Let’s look at some important principles of crop planning to help set a strong foundation for us to work with in coming tutorials and blog posts.

While I will assume you know enough about microgreens production to even be considering looking at crop planning, let’s start with an overview of the growing process.

Let’s assume a simple model where microgreens are grown in trays of soil. A common tray is a 10″ x 20″ plastic tray, so we will assume all our crops are grown in this size tray.

Microgreens growing basically has three stages:

  1. Germination stage, where the crop is covered, with weight, and in the dark during the first portion of its life cycle
    • Seeds are either soaked to induce germination before sowing or simply sowed dry, depending on the crop
    • Most seeds can be soaked and sowed in the same day, though some seeds need a longer soak, often overnight.
  2. Growing Stage, where the crop is exposed to light and photosynthesizing.
  3. Harvest Stage, where the crop is harvested and packaged for sale, or sold live

Some people have an intermediary stage where the crop remains covered, without weight, but we’re going to ignore that for now.

Now that you are an export grower, let’s look at the general idea of crop planning, which is quite simple:

  • You count backward from a set/expected harvest date, using a crop’s days to maturity (DTM), to determine your seed soaking and sowing date.
    • If your crop seed requires an overnight soak, your DTM is from soaking to harvest and your sowing date is your soaking date plus one
  • You then count forward from your sowing date, using your days to germination (DTG), to determine your uncover date.

The set harvest date is important – you don’t want to be moving your harvest around from week to week. Set your harvest date(s) and leave it at that!

Now that you’re an expert on the basics of crop planning, let’s look at the elements required for effective crop planning.

First, you need crops. Each crop must have:

  1. A unique name (more about this later)
  2. Sowing rate (g of seed/tray)
  3. Expected yield (by weight)
  4. Days to maturity (DTM) from soaking seed
  5. Days to germination (DTG) from soaking seed

If your crop does not require a seed soaking stage then the DTM and DTG are from sowing. For the sake of calculations I just consider that my sowing stage of such seed is also the soaking stage – but no need to get into that in too much detail here.

If you also have a crop’s sowing rate you can calculate seed costs per sowing, but this is not required for basic crop planning as it does not affect our soaking, sowing, or harvest dates..

Second, you need products. Products are distinct from crops in that you grow a crop and you sell a product. A crop and product can be the same thing: you can grow a tray of wheatgrass and then sell that tray of wheatgrass. But growers often cut and package their crops as products.

A product must have three specific attributes:

  1. A unique name
  2. An associated crop
  3. A weight, so we know how much of the crop needs to be allocated to that product.

In the Crop and Financial Planning Spreadsheet, the Crop and Product are essentially combined into one. Take a look at it here.

You will notice there is more information there than is discussed here. This is because the Crop Planner also takes into consideration production expenses. We’ll cover that later.

Third, you need customers. This is who you are growing these crops and packaging these products for.

At a basic level a customer only needs a unique name, but two other attributes can also be useful:

  1. Pricing, you might have wholesale and retail customers with different pricing
  2. Type, customers an be restaurants, growers, farmers, markets, CSAs, etc. Adding this attribute gives you the ability to analyze your sales by customer type
  3. Route, if you have multiple delivery routes you may want to assign a specific route to each customer for easier delivery planning

Of course, you can also store other customer data, such as address and phone number, but these are not required for any calculations. Here is the customer page on the Crop Planner.

Fourth, you need orders which come from customers. This will determine how much crop you need to grow. An order consists of:

  1. Customer
  2. Product(s) and product quantities
  3. Harvest date

By adding product price you can easily determine the value of an order, but it is not required for crop planning.

You can also determine if an order occurs just once or if it repeats, as in a standing order, and when it repeats if it is weekly, bi-weekly, etc.

Here is the Orders page on the Crop Planner. Prepare yourself – it’s very big!

  1. Thus, you must have five specific elements, at minimum, to do crop production calculations:
    1. Crop, with:
      • Unique name
      • Sowing Rate
      • Expected Yield
      • Days to maturity (DTM)
      • Days to germination (DTG)
    2. Product, with:
      • Unique name
      • Associated crop
      • Weight
    3. Harvest date
    4. Customer
    5. Order, which consists of:
      1. Customer
      2. Product(s) and product quantities
      3. A harvest date

Does this all seem a bit confusing? Well, fair enough – it is a lot of information! But once it is in spreadsheet or table form it is much easier to manage.

In the next blog post we’ll use these principles to walk you through an example to show you these elements in action. Then in future posts we’ll look at each element individually



Octav · August 24, 2021 at 3:25 pm

Damn, now that’s in depth! Amazing work Chris!

    Chris Thoreau · August 24, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks! Hope you’re well. How are things going with the Crop Planner and business in general?

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