to sell 2 trays for one. And plants will have problems, because with proper density they are supporting each other and that’s why they can grow so straiught and tall. With our calculator, you won’t have this problem. Just put your measurements of tray into the calculator and you will get the perfect amount to sow. Some seeds need to be pre-soaked. We marked this too. In US commercial growers are using 1020 trays, like this one or even better, the eco version. They are usually selling whole trays to restaurants or are cutting microgreens and selling them harvested in clamshells. We skiped these trays and go with our one size, and as you will see in the pictures below, everything fits perfectly on cafetaria trays and then on our racks. Only you need to make holes in the bottom on your own (I have motivated my father to do it for me 😉 ). We are working on getting them manufactured soon to sell here on our site so if you are interested please sign up for our newsletter in the bottom of the page or answer to the form in the end of the blog post of corona virus time and we’ll notify you once we are ready
My father is drilling holes in the trays (with a little help of our daughter) 🙂 .
With these small trays (13,7 x 18,7 cm; 5,12” x 7,09”) we have a BIG advantage, because on one hand we can sell them separately (chefs don’t have to buy whole trays in one) and we can select 8 different varieties on one tray. If restaurants are your main selling point, then with this method, you will get ‘bonus points’ at chefs. If you have an option for smaller trays, then go ahead, because you will gain in all aspects. If you planned to go to the farmers market, then this small trays will be very suitable for selling. Because people also love, when they have options to choose different varieties. This is also my experience from the farmers market.
Our best method with small trays (containers) on one big tray.
Sowing process. I can share our method of sowing microgreens, but you could easly have your one version. Firstly we prepare soil (we use already prepared/mixed soil – this saves you a lot of time, and your composition of the soil will be the same everytime you sow) – we use gloves (because when you have to sow a lot of trays, the soil stickes to the finger and then its hard to clean all the dirt from your hands) – and we break down soil between hands, so that it is smooth for sowing. When we put it into trays, we spread it as evenly as it is possible. When we started with this business, we noticed that this is a major problem, because the seeds could easly stuck into little holes and have a big chance to rot. So we were searching and searching and finaly found the solution. My mum’s uncle made us this homemade tool. Below you can see it in the picture. I found something similar, like smoothing trowel, if this can help you.
Our homemade tool for pressing soil down.
After preparing the soil in trays, it’s seeds time. Be careful not to sow too dense, then spray it with water (quality of the water can change your micros, you can look up in this post). When misting, do not over water it (with that said, the water shouldn’t stay on the soil). Then cover tray with another tray (perfectlly in black color version, to prevent light). You need to spray it everyday, and when they germinate to 2-3cm (0,78inch – 1,18 inch) it’s time to uncover the tray and expose them to light. When they will be ready for sale or harvesting, depends on the varieties you grow. But fastes one can be grown in just 4-5 days, but some need 1 month or even more to be ready.
You should always strive to have constant conditions. To achieve this, indoor growing is in advantage comparing with outdoor. Microgreens in general love to grow somewhere between 18 to 25 celzius degrees (64 to 77 Fahrenheit). But during germination phase it is important to have high temperatures. Otherwise they will germinate very slow. With temperature above 20 celzius degrees (68 Fahrenheit), we can grow 50 different varieties at our farm. The most challenging are some herbs, because they germinate really long or are more likely to germinate open (not in black out dome). But, since we germinate and grow in the same room (especially in the winter time, when we really need to heat the rooms), we use trays to cover all seeds, so that they have enough humidity level (higher, better).
Humidity + Ventilation
Room humidity should be somewhere between 50-60%. These are ideal conditions. But someday you may face higher humidity. If that occcurs, mold can be present much quicker. That’s why, don’t forget to have a dehumidifier in the room. We have it constantly. High humidity level is important in the germination phase, otherwise seeds won’t germinate or will germinate unevenly. In room, where you are growing, some sort of ventilation is a must. With this, mold, if present, can be quickly, resolved. When we first started, we had fans everywhere. But now, after 5 years of sustinable business, we put recuperator in the whole building. And we have really fresh air inside, because of that. Start small, but focus on big. This is the key element for your sucess in microgreen business. Don’t buy all in the beginning (unless you have a bigger amount of money already prepared and saved). Start with 2 racks, and them step by step with expanding of your business, buy more racks and trays. With this ‘organic’ growth, success is just a decision away! Guaranteed! In your mind have your ultimate goal, what kind of microgreen business would you like. When we started, we had in mind, that when the business will expand, we will have enough place for growing. And so we got this big building (too big for the start), but it didn’t bothered us. We adapt room for small growing, and now, we are so happy to have so much space, so that we can run a business that gives us around 7500€ of monthly income.
Our smaller growing room.
Preparing – Harvesting
You need to set up your weekly deliveries. When you will decide on delivery days (we are covering 3 regions in our small country, the nearest and the biggest one, where our capital city is, we delivered twice per week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the second region we deliver on Wednesday, and the third one we prolong the delivery on Thursday and cover also that part. This is important to know when you need to soak or sow your seeds, so that customers get the most fresh microgreens possible. We took Mondays off, because it is a lot of work to prepare all the deliveries. I didn’t mentioned before, but, for our business we grow also edible flowers and picking wild plants in the nature. I will touch on these two segments in later blog posts, so that you will see, how you can expand your business and add some more stuff to please your customers even better. And Fridays are for ourselves 😉 This is also a cruical step, when you are your own boss. Don’t forget on yourself and on your family. I know that from the beginning it will be hard to balance everything, but with more months in business you will set up your own systems, your own wishes, and you will have enough time to spend with your familiy or just go for a walk or read a book. This is the sweet spot of being your own boss. You decide when you will work and when it’s time for other things.
We are growing 95% living trays. What that means, when chefs order microgreens, we deliver them living microgreens, grown on the soil in small trays, and then put together 4 or 8 trays in a row, and sell them as a medium or big tray. With this method, chefs can order 4 or 8 different varieties (or the same). But when we started selling microgrees in the farmers market, we also prepared cutted microgreens in a clamshells. With this, customers have already prepared microgreens in a fridge. But as you see our percentage of sale, we encourage our customers to buy living version. They lasts longer, all you need to do is water them regulary. Plants that you didn’t cutted yet will be happy and will grow onwards.
Neverthless, there is a market for harvested microgreens. In local shops, supermarkets, healthy stores/groceries,….They can sell refrigerated clamshells with microgreens and if you have an option or opportunity to sell it like this, go for it. We are selling them to one healty shop. Experience shows, that better not to water microgreens the day before you need to harvest them. Because they will be too wet and the shell life will be shorter. The drier they are, the better for harvesting.
Insight from farmers market.
Selling – Marketing
Perhaps the most important step of all five. It doesn’t matter how much you can grow, what counts is how much can you sell. And that’s the trick. Somehow you will find enough space for growing all microgreens, but selling is a cruical step. You need to be openminded. Don’t get frustrated if someone will reject you. Sometimes it can happen, that they will reject you even over the phone. But be brave and call another customer. Since restaurants are opening just like mushrooms after the rain, there is plenty space for you and others to sell your beauties. Healthy Food is on the rise. People love to hang in restaurants, so that they don’t need to cook at home (even the 5-9 job is now ‘forcing’ people to eat more times out).
Before jumping in this business, do your research, what your market currently accepts. Are there any grocery stores or health stores which are or could sell harvested ones? Are there any farmers markets to sell directly to customers? Do nearby restaurants use microgreens on the plates, or are they ready to put this final touch to their dish? Are there any other growers? What are their prices, what are they growing and selling? A lot of questions to cover before start. But with this approach, you will know, if the market is ready for you and your products.
Want to learn more?
If you have any questions about the information cited in this post or about microgreens in general, please leave a comment below or reach out to us via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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