Year-round production of microgreens is challenging in most environments, but especially with the limited growing season in Western New York. Fulmer Valley Farms (FVF) has created a Controlled Environment Agricultural (CEA) System by retrofitting an historical barn and fully integrating it with the oil and gas production of WNY Drilling Associates (WNYDA). This growing system produces high-end microgreens to retailers and restaurants in Buffalo using shallow gas wells on their property to provide needed energy for operation.
FVF will be analyzing their growing practices, conditions, and techniques which will be compiled into a scale-appropriate CEA Microgreen Growing Manual. It will be utilized in 2 separate field days where local growers will have hands-on, guided classes on retrofitting existing buildings (barns, storage buildings etc) into CEA microgreen facilities and on the criterion needed to grow CEA microgreens for the WNY retail and restaurant market. A third session will include buyers (restaurants, groceries, retailers, schools) from WNY including, but limited to Buffalo and Rochester.
Simultaneously, replicated experiments will define the parameters for season-specific growing mixes (spring, summer, fall, and winter) to be sold to the above-mentioned buyers. Each mix will contain several greens, which may have very different growing conditions (light requirements, pitch of growing bench, nutrients and timing of nutrients, water temperature, harvesting details). Lastly, an enterprise budget will be developed based upon the growing guidelines and analyzing different local energy sources as variables. A YouTube Channel will be created to showcase videos filmed to accompany the CEA Microgreen Growing Manual.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project aims to provide improved capability of year-round production and delivery of local microgreens in Western NY to supply retailers, restaurants and eventually schools. Fulmer Valley Farm will generate a CEA Growing Manual which will include building plans demonstrating how to retrofit an existing structure (barn, storage shed), into a CEA facility. Construction of simple frames/grow-beds that will support microgreen production will be specified along with guidelines for growing individual families of microgreen varieties. Environmental specifications (water temp, wave length/duration, and nutrients) will be included to support growers looking to enter a new market. An enterprise budget for CEA microgreen production will be generated with energy source variation.
This project will be operating under the theory of economies of scope, in which the average total cost of a business’s production decreases when there is an increasing variety of goods produced. There is a cost advantage by increasing the number of producers working together when they produce a complementary range of products. FVF has demonstrated that it produces a high-quality and reliable product. Sharing this technology with the local community and beyond, other growers can benefit from the same proficiencies, while positively impacting the economy of western New York.