Brown Acres Organic Microgreens is a family-owned and operated microgreen farm run by husband and wife Jess and Don Brown. Brown Acres supplies fresh, organic microgreens both commercially and to Kiwi consumers.
The Brown’s journey into microgreen farming was a bumpy road. The pair sold their house and were looking at lifestyle properties when New Zealand went into its first lockdown in 2020.
“We got stuck at Mum's house with all our belongings in storage and where to move to,” said Jess Brown.
“During that lockdown, Don badly broke his leg and was unable to continue his career in construction.”
Finally, the family found a lifestyle block, but now she was faced with becoming a farmer, something she had never planned on.
“After Don was told he wouldn’t be able to build anymore, I did a lot of research on how to utilise a lifestyle block without missing out on our children’s upbringing before we established Brown Acres,” continued Jess.
Brown Acres has been operating since February. The Brown’s started selling at the Lincoln farmers market but now sell to several vegetable and organic wholesalers around Christchurch.
The microgreens are grown in a vertical farm, which uses 95 percent less water and six times less land than traditional farming and no heavy machinery. Using fewer resources and future-proofing were two important factors for the Browns.
“We are looking into some ways we can expand to make things a little more automated, but we haven’t even been operating for a year, so these things take time.”
As well as growing vertically, the microgreens are grown indoors.
“We are fortunate in terms of climate change. Frost, heat, and flooding - all of which we have experienced this past year - have never affected our growing. We can control the environment, and there is no need for pest control, so we don’t have to use chemicals like pesticides.
“We feel we have future-proofed our business against the effects of climate change by growing indoors. We don’t need to worry about bitter winter nights or scorching hot summers in our insulated grow space.”
The farm is NZGap, Biogro certified organic, and the Browns are continually learning and changing, which they believe is very important.
Much of the Brown’s customer base was affected by the recent lockdowns, as many restaurants were closed or reduced operations.
“Not having any restaurants to sell greens to was difficult, but our home delivery customers increased a lot during the lockdown.”
Despite a chaotic first year, Brown Acres is growing rapidly.
“We would like to see our products in supermarkets nationwide, and we are looking at making health supplements,” concluded Jess.
“We would also like to put some processes in place to become off-grid or solar-powered and expand our growing space to bring in some automated practices.”