Amidst the hype and glare of Skill India and Startup India, the country faces a bitter truth of increasing farmer suicides. Of the various arguments that are given, the vital one is low yield and reduced income of farmers. Will the microgreens cultivation make a difference to the gloomy affair?
India was considered to be an agrarian economy. Even today, this one industry provides 50% of the employment in the country. Despite this encouraging fact, the contribution of agriculture to the nation’s GDP is only 13.7% and is steadily declining with the country's broad-based economic growth.
Let’s see how farmers can turn into entrepreneurs like Blooming Greens, Mighty Greens, etc., by resorting to microgreen cultivation. It’s indeed the next cash crop. Not even startups, but established business groups from India to the likes of Godrej Group (Nature’s Basket) are coming forward to capitalize on this.
What are Microgreens?
Microgreens are a young vegetable green - between sprout and the larger counterpart. They have harvested anywhere from a week to two weeks after germination. In the language of a Botany scholar, we can read microgreens as follows:
“Microgreens have three basic parts: a central stem, cotyledon leaf or leaves, and typically the first pair of very young true leaves.”
Why are microgreens in demand?
This is basically because of their rich nutritional content. A research by the University Of Maryland College Of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), approves that microgreens have more nutritional value than what their mature counterparts have. Their team conducted a research to estimate the quantity of Vitamin C, E, K and beta-carotene present in 25 microgreens and their adult counterparts. It was found that the microgreens hold 4 to 40 times more nutrients than their mature counterparts.
The lifespan of microgreens is much shorter (1-2 weeks) than that of their adult counterparts (4-6 weeks). Hence, by the time you cultivate and produce a mature vegetable or fruit, you can do 3 to 4 yields of microgreens. Moreover, the cultivation of microgreens doesn’t demand a big field. You can grow it easily in small backyards or even on terraces. All they need is some direct sunlight and timely irrigation. Hence, small-scale farmers can adopt this easily and boost their earning substantially. Microgreens have good market-value. You can make as high as INR 150 for every 100-gram radish or pea-shoot microgreens. Surprisingly, to produce 100-gram microgreens, you need a space as large as a disposable pie plate.
Government’s Support: The Ministry of Agriculture has two dedicated wings, namely, Department of Agriculture Research and Education and Department of Agriculture, Co-operation and Farmers Welfare to help farmers and entrepreneurs relying on the agriculture industry for raw materials. All leading banks including SBI, ICICI are offering horticulture loans to farmers at low-interest rates.
Which seeds work best?
Anything that you consume as a salad, green leafy vegetables, herbs or even edible flowers can be grown as microgreens. Try with seeds of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard, chia, sunflower or wheat. These microgreens are easy to grow and are densely packed with nutrients that build up immunity, stimulate metabolism and help with curing diseases and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.
Related topics: Microgreen Benefits
Marketplace for microgreens
Fortunately, India is emerging as a good market for microgreens. With the rising consumer economy driven by elite and affluent income segments in India (constitute 40% of all spending by 2025), hospitality and travel sectors are likely to get a big boost. This will ultimately result into the opening of more restaurants and hotels - the biggest marketplace for microgreens. Hence, a good B2B opportunity is emerging for farmers and entrepreneurs involved in microgreens cultivation.
Also, the increasing literacy in India and awareness regarding health and fitness is a good sign for microgreens cultivators and marketers. Even start-ups like BloomingGreens have started home delivery of microgreens to consumers. Like pizza or any physical goods, you can place an order online and get it delivered wherever you want. Hence, a B2C or retail market is also gaining traction.
Environmental conditions, i.e., quality of soil, PH value, manure, temperature and humidity, and harvesting methods affect the growth, yield and nutrient content of microgreens. Hence, there is a good career scope for agriculture science and bio science graduates who can better understand these aspects and contribute to their employer’s growth.
Utilization of microgreens in herbal medicines opens the door for research scientists coming from micro biology and allied professional academic background. Now with a dedicated Ministry of AYUSH (Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) in India, students aspiring to make a career in clinical research related with herbs have a bright future.
Thus, we can see a silver lining with this new breed of agricultural produce. Hope this will alleviate the challenges of the agriculture industry and improve the condition of our farmers.