Canadian microgreens grower makes impact within the lettuce category

Small but mighty: microgreens are fairly new in the produce category, but they’re already being widely embraced in foodservice and in consumer’s homes. For what they lack in size, they make up for in a powerful flavor profile.

Large inventory on small footprint
Greenbelt Microgreens grows a wide inventory on its mere 6.5 acres. Of that, 4.5 acres is located in Ontario, Canada and 2 acres in Maple Ridge, BC. Owner, Ian Adamson began researching and perfecting the viability and production of microgreens in 1998 and was ready to open for business in 2010. Seven years were spent in perfecting the process and achieving proper nutrient-rich soil to grow strong, healthy greens. The proprietary soil mixture comes from a farm in Quebec. “That’s how we get the shelf life, because of the quality of the soil,” said Michael Curry, Vice President of Greenbelt Microgreens.

Fast growth cycle, long shelf life
Maintaining a proper cold chain is key – it’s all about food safety; the company is Canada GAP certified. Curry says their 13-day shelf life is key. Movement and processing of the cut greens right into cold storage, plus the ability to grow organically is something he says retailers are looking for. “That’s why we’re jumping on it,” he said, noting that 80 per cent of the organic product sold in Canada is imported. 

It’s an opportunity for Greenbelt Microgreens to harness, and they’re able to grow year- round under glass, which mimics growing in an open field. “It’s a 10-day growth cycle,” Curry explained. “We can grow an incredible amount in an acre, year round.” He noted that they’re experimenting the implementation of LEDs. “We’re all about soil and sunshine but LEDs are proven very effective in the winter to keep the growing cycle the same - yields as well,” he said. With the reduction in sunshine this past winter, it’s an important investment, since last January he said there was only about 50 hours of sunlight for the month. 

Living lettuce and wide range of greens
Part of their inventory includes organic living lettuce as well as their namesake organic microgreens: arugula (the most popular), basil, buckwheat, broccoli, cilantro, radish, daikon radish, kale, pea shoots, red choi, red mizuna, red radish, shunkigu, sunflower and wheatgrass. At one time it seemed like the idea of consuming what should be a full head of broccoli harvested after only 10 days was unheard of, but thegoal is to get the customer to think of their products as a whole salad, whether it’s a clamshell of the mixed microgreens, mixed lettuce or a head of living lettuce. 

Living lettuce is sold in sleeves, which customers can take home, keep watered and harvest whenever they wish. The microgreen salads come in four different mixes. “That’s totally unique – nobody’s got that on the market,” said Curry. “Millennials seem to love having plants growing in their kitchen.” Customers are making friends with salad.

For more information:
Michael Curry
Greenbelt Microgreens
Ph: 416 710 7547

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