THE rapid growth of a micro-herbs business led to expansion and a place in the finals of a prestigious food and drink competition.
Despite launching less than three years ago from a living room in Old Colwyn, Fresh and Tasty (FT) Microgreens is already a leading producer and supplier to customers in North Wales.
Owner Steve Holland began growing a handful of varieties during the Coronavirus pandemic, delivering to the community and later cafes, restaurants, and shops, including Tatws Trading in Llandudno, Natural Choice in Rhos on Sea, Health and Food, Llanrwst, and The Grate Cheese Deli, Colwyn Bay.
A devastating eye injury had impacted on his IT career and role with the family finance firm – which he still works in part time – so less hours spent in front of the computer meant more time on their blossoming microgreens.
Now based out of a specialist facility in Groesffordd Marli, near Abergele, the company grows more than 50 varieties, as well as edible flowers – primroses, pansies, dahlias and more – which can be used in myriad ways, primarily to decorate cocktails, desserts, and wedding cakes.
“We began in lockdown by growing broccoli, radish, peas and sunflowers, and expected to be eating a lot of it ourselves!” said Steve, who thanked wife Laura for her support.
“But news soon started to spread and from initially selling to local people, and then shops, we began distributing to restaurants, cafes, hotels, bars, and retailers across North Wales.
“It has been a steep learning curve and not always easy, but things have developed in a way we could never have imagined, we are staggered by the support received from the public, especially on social media.”
Nominated in two categories at the upcoming Food Awards Wales ceremony to be held in Cardiff on June 26, for Welsh Produce of the Year, and Outstanding Restaurant Supplier of the Year, FT Microgreens has its sights set on becoming even more sustainable in the future.
Steve is looking to install solar panels on-site, and state-of-the-art equipment supplied by the Tech Tyfu vertical farming initiative – delivered by not-for-profit organisation Menter Mon via M-SParc on Anglesey – means they now have the technology to experiment and trial alternative variations.
“The greens can last seven to 10 days, it is all natural, there is no importing and now we have the new facility and commercial planters we can scale-up in the months ahead,” he said.
“We have been trialling different types with restaurants in north east Wales and getting attention further afield, so the word is getting out there.
“And I think it’s important for us to communicate that this isn’t just overpriced salad or garnish, which is what some people think.
“There are huge health benefits, it lasts a lot longer, the quality is very high and there is a lot of scope in terms of how they look, the texture and flavour, which is why so many restaurants and top chefs use them.”
With plans to eventually create their own varieties and diversify into production of wheatgrass shots for medicinal and health purposes, and flavoured oils including basil and coriander, Steve believes green shoots are still appearing for the fledgling firm.
“We are still very new to this and if you had told me when we started growing radish and peas that within a year or so we would be on to cinnamon basil I would never have believed you,” he said.
“By learning from fantastic local chefs and listening to feedback we are starting to understand what works and when, what orders are coming in and ways we can move to the next level as a business.
“Microgreens are still relatively new to the UK – the US have been doing it for decades – so for us to be here and doing well is really heartening, especially to have been nominated for awards and be in partnership with great venues and shops in this area.
“We’ll keep learning, keep trying new things and continue to do all we can to produce the very best microgreens for our loyal customers, across Wales and beyond.”
For more information, visit www.freshandtastymicrogreens.wales and follow them on social media at @ftmicrogreens.