Sustainability Spotlight

Sustainability Spotlight | August: Taw Valley Microgreens

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Taw Valley Microgreens
Posted on
9 Aug 2023
Taw Valley Microgreens

This month our SUSTAINABILITY SPOTLIGHT is shining on Taw Valley Microgreens in Umberleigh, who produce a range of fresh mini leafy greens bursting with nutrients and flavour.

Founders Elizabeth and Cass, a mother daughter team, decided that starting a business producing fresh lively greens during the dark days of lockdown was a solution to many challenges both personal and on a wider scale; with rumours of food shortages coming and the negative impact of food miles on our fragile climate.

Two years on, Taw Valley Microgreens are available locally via direct delivery; in selected retail stores and to hospitality businesses. Keeping the cost of production down is the foundation on which the team have established their eco farm.

What are Microgreens? They’ve traditionally been used by chefs to add flavour to their dishes, but they are great as a humble addition both in and on soups, toasted sandwiches, quiches, pasta dishes and pizza. An effective but simple way of upping the quantity of phytonutrients and fresh food in our diets, these tiny plants pack a powerful punch and even just a light sprinkle gives a rich vitamin and mineral boost to all the dishes we enjoy.

1) What have you done to make your business more environmentally friendly?

It began with a simple phone call last year from Jake, a robotics research scientist at Plymouth University. He invited us to explore agritech solutions and innovation for farmers, and to apply for a slice of the government Levelling Up funding.

We were one of just 14 local start-ups awarded the Agri-tech Accelerator grant by the Devon County Councils DATA Team and wowza talk about a learning curve!

What is simply amazing is that our most basic need for power suddenly became an opportunity to leapfrog over all hurdles and achieve our goal of sustainability in Microgreens growing.

We are probably the only producer in the UK using 100% green energy to fuel our controlled grow environment! The Microgreens trend began about ten years back with the surge in Urban Farming. However  the nature of this kind of food production is heavily reliant on National Grid power solutions. This green clean energy supply is our unique feature and what we are so grateful for, given the rising costs of energy consumption today.

Thanks to the grant we now have eight solar panels supplying power to our polytunnel and workspace, as well as an experimental thermal heat stack that utilises our organic waste and the fresh manure from friendly neighbouring farmers.

This ‘bio-mix’ heat source – with some tweaking – will supply a constant source of hot water that feeds warmth to our germination trays through a closed circuit system. If successful this project is a solution that can be rolled out across the agriculture sector, not just as a means of heating, but as a valuable solution to waste regeneration.

Most exciting of all – what started out as something we simply cherish and love, our land, has now become an integral part of the solution to climate change – a carbon sink.

This is the result of us re-wilding the surrounding 70% of the mini farm. Over the past seven years our approach has been to simply allow Mother Nature the space to achieve this on her terms and conditions, without interference from us. Today we have a vibrant bio-diverse habitat sanctuary literally on our doorstep. This includes wild flower meadows, natural grasslands, a tiny woodland and mini bog garden fed by an underground spring.

2) What would you like to change in the future to improve your sustainability credentials further?

Besides offering fully compostable packaging, we are in the process of establishing a mini Taw Valley Microgreens farm hub in the Totnes area to ensure a regular year round supply of the freshest locally grown microgreens to the South of Devon.

It’s no longer an option to clock up food miles distributing produce, when our ethos is about ‘local produce for local people’. The challenge has always been logistics and distribution because fresh is most certainly best.

Providing business opportunities for like-minded, green-hearted locals who need a purpose not just a job, and who care about people and planet, are really good reasons we’re spreading our roots far and wide.

Our dream is to see Taw Valley Microgreen hubs reaching every corner of the UK. It’s fundamental to our business ethos to empower local communities with business opportunities to ensure future food security.

3) What tips do you have for other businesses that would like to become more sustainable?

Take the leap, register your company with Companies House and use social media like a resource tool plus as a means of being seen. It’s free marketing.

The more visible you are the more opportunities come your way. Be curious and adopt an innovative mindset – finding solutions where others see only problems is always the best way.

Find out more about Taw Valley Microgreens HERE




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