Sho Kasuya and his business partner, Tony Ross, sell microgreens in the Garden Room at Grey Lynn Farmers Market on Sunday mornings.
Where did the inspiration for growing microgreens come from?
I was living in London in a one-bedroom apartment with my wife and our toddler when the pandemic began. There were long queues for food and often there was very little fresh food left when I got to the end of the queue. We had nowhere to grow food, but I was determined to find a way to provide nutrient-dense food for my family.
How did you solve that?
I had studied horticulture at school, so I knew how to germinate seeds and grow plants. Microgreens was the obvious solution in such a confined space.
It must have been challenging being in London during the outbreak of the pandemic.
Yes – it was intense. I caught Covid before there was a vaccine and it knocked me hard. I had Long Covid for about six months and I still notice some lingering after-effects. Covid was a big factor in deciding to return home to New Zealand. And of course, when I returned home, I was keen to keep growing microgreens.
What is it about microgreens that is so attractive?
They are nutritionally dense, with some having up to 40 times more nutrients than adult plants. It’s mind-blowing to think that each sprout is a whole plant. We grow a range of varieties offering a range of nutritional profiles and flavours. They are tasty and they fit easily into any diet.
Are your products organic?
Our microgreens are not certified organic but the microgreens are grown in organic soil mixed with coconut coir, and we practice organic growing. Soil gives us a higher yield of better microgreens with bigger, greener leaves than if they are grown hydroponically. We are always tinkering and testing to improve things.
How has the market helped your business?
We have built up a regular following of customers who come back each week. Customers are intrigued to see their food harvested before their eyes – it doesn’t get fresher than that. We love chatting to customers about how we grow our microgreens, and the market values fits well with our personal values.
Tell me more about those shared values
The market has strong community and zero-waste drivers, and so do we. We love how customers bring their clean containers back for a refill. If customers simply return the containers, we commercially compost them and donate 20c/container to Everybody Eats. If we have surplus microgreens left at the end of the market, we donate them to Everybody Eats. And we support Perfectly Imperfect by sometimes bringing along food that they have been given.
What do you do in your spare time?
We don’t really have much of that because Tony has a day job as a project manager for NZ housing Foundation and I am a landscape architect at Boffa Miskell. And we both have pre-schoolers - that doesn’t leave much space for other things.
How did you team up with Tony?
I bumped into Tony while I was searching for growing equipment. Tony was looking for the same stuff so we agreed to collaborate. He had studied permaculture and we found out that we lived close to each other, have kids of similar age, and we share similar values. Our families have grown close as this business has grown.
I often reflect that while a great business was born out of the microgreens, an even greater friendship was born.
Published in Ponsonby News July 2022