Thinking About Growing Microgreens as a Business – The Tedious, Detail Oriented Reality of Growing Microgreens – Episode 3

Over the last two episodes [Episode 1, Episode 2] we looked at How Chris started and grew his microgreen business, and we have taken a look at what’s possible with that business when it grows.

And if you just stand back and look at the numbers, their jaw dropping.

Let’s be honest.

Grossing $200,000 growing 10 day old crops in a shipping container that takes up 320 square is jaw dropping.  It almost seems unbelievable.

But it’s real, and that’s where Chris is at with his business after 10 years.

Chris has show what’s possible. And given that and the relatively low capital investment required to start a microgreens business, it’s a business that attracts a lot of people.

People that likely focus on the high dollar value per tray, and people that dream about how much money they can make.

This is where it gets dangerous, because you can’t just look at the income side of the business. You have to look at the expenses as well.

When you do that with microgreens that high dollar per tray, isn’t as high as it might appear.

There are a number of cost that need to be considered – the soil, the seed, and the big one – the labor.

There’s a decent amount of labor that goes into producing each tray of microgreens. Labor that needs to be priced into the product, and labor that might turn some people off from growing microgreens.

When over 60% of your time will be spent harvesting, cleaning, and sanitizing trays, some of the allure of that $50 tray goes away.

Add in the need for rigorous observations and recording keeping, and you will find yourself in a position that Chris describes as part automaton and part scientist.

No for everyone.

Especially when people enter the business looking to make a quick buck.

If you are thinking about starting a microgreens operation, there’s a lot to consider, especially the negatives.

Notes from the interview with Chris Thoreau

  • You need to look at what your business might look like when it is successful or semi-successful and plan accordingly. 
    • Have a sense of what it might evolve to and design a system for that.
  • What space do you need for an operation?
    • What do you have to work with now?
    • You will need production space, processing space, soil storage space, compost storage, storage for supplies, designated wash up area.
  • Looking at taking on vegetables versus microgreens?
    • What type of person are you?
      • Are you OK working in small spaces?
      • Are you OK working with repetitive tasks?
      • Are you OK with harvesting a lot? (Over 50% of your time will be spent harvesting)
  • “You’re partial scientist and partial automaton”
    • Do this or else…
      • Have to wash and sanitize after every harvest, have to clean shelves every week, have to do a bunch of stuff or the system doesn’t work.
  • You need to be action oriented.
    • You need to be able to observe AND respond accordingly.
  • “You don’t have to be a detail oriented person, but you have to be willing to become that person.”
    • You have to be able to do the detailed things even if it isn’t who you are, if you don’t it won’t work, if you do it will work well.
  • The attractive profitability of selling microgreens might not be as attractive as you think.
  • This is on all the time!  Expect that.
    • The microgreens are always growing and needing harvesting every week all the time.

“You’re partial scientist and partial automaton”Chris Thoreau


Previous Episodes with Chris:

About Chris Thoreau

Chris Thoreau has been engaged in urban food production since 2001 as a farmer, educator, community organizer, and advocate.  Chris now is one of the farmer owners of the Vancouver Food Pedaler’s Cooperative.

Since 2008 Chris has been based in Vancouver, BC where he attended the University of British Columbia’s Agroecology program. He received his BSc. (Hons) in 2011 after focusing his studies on urban farming, soil management, and small-scale plant breeding.

Prior to his time in Vancouver Chris operated a certified organic farm in Victoria, BC for six years. While in Victoria he also served on the local certifying body’s (Islands Organic Producers Association) Board of Directors and Certification Committee for two years.  

When he isn’t obsessing over seeds, soil, and harvests Chris spends most of his time with his four-year-old son doing everything from soccer to skating, running to wall climbing, and reading to wrestling!

Curtis Stone interviews Chris Thoreau at his Vancouver microgreen farm

Interested in growing microgreens profitably as a business?

Then check out microgreen grower Chris Thoreau’s online course


Don’t have a lot of land?

Looking to make a living farming?

Microgreens might be a great place to start…

Microgreens are high value crop that can be growing intensively in a very small space with some crops selling upwards of $50 per pound.

It’s totally possible and it is being done everyday.

Microgreen grower Chris Thoreau generates over $200,000 per year in this space…

Microgreens - Fitting a lot of product into a small space.

Learn more about Chris’s online microgreen course

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