For our Tuesday coffee this week, we met Pär Björnson, CEO and founder of the under the radar startup company Node Farm. If you want to have a great morning coffee, start with a great company, that’s the whole trick.
Let’s go down to the beginning, how did you start Node Farm?
Node Farm has a long history. The concept is 3 years old. It was me and my friend, who was living in the US back then, decided to start this concept. We looked into different systems but they are quite pricey, like 1 000 000 SEK for the solution. And that’s when we realized that we need to do it ourselves from the scratch. So we used an old refrigeration container since it can be placed anywhere. But to tell the truth the biggest problem is not the growing solution, but rather the supply chain management. It doesn't matter whether you can produce 500 tons per year if you cannot sell it. As a result, we got a low-tech, low-cost product: we took an old refrigerator container with shelves equipped with fluorescent lighting.
Which plans are you be growing?
We are cultivating microgreens, like crest salad, basil or any herb that a restaurant or end consumers demand.
Why did you decide to go with microgreens?
First of all they have a small size that makes them easier to grow, short lead time time - to 15 days and a big variety to choose from. On top of that, scientists point out that microgreens have 40 times higher density of vitamins compared to the fully grown plants!
How much can you grow in the container?
On these six shelves, we estimate to grow 2,5-3 tons of microgreens per year, and that is a low estimation. The beauty of what we're doing is that we can place these containers anywhere. It is urban agriculture, even though it sounds quite hipsterish and we tend to avoid to fall within this definition. The main is that we will deliver microgreens to our customer that will be locally produced, thus minimizing the CO2 print.
What will be your next step?
Start growing. The first crops will be already in November.
How long are microgreens alive?
Shelf life of microgreens is 7-10 days, depending on how you treat them. They have a shorter life since they are smaller.
Why did you choose Sweden as a launch market?
In Sweden it much easier to develop the product due to eco mindset and due to people that are positively crazy about a healthy lifestyle.
On the other side, we picked up the fight with a general crowd’s understanding of “natural”. What is natural? Is hydroponics natural? Or is it more natural to put a seed into soil topping it with a huge amount of pesticides? I believe that when you put a seed in the ground it is not natural from the beginning. I think people should go down to the definition of the word. Unfortunately, right now we cannot brand our product as ecological or organic, because it is grown without a soil (according to the classification of eco or organic you need to grow the plant in the medium where it is supposed to be grown). But if you look at the whole picture the way how we grow greens, I believe it is more natural and sustainable.
Do you want to say that Swedish and European legislation systems are lagging behind…?
The Swedish legislators are slow as well as the whole sector and industry, including the producers, retailer, and customers. I believe we need a more nuanced discussion about the future of foods, a more forefront approach to the problems that exists, we need everyone from governmental level down to the end consumer working congruent towards sustainable and safe food production in Sweden, and the rest of the world. Either that or a system collapse.
Any last comments?
We are not trying to save the world the first day, we need to run this as a company. My prime in this is to create something that is socially, economically, environmentally sustainable. I'm looking for creative people who have green fingers, love have their hands dirty and share our vision!