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With Seeds, Cheap Doesn't Mean Unimportant

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

As a vertical farmer, you are growing plants that you will sell to customers. It seems obvious to me that the seeds are important. They turn into the plants you are going to sell. But often times, seeds are the last thing that my clients think about. By the time they're talking to me they are tired of making important decisions and want my help in selecting seeds for their system.

For a long time, I didn't understand why growers didn't care about the seeds they were planting. If one seed could increase the profitability of their farm, why wouldn't they take the time to select the best seed for their operation? I repeated this question a lot. I developed a four-part training program on why seeds are important. But I was tone deaf to my audience. I didn't take the time to understand why they needed my training program at all.

Then one day it clicked. After working with growers, I've figured out the disconnect. It all comes down to dollars and cents. Seeds are overlooked because they are relatively cheap, especially when you are starting out. The big startup costs are the building, the vertical farm equipment, and your team. These systems cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up. And that first seed purchase is a few hundred dollars, maybe a few thousand. On the grand scheme of things, it is very small.

The lights need to be right because you can't change them next month. But the seeds you plant, and if they don't perform well you can try something different in the future. The sunk cost is so low that people think that seeds aren't important.

Value not cost

When purchasing seeds, you are not just looking at the cost of the seeds, but rather you need to focus on the value of the plant that comes from those seeds. Some seeds might have a higher yield in your system. Increasing the head weight could increase your profit, without increasing your costs.

Maybe maximizing yield isn't the top priority. Maybe you work with chefs that crave unique produce year round to help distinguish their restaurant. In this case, planting a high-value red vein sorrel seed enables you to impress your chef friend, and sell her a higher priced product instead of standard mixed-greens.

Seeds are not the most expensive input in your system. We all know that labor and energy costs are the most difficult to grapple with. But your system can increase your profitability when managed correctly. That is why seeds are important.

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