A passion for organic food led Stuart to business success with microgreens

A long-term commitment to organic foods led Portadown businessman Stuart Wilson to set up a small enterprise focused on helping more people here experience and enjoy the health benefits of original microgreens grown here.

Stuart’s initiative is benefiting from and contributing to the growing market trend towards plant-based foods which are now prized as wholesome, nutritious and an essential daily requirement especially for supporting the immune system.

“Microgreens are young vegetable greens, leafy, sprouted plants that we grow using conventional techniques in soil with nutrients at our facility near the Co Armagh business hub,” Stuart explains. “Microgreens are usually harvested 7–21 days after germination, once the plant’s first true leaves have emerged.

“Essentially, they are young vegetable greens that fall somewhere between sprouts and baby leaf vegetables. They have an intense and aromatic flavour and a higher concentrated nutrient content than ordinary vegetables and come in a variety of colours and textures.”

Stuart checking his microgreens at the plant in Portadown

The enterprising couple began growing microgreens in their home kitchen before sales and demand from shoppers at food markets for the nutritious packs encouraged them to switch to separate and much bigger premises in Portadown with greater scope for much faster growth. The scale and versatility of microgreens mean that they can be grown in a wide variety of locations, including outdoors, in greenhouses and even on windowsills.

Microgreenway, the small venture he launched during the first coronavirus lockdown with wife Iuliia, a pharmacist from the war-torn Donetsk region of the Ukraine, is now proving an outstanding success at food markets, with delis and greengrocers, health shops and increasingly with larger stores across Northern Ireland.

Customers in the Republic of Ireland are also developing steadily as awareness increases of the many natural benefits of microgreens in terms of richer flavours and greater nutrients of his attractively package and convenient health foods. Stuart plans to focus on measures to boost sales in this much larger marketplace.

Leading chefs here now regularly feature his nutrient rich microgreens in their meals in top hotels and restaurants. And a recent and hugely significant contract with La Rousse Foods, one of Ireland’s leading food distributors has fully justified the move to the new premises. La Rousse is among Ireland’s biggest suppliers of a wide range of foods to hospitality outlets in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Stuart and wife Iuliia Wilson of Microgreenway in Portadown, a specialist in growing healthy microgreens

Stuart pinpointed a business opportunity growing microgreens on his return to Northern Ireland from a period travelling abroad.

“We began our journey in microgreens wanting to provide healthy food for ourselves and it quickly progressed to deciding to try to supply to everyone across Northern Ireland and especially during these times when we need to keep ourselves as healthy as possible,” continues Stuart, who has vast experience in materials handling and warehousing with industry leaders such as Northern Ireland’s Henderson Group in Newtownabbey.

“We were encouraged to develop the small business by family and friends who had experienced our microgreens we had been growing at home for some time. We’ve grown our product range and now supply healthy and nutrient-rich organic microgreens that are bursting with flavours to compliment most dishes. The real treat with microgreens is they’re extremely healthy and are deemed a superfood,” adds Stuart.

The small company, which currently has three people on its payroll and hopes to increase employment soon, markets microgreens all year round. “The current health circumstances with Covid-19 mean it’s more important now to stay healthy during the winter months than ever. People here and in the Republic are steadily becoming more conscious of what they eat and its influence on health. Our microgreens are perfect for this growing awareness among people here and abroad,” Stuart adds.

The ambitious and market-led company has created an impressive portfolio of microgreen mixes grown and packaged at the Co Armagh plant. The range is: Immune Booster - Pea, Red Cabbage, Pink Kale, Broccoli & Beetroot microgreens; Spice Mix - Daikon Radish, China Rose Radish, Mustard, Pok Choi & Mizuna; Fit Mix - Sunflower, Daikon Radish, Fennel, Kale, Alfalfa and Amaranth.

The recently introduced Broccoli Microgreen, Stuart continues, features up to 90 times more nutrients.

“The big game changer is the amount of ‘Sulforaphane’ in the mix, a powerful antioxidant.” Microgreenway, furthermore, supplies other microgreens such as coriander, basil, onion, rocket and has plans to develop many more.

Microgreenway, in addition, is developing a relationship with food nutrition experts at Queen’s University in Belfast on product innovation and longer shelf-life. “While we are exploring opportunities in the Republic and especially around the Dublin region, there’s plenty of scope here too to grow our existing sales,” adds Stuart.

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