Almost Sprouting

Argh. I have been wanting to write about this project so much, but am so busy that it is difficult to even get to the computer at times.

So, here is a quick summary of what I have done and where I am at.

This project has been in the works for well over a year, but it haws just been in the past 6 months that I have really started getting it to take shape. There have been a number of challenge areas for this project:

– Finding a location
– Sourcing a large quantity of good quality seeds
– designing infrastructure for the seed growing
– Finding a good growing medium (compost)
– Developing growing methods
– Establishing a Market

It seems that each of these things has stressed me out almost equally! But things a removing along.

It looks like I will be able to use the farm at UBC as a growing space. It is a little further from my house than I would like, but the space is otherwise perfect for developing the system.

Sourcing seeds has also been a challenge. I ran some germination tests on 5 varieties of seeds that I sources and only one, a black oil variety, performed well. A confection variety did alright and produced a nice sprout, but with only about a 50% germination rate while the black oil germinated at close to 100%. The black oil produces a smaller, less crunchy sprout, which is why I prefer the confection varieties (white stripe). I am still waiting for on we more ample to come so I can trial it. I have used this seed before so I hope it performs well for me again! If I am going to buy several thousand pounds of the seed, it needs to be good! So far, I only have one Canadian source for seeds, the rest are coming from the US.

I think I have a good infrastructure design. I have been using Google Sketchup to design growing benches and think I have a good design. Hopefully it holds up when I build them! I will try to attach a picture here…bench-2-with-two-levels-wood-frame-cloche1In my latest design the lower bench will actually be 4′ below the top one to facilitate another set of growing trays. Estimated costs of the bench with irrigation will be about $600.

Another challenge is a growing medium. When I grew the sprouts before I used Sea Soil which was produced on Vancouver Island and easily available. here it is tougher to get and expensive. I have found a good looking compost that is thermophilically composted with a cow manure base. I will do some tests with it and sand as a growing medium.

Although I have grown hundreds of sprout trays in the past I still not sure what growing method I will use. I am developing a research project to run some tests to determine:

– Optimum planting density
– Optimum growing medium mixture
– Optimal growing medium depth
– Different methods of covering germinating seeds

I hope to be able to start these trials soon, which I will have to do if I hope to get them done before May.

The last challenge is marketing the sprouts. My plan is to sell direct at farmers’ markets and have submitted my application to do so. I am a bit nervous because the whole project practically rests on the assumption of these markets being available! I can also market the sprouts to restaurants and stores.

So I hope that is a good start to this blog. I hope to start production at the end of April or early May. I am still experiencing many sleepless nights as I I work through the details of the project. It sometimes seems so feasible and such a good idea, and at other times I think I am crazy. I know I can make it work, but circumstances now may make it more difficult to pull off. Here’s hoping for the best.

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