Microfarming microgreen

Quick summary on microgreens

Microgreens are edible young greens that have high nutritional value as compared with mature vegetables. A study by USDA in 2014 identified microgreens to contain considerably higher levels of vitamins and carotenoids, about five times greater than their mature plant counterparts. Most varieties usually harvest in 1-2 weeks; harvesting is as simple as cutting with scissors just above soil surface, excluding any roots. Low-scale growing of microgreens is relatively low-cost and easy, requiring light, low humidity, and good air circulation. For instance, a plastic tray placed at a window sill, filled with soil and seeded can easily harvest delicious microgreens.

Our solution

Microgreen farming is an indoor farming solution that allows people to grow microgreens all year.

Minimal space – Not everyone lives in a house with backyard space. Hence, we propose a solution that requires minimal space. Hence, a person living in an apartment with limited space should still be able to adapt our solution. We envision a farmer placing growing tray near a window sill, or sticking the growing tray to the window – this will allow ample natural sunlight for the microgreens to grow.

Reduced time and effort – Not everyone has the time to farm. Microgreens in general do not need too much attention – however, they require misting/watering. We propose using sensors coupled with a mobile application to support effective microgreen farming.

Reduced cost – We propose starter kits that include resources (soil, seeds, personalized tray etc.) to help grow microgreens at reduced cost. We envision a subscription-based model where shoppers can renew needed resources on a monthly basis. This ensures farmers reuse most materials such as growing trays. Used soil typically serve as great compost. Hence, we also propose a soil return/share program that allows farmers to give away used soil to neighbors or return them to our company in return for discounts.

Community-based – We envision a community-based system where neighbors can act as farmers and consumers. According to this solution, a person can grown microgreens for her/himself and sell extras to neighbors. Selling will be supported through the mobile application, where farmers and consumers access a web-based marketplace. For instance, a farmer can post an advertisement with pictures of his produce, while consumers can see the advertisement, communicate and place orders.

Packaging and storage – Microgreens can be packed in airtight containers and stored in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Our solution includes resources and an educational component provided through mobile application that increases the awareness of farmers and consumers to ensure quality practices with microgreen consumption.

Where are you at with the solution? Evaluating and researching solution

Why might this be a valuable solution for Indy? There are several pockets of food deserts in Indianapolis, areas where many don’t have access to healthy food. Farming indoors all year at an economical price will allow people to not only grow and consume their own food, but also share food with neighbors. This in turn can help build a strong community.

What resources, advice or support would be helpful for you in moving forward? Some concerns that were raised during our brainstorming session include —

  • Selling microgreens to farmers would mean sellers make money that is taxable. We are still not sure if/how this can be solved.
  • Who is liable to the quality of microgreens sold?
  • Who decides the pricing of microgreens when they have to be sold by the farmers? Will the prices be location-based?

We are currently testing out this idea in a workplace environment where colleagues act as farmers and consumers. Farmers collaboratively decide on the microgreens they grow. For e.g., while one person decides to grow broccoli, another person grows kale and so on. Consumers purchase microgreens when farmers advertise availability through an internal website (web-based marketplace). We will soon be introducing sensors to help farmers determine when to water microgreen trays.

Our plan is to extend learnings from current setup to a community setting where neighbors can act as farmers and consumers.

Lead contact: Preethi Srinivas

Email: [email protected]