Becoming a Microgreens Farmer and growing microgreens for profit can be a perfect way to earn a reliable income. Many local restaurants and grocery stores are looking for microgreen farmers to provide them a steady stream of product.
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are the first growth of larger plants harvested before they develop into larger plants. Their flavor typically is more intense than that of their mature cousins. Microgreens are ideal flavor enhancers and serve as delicious edible garnishes for a variety of dishes. They started to become famous nearly 20 years ago when California chefs started using them as garnishes and adding them to salads. It’s easy to confuse sprouts and microgreens, but microgreens are unique. Unlike sprouts, microgreens are grown in soil or on a growing mat versus water. Another key difference is that the seed spacing requirement is lower which helps prevent disease and mold. To harvest, farmers cut plant above the roots, and package them for same day delivery.
Their popularity continues today and with a constant demand, it one of the best crops for urban and small-scale farmers. As people seek more local and sustainable food sources, they are looking for creative ways to grow food. Some are growing food in vacant lots, warehouses, and even in the basements and backyards of urban homes. Most gardening methods that require a larger footprint include traditional gardening, hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics. Because growing microgreens require such minimal space and are easy to grow indoors, they have become a desirable option for urban farming on a budget.
How much money can a Microgreens Farmer make?
Microgreens farming business can make a fairly decent income within a minimal amount of space. A capable farmer can produce on average 20-25 crops per year. By placing the nursery trays vertically, four times as much can be prepared in the same space. Using a four-rack system, many growers are producing an average of 40 to 50 pounds of microgreens in a 60 square foot growing area per 2-week crop cycle.
Let’s start with our materials costs:
1020″ Nursery Seed Flats (50 Count) = $190
Seeds for forty 1020 flats: ¼ pound total = $15*
40 Hydroponic Growing Mats = $70
Let’s look at the revenue numbers:
Maximum yield is about 40 pounds per growing cycle
Commercial (bulk) price per pound: $20
Retail price per pound: $32 ($2 per oz)
Gross Revenue Per Month: $1600 – $3200
After we subtract our material costs, (we’ll account for the expense of the Nursery flats after the first growing cycle vs. spreading it out over time) We’ll be looking at a Net Revenue of $525 – $1005. After the second growing period, we’ll be looking at a biweekly income range of $715 – $1195! That’s without growing any specialty crops which can go for a very high premium. There are of course other hidden and unaccounted for costs, but being a microgreens farmer seems reasonably profitable for the small amount of time needed to raise the crop.
What are the best varieties to grow?
Since microgreens are the early stages of any edible plant, the possibilities are essentially endless, and it’s up to the to the farmer to get creative. There are a few flavor profiles that have become popular over the years, especially spicy notes. Arugula, for example, adds a peppery zing to foods. Another trait that has become popular is bright, colorful microgreens. As a Microgreens Farmer, you’ll also need to look at the germination rates to calculate when you’ll be able to harvest and sell your product. Here is a table with a wide array of choices for you to get started.
Fast Growing Vegetable Microgreens List (10-15 Days)
|Cabbage, Red||Dark-green, purple-veined leaves. Mild cabbage flavor.|
|Chinese Cabbage||Kogane Bright green leaves. Mild, sweet flavor.|
|Collard, Champion||Mild kale flavor.|
|Cress, Cressida||Fancy, three-lobed leaves. Peppery flavor.|
|Cress, Persian||Strap leaves with small teeth. Peppery flavor.|
|Hon Tsai Tai||Green leaves, purple stems. Mild radish flavor.|
|Kale, Red Russian||Dark-green, light-purple outlined leaves, mild kale flavor.|
|Kale, Toscano||Blue-green leaves. Mild kale flavor.|
|Kohlrabi, Purple||Dark-green leaves, purple stems. Mild cabbage flavor.|
|Mizuna||Toothed leaves, white stems. Mild flavor.|
|Mizuna, Miz America||Dark-red leaves, light-green stems. Mild mustard flavor.|
|Mizuna, Red Kingdom||Red leaves, green stems. Mild flavor.|
|Mustard, Garnet Giant||Darkest purple mustard. Spicy flavor.|
|Mustard, Golden Frills||Bright green, intricately serrated leaves. Spicy flavor.|
|Mustard, Green Wave||Heavily curled leaves. Sharp spicy flavor.|
|Mustard, Ruby Streaks||Serrated green and maroon leaves. Sweet-spicy flavor.|
|Mustard, Scarlet Frills||Serrated green-red leaves. Very spicy flavor.|
|Mustard, Suehlihung No. 2||Serrated leaves. Sharp spicy flavor.|
|Pac Choi, Rosie||Round, red leaves. Mild flavor.|
|Radish, Daikon||White stems. Spicy flavor.|
|Radish, Hong Vit||Lofty. Pink stems. Mild radish flavor.|
|Radish, Red Arrow||Lofty. Red stems. Mild radish flavor.|
|Radish, Red Rambo||Lofty, purple and green leaves. Mild radish flavor.|
|Tatsoi||Spoon-shaped leaves. Mild flavor.|
Slow Growing Vegetable Microgreens List (16-25 Days)
|Amaranth, Garnet Red||Fuschia-colored leaves and stems. Mild, earthy flavor.|
|Arugula||Nutty, spicy flavor.|
|Beet, Bull's Blood||Lofty. Red leaves, red stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Beet, Early Wonder Tall Top||Lofty. Bright green leaves, red stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Beet, Yellow||Lofty. Bright-green leaves, yellow stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Carrot||Feathery leaves. Mild carrot flavor.|
|Chard, Bright Lights||Lofty. Red, yellow, pink, white stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Chard, Ruby Red||Lofty. Bright-green leaves, red stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Komatsuna||Round, green leaves. Mild flavor.|
|Magenta Spreen||Bright-green leaves with hint of pink. Earthy flavor.|
|Mustard, Red Giant||Green leaves, red veins. Spicy flavor.|
|Orach, Ruby Red||Lofty, purple-red leaves and stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Pac Choi, Red Pac||Dark red leaves, green stems. Earthy flavor.|
|Purslane, Red Gruner||Succulent leaves. White-pink stems. Earthy flavor|
|Scallion, Evergreen Hardy White||Green, thread-like leaves. Onion flavor|
|Shungiku||Toothed leaves. Mild flavor.|
How do I grow Microgreens from seeds?
There aren’t any particular seed requirements other than they need to be untreated and preferably organic. You’ll be planting the seeds into the 1020 flats at a much higher density than traditional field crops. You may consider purchasing seeds in bulk to lower your costs and increase your profitability.
If you’re using soil or coco coir as a growing medium, you’ll need about an inch worth in the tray. Next, scatter the seeds on the top of the growing medium. You’re shooting for about 5 – 10 seeds per square inch depending on the microgreen’s seed size. Johnny Seeds has a great youtube video explaining the importance of proper seed density.
Next, moisten the soil with a spray bottle, and be careful not to over water. Then, cover with plastic and place in a warm place. When you see the seeds have sprouted, you can put them under grow lights for 6-8 hours to promote healthy growth. Your microgreens will be ready to harvest once they have produced their first or second set of leaves.
How do I harvest microgreens?
When your microgreens have reached between ½ and 2 inches tall they are ready to for harvest. Depending on the plant species that will be between 2 to 4 weeks. To extract the fragile leaves from the nursery tray, be sure to cut them with very sharp kitchen shears, and place them directly into their packaging. If you’re selling to commercial kitchens, you may be interested in delivering the whole nursery tray directly to the kitchen so they may cut them and serve them as fresh as possible.
What supplies are needed for Microgreens Farming?
If you’re interested in we’ve identified some supplies to help you get started.
1) 1020 Nursery Trays
As a microgreens farmer you’ll want to use standard plastic nursery trays. Also called “1020 trays”, they are filled with potting soil and covered until the seeds germinate. It’s important that you buy good quality trays since they’ll be in constant use and you don’t want them to crack. These Extra Strength Seedling Propagation Trays offered by the Bootstrap Farmer on Amazon have an unprecedented 4.9 stars and are an excellent choice.
2a) Potting Soil
Potting soil is a great way to start off your microgreens. Commercial potting soil is sterilized to prevent the spread of weeds and plant diseases. One major benefit of potting soil is that it’s possible to reuse. You’ll need to ensure that any leftover plant matter, fungus, and insects have been eliminated before reusing. Composting is a great way to clean and refresh your soil. For compost to work properly it needs to get hot enough to kill pathogens and weeds, but too hot to kill beneficial organisms. You’ll need to keep your compost between 140-150 degrees F. for at least two weeks in a compost bin, being sure to mix it every few days.
2b) Hydroponic Growing Mats
For those you might not have the space to produce a steady stream of composed potting soil, hydroponic growing pads are a great option. Typically they are made from sustainable wood fiber. They fit perfectly in the nursery trays, and provide an excellent growth medium for microgreens. These pads are compostable so you don’t have to worry about negatively impacting the environment. These Biostrate Hydroponic Growing Mats are being offered by Biostrate on Amazon have have good reviews at 4.6 stars.
3) Where to get Microgreen Seeds
At Raymond Farms, we highly recommend that you source your seeds for a very reputable source. Your seed selection is a vital component to proper production. Currently, Johnny Seeds offers a few straightforward varieties or a professionally premixed selection of micro greens. They offer a Mild Micro Mix, which is a balanced combination of mild brassicas; and then they also offer a Spicy Micro Mix, comprised of sharper-tasting varieties.
4) LED Grow Lights
LED grow lights produce a light with a spectrum that typically mimics the sun. Some grow lights even provide light that is specific to the needs of individual plant species. We have a specific article on how to choose the best LED grow lights on the market today. Feel free to check it out if you’re considering purchasing one.
As you can see, thanks to a short crop cycle and low start-up costs, becoming a microgreens farmer is an excellent way to make money. Lastly, if you’re interested in learning about What to plant in your outdoor vegetable garden, check out our previous post.