by Federico Ronca - 25/02/2019 - 14:53

Alan is one of our community members that have been exhibiting at the Foodtech Pop-up in Söderhallarna last December. His passion? Growing special microgreens, even some species you don’t actually think that exist. His target? Mainly chefs and restaurants. If you want to know how he does that, please meet… Microgreens Stockholm!

Who is Alan Koliji?

My name is Alan and I am the founder of Microgreens Stockholm. My background is in Ecology with some entrepreneurship spirit. A long time ago I was studying computer software while spending most of my time in the natural bird watching. After I got my degree I decided to change my field to Ecology where I could work with what I was really passionate about. The same interest pushed me forward to move to Sweden to attend the master program in Biodiversity & Conservation.

In the past 15 years, I was working with projects related to sustainability and wildlife conservation around the world, from big cats in the Middle East to fish in Africa and the Swedish west coast. The past few years in Sweden, I worked in academia while venturing a little into business development and I managed to develop two small businesses related to the food industry. About two years ago when things at my work got simple and boring and I saw no room for improvement, I decided to quit my job, I knew that I would be capable of having a bigger impact on the world, rather than staying in the office. I applied for some jobs that I really liked but I couldn’t get them. I decided to combine my experiences in the kitchen with my knowledge of sustainability and indoor growing and see where it goes. I grew some crops and presented them to local restaurants. They loved it and my indoor vertical farm developed and became a business.

What is Microgreens?

Microgreens Stockholm is an indoor vertical farm. The company tries to use unused spaces in building complexes where there’s already heating. The operation is pretty sustainable and I try to be as sustainable as it gets. I avoid selling in plastic packages, reuse many of the materials and try to manage the waste in sustainable ways.

The company has two main areas of activities. First is the production of high-quality crops. I grow what I have been asked for, therefore my customers can ask for a specific variety that has been grown exactly in the way that they want. I grow my crops in many different conditions to find the most suitable one and learn about their needs and behaviors.

The second area of the business is focusing on facilitating private individuals and businesses to grow their own crops. I like to fill in this gap by providing accessible solutions from small growing kits to larger vertical farms. Most materials that I use to build growing kits and farms have been produced in Sweden. Nothing super expensive or fancy but rather practical. I like to see more people growing their own food rather than seeing a few growing in a fancy farm.

What’s the best thing that happened to Microgreens so far?

The whole thing was an amazing journey and I can’t specifically point out one event as a great thing that happened to me. Especially since I am still a young company. I would say being introduced to people who share the same values as me is a great thing and my clients who always push me forward. For sure one of the greatest things that happened to me is when I present my product to my clients and they say: “wow, we love it”. This is really nice especially when you hear it from highly respected and experienced chefs.

Why do you think this is now the time?

The consequences of climate change are already affecting millions. The population increases rapidly and the technological achievements made it much easier to grow in vertical farms under artificial light. All these together tells us that now is time to cut the unnecessary carbon emission related to food, such as transport and in local scale even packaging. I believe making this happen is no rocket science but rather needs a bit of initiative from individuals and support from authorities. I think I am pretty lucky to live in Stockholm, the green capital of Europe, where many are caring about suitability and living in a greener city.

Your message to the world:

Believe in what you are doing, dream about it, and dream big. Then it’s just a matter of realizing that dream. I believe that part would come with passion, hard work and discipline.