Exploring the Feasibility of Growing Microgreens in a Modified Cold Storage Room

Project Overview

FNE20-966
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $6,376.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Fat Peach Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Jennifer Wilhelm
Fat Peach Farm

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: broccoli, greens (leafy), peas (culinary)

Practices

  • Crop Production: other, season extension types and construction
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer
  • Energy: energy use
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, feasibility study, new enterprise development
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis

    Proposal summary:

    Microgreens are a popular crop with both growers and consumers. With low start-up costs, a short growing period (typically between 13-25 days), potential to grow year-round, and high retail value, microgreens are an appealing crop for farmers. For consumers, microgreens are tasty and easy to prepare, with high nutritional value. Given the potential of growing microgreens under lights in the winter, they hold a special appeal to farmers in the Northeast, where the growing season is short and farm income is low over the winter months. For this research project, we aim to (1) explore the feasibility of growing microgreens in a modified cold storage room under lights, and with supplemental heat; and (2) determine if growing microgreens in this arrangement is economically viable (profitable). To evaluate production methods, we will grow four varieties of microgreens (kale, broccoli, mild salad mix, and pea shoots) under two different light treatments (fluorescent and LED full spectrum lights). We will harvest and weigh marketable microgreens by variety and by light treatment. To assess economic profitability, we will track start up costs (shelving, lights, heater, fans, temperature controller, and CoolBot Pro), as well as all production costs including electricity for heat, fans, and lighting. Data will be shared through Cooperative Extension publications, a farmer field day on the farm, and various regional farmer meetings. This research could have broad appeal to farms in the Northeast, particularly small-scale farmers looking to increase winter on-farm income. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Most small scale farms have cold storage rooms, which are typically only in use during the summer months to keep products fresh for market, but sit idle during the colder months. Making a few minor modifications to existing farm infrastructure (cold storage rooms) to grow microgreens, a high-value crop, could be a simple and cost-effective way of supplementing farm income. Given that microgreens can be grown vertically under lights, their production could be an efficient use of small spaces. 

    We have two main objectives for this study. We aim to (1) explore the feasibility of growing microgreens in a modified cold storage room under lights, and with supplemental heat; and (2) determine if growing microgreens in this arrangement is economically viable (profitable). 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.