A Crickhowell based company producing the increasingly popular nutritious microgreens has found a gap in the market in the south east of England. Dragon Microgreens are now supplying a number of top restaurants in Brighton after they had to look for new customers when their business had to close in the March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Microgreens are the seedlings of leafy herbs and plants that are harvested before they grow to full size. It’s easy to see why they have become a must-have ingredient as they are a simple way to get your five-a-day.
As lockdown hit, the owners Jamie and Nick had to cease operations immediately and the future looked bleak. However, as a new small business that has been supported by the Welsh Government’s NutriWales Cluster group and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Special Interest Group, they were determined to find a solution, as Jamie Walker, Co-founder and Company Secretary explains:
“We are very fortunate to be able to vertically farm our microgreens on our farm in the Brecon Beacons, using fresh mountain spring water with organic compost and soils, plus plenty of love, to produce the tastiest and freshest microgreens available.
“Having been proven to have up to 40 times the nutritional value of average fully grown vegetables, microgreens are gaining popularity as recent studies have shown their health benefits, therefore we began our microgreens business just over a year ago.
“However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck our business closed overnight. We suddenly had to look for new clients to sell our products to and to be able to begin operations again.
“We worked hard cold-calling restaurants in the affluent south east of England and it paid off. So since the end of August we have started a weekly delivery service to 10 restaurants in Brighton, including the prestigious Salt Room Restaurant in the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel. With the number of orders multiplying rapidly we aim to increase our customer base further and are now concentrating on finding customers in Wales.”
Dragon Microgreens grow various microgreens including coriander, broccoli, basil, amaranth, kale, radish, sunflower plus rarer ones like shiso. Jamie and his partner Nick are excited by the positive feedback they regularly receive from the outlets and restaurants:
“Microgreens have an amazing taste and are a fantastic source of nutrients to add to dishes. These products grow well in our controlled environment unit, plus the restaurants love them, sometimes even changing recipes according to availability. Some restaurants have never used them before but with great flavours and reasonable prices they are now including them on their menus on a regular basis.
“With help from the Welsh Government’s NutriWales Cluster we are getting back on our feet. The virtual workshops and events have been invaluable, and we have learnt so much.”
With a van now purchased, Jamie and Nick are now focussing on Wales and securing new business locally. They are also working on franchise models for those interested in growing their own, which will help provide job opportunities and provide a source of healthy ingredients for communities.
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said:
“Dragon Microgreens is a great example of a recent, small start-up business which is now using the help available to get back on their feet after the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year.
“Being part of a cluster development group can provide food and drink businesses like Dragon Microgreens with insight and intelligence in the market space where food, health, nutrition and well-being converge.
“The clusters harness expertise at Welsh universities, public health and the food centres to stimulate collaborative research, innovation and product development, and assist with access to new markets.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for the whole of the Welsh economy, but with the support that Government is providing we hope to help as many food and drink businesses as possible through the outbreak.”