Nature’s Finest Fund 2019 Recipients
In 2014 the Nature’s Finest Fund annual grant program was introduced to expand the availability of locally produced food and to support and strengthen the working relationships between local family farms and The Big Carrot.
Since 2014 the grant has been awarded to a variety of suppliers for varying projects. This year, however, we put a call out to microgreen and sprout producers because of a lack of supply. We hoped the grant could help an existing microgreen supplier scale up and meet our needs. The call was answered and we are so pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 Nature’s Finest Fund grants!
Farmstead Fresh, formerly Nature’s Nurturing, is owned and operated by Marcel Pijper and Josh Scheerer. They grow organic microgreens in shipping containers near Hillsburgh, Ontario. They purchased the business in 2018 with big plans to expand, and this was perfect timing for an application to the Nature’s Finest Fund. Marcel and Josh were awarded $15,000 to install a bottom-watering system to improve crop production. This new watering system will:
– dramatically decrease water usage
– increase yields, and
– reduce labour cost margins
This new system aligns with their objective to continuously improve their environmental performance (e.g. reduce the amount of water they use). With a bottom-watering system, based on their research they estimate that water usage could be decreased by 60 to 70%. Also, this system would eliminate hours spent watering, and free up staff time for other production activities. Bottom-watered microgreens have also been shown to have a 10 to 15% higher yield. Better yields will enable them to optimize the growing space and an automated system has the potential to support the consistency in quality of the product, by preventing overwatering.
Kind Organics was formed in 1999 as a Demeter Certified Bio-Dynamic/Organic Farm. Since its early days, Kind Organics has grown significantly; from growing in a single hoop-house and field on rented land to now owning a 13.5 acre farm near Brantford, Ontario.
This application had a different angle on microgreen production – accessibility to new growers through innovation. Here is an excerpt from the grant application.
“With this project, we want to make hand-held microgreen tools available to farmers. Over the past decade of microgreen farming, we have invested in and tried every major piece of equipment on the market to better seed and produce microgreens. Microgreen production is very labour intensive and as such the necessity for mechanization has meant spending $40,000-$80,000 on equipment. This is a barrier we are working on addressing to help more growers gain access to the market. We’ve learned that this equipment is expensive to buy and maintain, inaccessible to the majority of new and established growers, and doesn’t necessarily produce the best quality product. Consequently, we have been working to share our knowledge and experience with others through the design and testing of hand-tools that seed and topcoat microgreens effectively and efficiently. Our prototype hand held seeder and topcoat dispensers produces the best quality product we’ve seen, and since it is manufactured locally in small volumes using additive manufacturing, it is cost effective to produce, making it accessible to the vast majority of budgets and persons. The grant will be used in developing a low cost conveyor to automate the seeder and topcoat distribution. It is our intention that our microgreen seeder will enable more farmers to enter the sector, thereby improving the quality of everyone’s product, and better meeting consumer needs for microgreens in the GTA.”
Kind Organics will also be supplying the Big Carrot with some of their tools to be awarded to other aspiring microgreen growers and farm suppliers of The Big Carrot. A wonderful example of farmers supporting farmers!