For centuries, people have enjoyed consuming fresh foods from around the world. To have a healthy diet, it’s obviously crucial that humans have a well balanced diet, which includes foods such as fruits and vegetables, which are often not native to the United Kingdom. While it is important to still be able to get foods from around the world, and make them accessible to everyone, it is also crucial that we look for ways to produce more fresh, healthy foods locally, to help the environment and provide ways to grow the local economy.
One way to accomplish this is through the growing of Microgreens. Becoming popular around the world, microgreens are a yummy type of greens that is easy to grow, nutritiously beneficial and perfectly viable to grow in north Wales! Currently, there are several enterprises around the UK and the world that are growing microgreens locally, in order to reduce travel emissions, provide opportunities in a local enterprise and provide nutritious food to their community.
To learn more about how microgreens are a great product to grow locally, read our blog post below!
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are edible, immature greens that are cut away before fully growing. Often mistaken for sprouts, which is the plant’s first stage of development, microgreens are kind of like toddlers, as they are the stem and cotyledons (or seed leaves) of plants, and one step up in the development process from sprouts.
Microgreens are the quickest crop from urban gardeners, as they can be cut and eady with scissors less than a month after germination. Recent studies have shown that microgreens can have up to 40x the nutritional value of fully grown vegetables, as their nutrient content is concentrated, meaning that they often contain higher vitamin, mineral and antioxidant levels than their fully developed forms. Some of the types of microgreens that are grown are broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, lettuce, leek and more!
Microgreens have a variety of taste depending on what kind of plant they are. Some can be spicy, neutral, bitter or even sour, depending on what kind of plant you choose, and what tastes you enjoy. Because of their leafy texture, people often put microgreens in salads, wraps, smoothies, or as garnishes on any dish.
How can microgreens be grown locally? How do they help the local economy?
Microgreens are very easy to plant and grow. Because they take a shorter amount of the time to grow, and need little space to develop compared to full gardens, microgreens can easily be grown in more confined spaces, often just needing planter trays and a source of sunlight to grow.
While vegetables need space and lots of soil to grow, microgreens can be stored easily on stackable trays, and be stored together in confined spaces. This allows for enterprises with limited space, the ability to grow and sell produce without needing to buy large tracts of land. This means that microgreens can grow on small to large scales, either indoors on someone’s windosill, or outside in a large garden.
With the versatility of the microgreens comes the ability to grow locally, allowing microgreen companies to provide local restaurants with their fresh plants for all sorts of dishes. This also allows customers in the community the chance to purchase microgreens locally, meaning less travel emissions and delays across the UK and further afield. This is allowing microgreen startups the chance to expand their business across Wales and the UK, with even a microgreen supplier in the underground of London!
How is north Wales growing microgreens?
In the last 10 years or so in north Wales, farming has been changing drastically because of factors such as price changes on produce meat and wool and local droughts which has left many farms devastated by environmental changes. Enterprises such as Mentor Mon and Growing for Change are looking for ways to help diversify farming in north Wales, bringing more opportunities for local food production and distribution.
Tech Tyfu, which is a vertical farming pilot project in Gwynedd and Anglesey, is housed at Mentor Mon and is exploring how hydroponics can be used in local farming. Using hydroponics, the project provides ways for local farmers to house vertical farming units in agricultural buildings, and a way to grow produce year round. The produce then can be distributed to many restaurants across the north Wales area, providing fresh fruit and veg from a local farmer. Tech Tyfu is helping local farmers grow microgreens, which can then be supplied to businesses such as Hooton’s Homegrown, a farm shop located on Anglesey!
*Warning, flashing lights!/Rhybudd, goleuadau sy'n fflachio!* Great to see the progress at @ColegGlynllifon, with lettuce and strawberries growing on one of our NFT vertical farming systems. We're now monitoring power consumption of these systems using smart plugs @MenterMon pic.twitter.com/zx3kWRoURX— Tech Tyfu (@TechTyfu) January 21, 2021
Penrhyn House, a therapeutic and rehabilitation centre for those recovering from substance abuse, operates Growing for Change and hopes to change North Wales by providing economic regeneration, education, and training around food production. The organisation is working to provide “field to plate” food to the local area by providing produce to local shops, restaurants and cafes through seasonal salad bags. The salad growing enterprise has been growing produce such as radishes, garlic, rocket, cucumbers and more, as well as providing microgreens to places such as Pandy Farm in Wrexham.
For 2021, our students have been developing ideas for local food enterprises to grow and distribute microgreens in a way that will maintain a healthy planet, provide local opportunities and food options, and help combat food poverty in the local area. Our multidisciplinary teams are hoping to come up with ideas that will spread the word about Microgreens, developing media campaigns that will give more visibility to what microgreens are, and their benefits to people’s health, and the local economy. Through the work of projects such as Tech Tyfu and Growing for Change, and this year’s Enterprise by Design teams, here’s hoping that more produce can be grown, distributed and enjoyed locally!