Everyone is looking for ways to generate extra income or simply provide their families with healthy foods. Growing microgreens and sprouts are ways to accomplish either of those goals, but it’s important to first understand the differences between microgreens and sprouts and why those differences are important.
What is the Difference Between Microgreens and Sprouts?
Many people wonder what is the difference between microgreens and sprouts. A majority tend to believe microgreens and sprouts are interchangeable, but they’re not. There are distinct differences between the two and how they’re grown. Once a person understands the definition of each, it’s easier to decide on and plan your own growing adventure.
The difference between microgreens and sprouts:
- Sprouts are not planted in soil or another growing medium. They can easily be grown using jars or similar containers, but require quite a bit of care during the growing process. The sprouts are ready for sale in 3-5 days and both the seed and the plant are consumed by the end user.
- Microgreens are grown in soil or on a hydroponic grow pad. They are cut off at the soil surface, so only the stems and leaves are consumed.
- Light is an issue. Sprouts don’t require a light source to grow, which may be a consideration for some people. Growing microgreens does require a light source to help the plants “green up.” For the best results, specific types of grow lights are needed to obtain optimal results.
- Soil or water? Sprouts require only water rather than soil and must be rinsed at least a couple of times per day. Microgreen seeds require a growing medium that can be actual soil or a soil substitute or grow pad. Growers frequently argue the benefits of different growing mediums for microgreens, and it may pay to explore the various options available.
- Ventilation is also a concern. Sprouts do not require much ventilation, but microgreens do. In most cases, providing adequate ventilation can be done by setting up several fans, but you may also need to use supplemental heating and cooling to obtain ideal growing conditions.
Anyone thinking about growing sprouts or becoming a microgreens farmer should carefully explore the opportunities for each. Even though there are some similarities, the differences must be carefully reviewed when making any decisions. Since both microgreens and sprouts provide benefits, it’s important to review other aspects of the two before deciding which ones you intend to grow. Anyone considering growing either microgreens or sprouts would be wise to seek expert advice to minimize the potential for problems related to different growing environments.
Are Microgreens Better for You?
Growers generally become a microgreens farmer or raise sprouts because microgreens and sprouts are good for you. They provide families with nutritious food that’s also tasty.
Microgreens, especially, have been shown to offer health benefits. Gene Lester, a plant physiologist for the Agricultural Research Service, recently led a study analyzing the key nutrients in 25 varieties of vegetable microgreens. It found that “Specialty Greens Pack a Nutritional Punch.” (1)
WebMD highlighted a study that found that some microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts. The findings were published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (2) . One of the study’s researchers was Qin Wang, a PhD and assistant professor at the University of Maryland at the time. “We were really surprised,” Wang said of the findings. “Some of the numbers were really, really high. We thought it might have been a mistake, but we double-checked so many times and there we no mistakes.” (3)
However, anyone growing microgreens or sprouts should be aware of a couple of things. As a rule, consuming microgreens does not involve any significant health risks. As long as the microgreens are properly grown and only healthy plants are consumed, there should be no real health concern.
Sprouts, though, require a little additional care before they’re consumed. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration investigated a multistate outbreak of salmonella infections linked to alfalfa sprouts. (4) New standards were implemented for growing, harvesting, packing and holding of produce intended for human consumption. Because sprouts must be grown in very humid, closed conditions, there exists the potential for unwanted bacteria. Before sprouts are eaten, it’s important to thoroughly rinse them first. Proper rinsing should eliminate typical risks from naturally occurring bacteria, but extra care should be taken to minimize the potential for bacteria development during the growing and harvesting processes.
Because of the increased contamination concerns surrounding sprouts, many states have more strict policies around their sale. (4) Often growers are required to obtain special permits, licensing, or even build out or grow in a certified commercial kitchen, which can be very expensive to build. Good agricultural practices are required for sprouts. (5)
Taking Growing Microgreens to the Next Level
A large percentage of people may only be thinking of growing microgreens for their own use, but others are looking for ways to generate income from their efforts. While a microgreens farmer may not get rich, it’s certainly possible to turn a healthy hobby into a long-term viable small business. (6)
If you’re currently looking for a way to earn extra money on the side or turn a part-time business into a true occupation, microgreen farming is one way to accomplish that objective. The online website Produce Business calls microgreens a culinary trend. (7)
But it’ll take more than acquiring a few microgreen seeds and flats of soil. That’s why it pays to evaluate the need for microgreens and sprouts in an area and determine what level of need exists.
Because there are several ways to market microgreens and sprouts, it will pay to develop a growing and marketing strategy that leads to profits rather than simply breaking even or even losing money. The experts at Microgreens Farmer are always ready to provide training and advice designed to help would-be microgreens farmers get to that next level of productivity. Click here to sign up for a free training today!
Discover Local Markets for Your Microgreens
In many areas, farmers’ markets provide excellent ways to market microgreens or sprouts. In fact, microgreens are becoming the “new craze” at local farmer’s markets. (8)
However, not every area has year-round farmers’ markets. To generate a regular income, that means someone who grows microgreens will need to find other ways to market their produce. If you’re truly focused on marketing products throughout the year, now is the time to explore all the possible buyers in your area.
Grocery stores are one potential outlet for microgreens or sprouts. Because both microgreens and sprouts have short shelf lives, many grocery stores prefer to buy directly from local growers to eliminate the shipping time required when the products are sourced nationally. The first step would be to approach local store produce managers to determine their buying policies. Food co-ops also provide excellent markets for fresh, high-quality microgreens or sprouts.
Local restaurants may also purchase locally grown microgreens and sprouts both to support other local entrepreneurs and ensure their customers enjoy the freshest microgreens and sprouts available. Healthline.com, a major online source for health information, recently noted that microgreens have steadily gained in popularity since being introduced to the California restaurant scene in the 1980s. (9)
Bring samples of your microgreens or sprouts to show potential buyers what they can expect to get if they buy from you. Of course, it will always be important to deliver on your promises and consistently provide high-quality products if you expect to keep local grocers or restaurants buying from you in the future.
What Are the Best Microgreens to Grow?
It’s not always easy to answer the question about what are the best microgreens to grow because local preferences will differ from one area to another. That’s why doing market research before starting to grow microgreens is always recommended. Some of the most popular microgreens are radishes, peas, broccoli, salad mixes, and sunflowers. Of course, if there is a strong local demand for other varieties, that’s what should be grown.
If the local market demands sprouts, consider broccoli, mung bean, lentil, garbanzo, or alfalfa. Again, local preferences may be for other types of sprouts, so don’t be afraid to explore other options if there is a local demand.
As with growing any other types of plants, specific types of microgreens or sprouts often require special growing procedures to achieve the best end results. Courses offered by Microgreens Farmer to help microgreens farmers get a good start will provide guidelines outlining potential issues with growing greens and discuss possible ways to overcome the issues.
Is It Profitable to Sell Microgreens?
One of the issues that always concerns potential growers is startup expenses. In most cases, it’s relatively easy to start a small-scale growing operation without requiring a huge investment, and it can be profitable to sell microgreens. (10) You don’t need tractors or other implements to start growing microgreens, but you will need to provide a hospitable environment for your microgreens or sprouts.
Once you’ve developed a reputation as a reliable supplier, it might pay to invest in more equipment that will allow your business to expand. We encourage all potential growers to set appropriate budgets during any growth process. Again, take the time to get advice from experts and learn from their experience. It’ll save you money, time, and aggravation.
Overcoming Problems Growing Microgreens
In any venture, there are likely to be problems that must be overcome. At times, those issues can be somewhat costly. That’s why it’s important to start small and grow as you learn the ins and outs of microgreens farming. Take things one step at a time by becoming an expert in one crop and getting a routine down before adding another product to your offerings.
It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and take whatever steps are needed to get beyond a problem. It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and take whatever steps are needed to get beyond a problem. A University of Florida study says one of the most important productions strategies for success is to have the right mix of microgreens. (11) Focus on your long-term objectives and, when necessary, be willing to change them. Operating a business can feel like a roller-coaster, but just know that we are here to support you however we can. Members of our online course have access to a members-only private Facebook group, or you can join our free public group here.
Don’t Be Afraid to Take That First Step
If growing microgreens as a business is your goal, now is the time to get started. The University of Florida study has referred to microgreens as a new specialty crop. (11) Emily Kyle, a well-known registered dietitian nutritionist and gardening expert, says, “If you don’t want to invest too much money, you can begin with a seed starting tray with a top, seed starting soil, and of course, seeds.” (12)
Before spending money, take the time to learn more about microgreen farming from the experts at Microgreens Farmer and what it means to be a microgreens farmer. The best way to do that is to sign up for a free training and getting your free copy of our ebook – you can do that by clicking here.
- Agricultural Research Service
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
- University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Food and Drug Administration
- Western Kentucky University
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Produce Business
- Farmer Mark
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- University of Florida
- Food Network