Seeding Problem Solved!
In 2017 we were run off our feet.
We'd been settled at our new farm for less than a year and just barely worked out the kinks of adapting our microgreen operation to our new greenhouse space. We foolishly thought that expanding into vegetable seedling production was an opportunity to make a bit of extra money. We took on new systems and more employees and while it may have been a financial success, it sucked all of our extra time and energy leaving us all just shells of our former selves.
However, it is out of great adversity that great ideas are born. This is one of THOSE stories!
We had grown our microgreen business to the point that we were using two automated seeding machines to seed microgreens three days per week. We had the Blackmore seeder for our BASIC microgreens and the Old-Mill precision seeder for our more DELICATE microgreens and also for the NEW seedling production. We had become reliant on the efficiency of having machines do the work so going back to the “time and labor dense” cup-planting method was not an option for our operation. Both machines had been acting up, as machines do, but the Old Mill Seeder gave-up on us for good while we were planting vegetable seeds to grow into seedlings to sell to our customers. Gulp!
We were stuck waiting MONTHS for parts for the Old Mill Seeder, and we had no backup machine so production ground to a halt. Tamas was faced with buying a new machine, which would eat up all of our profits, and potentially also break, OR get creative about finding a new way. A new, more reliable, simpler way of re-creating the seeding power of a machine but with the reliability of a hand tool. This was the moment that “The Efficient Farmer Seeder” was born.
With “The Seeder” just a concept, we looked at getting it made for us, and while cost was prohibitive, we found a way to print our own parts on a 3D printer to test the concept. At first, we printed the body/hopper of the seeder and quickly realized that it was more economical to have the acrylic bodies manufactured for us and to 3D print the more proprietary parts like the handle and the seed-specific cylinders ourselves. This process of learning about manufacturing was very educational and a sharp transition from growing and selling microgreens.
The process sounds like it just took a few weeks to mobilize but realistically, working 7 days a week in our microgreen operation, we had little time to dedicate to developing a brand new business so we just kept inventing new tools and using them daily, testing them and tweaking them. Approximately two years of R&D later, we were finally able to put all of our energy into the “Efficient Farmer” and get it out to a wider audience.
The good news is that the seeder is well tested by many hands-on our very busy farm. We have trained multiple people to seed microgreens with it over the years that we were using it daily and found that the concept is very simple and intuitive. It takes a fraction of the time to seed the same number of trays as by hand and the speed increases with smaller seeds. The clear acrylic body makes it easy to see how much seed you’re dropping onto the tray with each pass and density is simply increased by turning the handle more times per tray. No more seed-weighing and hand-spreading necessary, no more clumping seed or seed-free zones. We usually recommend covering the seed with something like vermiculite to ensure proper germination and "The Topcoater" accomplishes this in a matter of seconds.
Watch the comparison video below to see Tamas (with seeder) vs. Sandra (by hand) seeding nine trays of Speckled Pea.
That was only nine trays! Imagine those time savings multiplied by 10 or 50 over a regular planting day. Changing in and out the seeding cylinders is so quick that changing from one seed size to another is painless.
Our hope is that other microgreen growers will see how to easily take their business to the next level using The Seeder, without the costs of expensive finicky machines or need to hire more labor.
Grow Smarter with Efficient Farmer.