Ecobain Gardens is not your typical family farm.
I couldn’t agree more after talking with Brian, the inspiration behind Ecobain Gardens in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Brian grew up with an interest in horticultural. In fact, his first garden was on his apartment patio. Pair a love for growing food, with entrepreneurial drive and a desire to step outside the box and you get Ecobain Gardens, a hydroponic vertical farming operation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
“Hydroponic Vertical Urban Farming. That is a mouthful.” I said to Brian.
“I wanted to do something that no one else was doing in the market, to create something that wasn’t there. In Saskatchewan, eight months of the year we cannot grow produce. Starting around November/December most of what is available in the marketplace for fruits and vegetables is grown in California, or Mexico. I thought fresh produce should be available year round, so I decided to figure out how to make it a reality.”
Brian and I went on to talk about why hydroponic vertical farming is important, what most people don’t know about microgreens, and what’s next for Ecobain Gardens. Here are the highlights from our interview.
Photo: Brian and Roberta Bain. The inspiration behind Ecobain Gardens.
A: Can you tell me a little bit more about hydroponic vertical urban farming, how does it work?
Brian: First of all, we grow indoors which means we can grow year round, and second, it is a controlled environment so we can minimize waste, and conserve water. The water we use is captured and recycled through our system; it is not lost to ground water as is the normal process in commercial farming.
We also grow vertically, which is a big space saver and an important part of growing in urban spaces. If you were to walk into our growing space, you would see long 12 x 7 foot wide trays, stacked on top of each other. The trays are filled with micro-greens. In a one month period we can produce 2000 lbs when running at maximum capacity of microgreens in 550 square feet of indoor growing space and we are harvesting every week.
A: I’m curious what is going on in this photograph.
Brian: We often get asked about this photograph of animals munching on the roots of our microgreens. It was taken on a nearby farm outside Saskatoon. Minimizing waste is very important to us, so when we harvest our microgreens, we’re left with about a 1 inch thick root mass. Rather than throwing it away we connected with a farmer who uses it as feed for his pigs and cows.
A: I’m sure most people are curious to know more about your microgreens. What are they exactly?
Brian: Basically they are tiny versions of your traditional vegetables. We grow them from organic certified seed using only triple purified water. The process is clean, efficient, and does not require any fertilizer. The first leaf to sprout is called the cotyledon, and it holds all the nutrients the plant needs to grow. From seed to harvest, our speckled pea and purple daikon radish microgreens are ready to eat in about 10 days.
A lot of our customers buy our microgreens because they very nutritious. In fact, a study out of the University of Maryland in 2012, looked at 25 varieties of microgreens and found that they contained four to forty times more nutrients than the mature vegetables themselves.
Photo: Ecobain Gardens Mustard Greens.
A: They look delicious and they’re good for you – it’s a win-win! Do you have any secrets as to the best way to enjoy your microgreens?
Brian: I always tell people, when they buy our microgreens for the first time, open the package and just try it. They taste like full grown vegetables. Our speckled peas microgreens taste just like a snap pea fresh from the garden, and our purple daikon radish greens have the punch and spice of a full grown radish. It’s incredible!
The joy is, you don’t have to prepare them at all. You can add them to your favourite dishes to punch up the flavour: soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, or hash browns. Really, you can add them to anything, put them in your pasta dishes, stir-frys, tacos, add them to your smoothies or baby food, or when you’re juicing. There are endless possibilities.
A: It is exciting to hear about new growing methods that are being used in urban spaces, and it increases accessibility to fresh produce for urban dwellers year round! Where can shoppers find Ecobain microgreens?
Brian: Our micro greens are available at Saskatoon Co-op, Dad’s Organic Market, Good Food Junction, Steep Hill Co-op and Supervalue outside of Saskatoon. They are also available for order through the Chep Good Food Box. You can find a list of all the locations for our microgreens on our website: ecobaingardens.ca
A: Before I let you go, can you share with us what’s next on the agenda for Ecobain Gardens?
Brian: We’re excited to share that we are working on expanding into Alberta and Manitoba, which means more people will soon be able to enjoy our microgreens. We also have some new products in the works which I can’t say too much about just yet but keep your eyes peeled. You can connect with us on facebook, twitter and instagram for the latest news or visit us at ecobaingardens.ca.