Microgreen sustainable farmer supported in the set up of his business with the help of Inspiring Enterprise Portsmouth
Owner of Gaias Utopia, Adam Brown grows herbs and miniature vegetables at his facility in Portsmouth. Claiming to be the first of its kind in the city, the urban farm supplies several local businesses in and around Portsmouth. With the help of WSX Business Advisor Julie Stevenson, he was able to secure a grant to establish his business from local funders and grow his business.
From payments to greens
After running into some difficulties with a previously successful payments processing business due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Adam found himself re-evaluating his life choices,
“I wanted to reach a different audience; I wanted something that my family could be a part of and bring something new to the City of Portsmouth. At the same time, I started to shift my diet away from meat, and instead focused on one made of plants.”
He decided to create plant-based meat to produce a plant-based burger and (rotisserie style) donner kebab to sell to the many take-aways around the town.
“Although the feedback on the product was good, constant taste testing led me to feel lethargic. I was able to put this down to the lack of nutrients. Which had me thinking that plant-based substitute meat is ok in moderation but not what I was looking for daily.”
Still keen to create an alternative source of nutrients from meat, Adam did some groundwork,
“I started researching to find out where the most nutrients were and what the most beneficial food was. A microgreen is pretty much any vegetable that is grown to the size of slightly bigger than cress. It’s harvested when the first two true leaves appear from the seed.”
Still in lockdown at the time, Adam was also keen to get his young children away from the TV. So, he ordered some seeds and grew some with them,
“I quickly noticed that my children took great interest in how the shoots grew. What was interesting to me was that my children ate the vegetables willingly, this was when the idea sparked.”
How the project helped his business grow
Adam needed a cash-injection to get the right equipment and set up his indoor facility. After speaking to his job coach at the job centre, he was put in touch with Julie Stevenson, business advisor for the Inspiring Enterprise Portsmouth project.
“Julie introduced me to grant programmes that ultimately kickstarted the project. During this time, she was also a great ear to share ideas and get valuable feedback.”
With Julie’s help, Adam secured funding from GetSetSolent project which enabled him to set up his facility.
The future for Gaias Utopia
Producing about 200 kilograms of produce per week, Adam’s farm has been developed with a walk-in chiller, fitted out with vertical growing racks and fed by a bespoke hydroponics system. To ensure the seeds get off to the best start and create a longer-lasting crop once harvested, he is using pure, natural spring water. Future plans for growing include a ‘cucamelon’, a plant which resembles a miniature watermelon.
Adam has big plans to scale up and diversify the business while also educating local children on growing sustainable foods,
“Now I’m looking to grow the restaurant aspect of it to supply restaurants and small supermarkets but also eventually work with local schools and bring back the days of growing cress on the windowsill with something a little more modern and fragrant.”
He also wants to give back to the local community,
“I want to create an indoor farm which is in alignment with the WHO 2030/2050 agenda to grow and develop inner city farming that is sustainable.”
Gaiais Utopia has sold some of their produce to a local restaurant – Restaurant 27 in Southsea and Kevin Bingham its owner and Head Chef said of Adam’s microgreens,
“Great taste and colour! The herbs are the freshest we have seen!”
Adam’s top tip for future entrepreneurs
“Just start! Everything else will fall into place. Expect challenges and don’t get put off when they arise.”