You might ask yourself: “why is crop planning so important”? Well, if you’ve got 3 customers and 2 crops with similar growth cycles and only one harvest each week, you can probably work stuff out in your head pretty easily. But with 25, 50, or 100 customers; 8 to 25 crops with varying lifecycles, 32 to 150 cut and live products, and 2 to 3 harvests each week – it takes a lot more coordination!
A good crop planner helps you manage customers, products, orders, and crop production tasks such as soaking, sowing, and uncovering your crops – oh, and harvesting, of course – so you can run a successful business, and have some down time.
As your business grows crop planning inevitably becomes an important organizational tool. But how so? Read below to learn more about the art of crop planning.
There are five main things to consider with crop planning:
- Waste management and lost sales
- Order management
- Crop production management
- Order fulfillment (turning crops into products and getting them to your customers!)
- Financial projections
But before digging into these, let’s take a very quick look at the principles of crop planning.
In short: crop planning is the art and science of counting backwards from a set harvest date to determine soaking, sowing, and uncover dates for your microgreens crops. How much of each crop you sow is determined by your crop yields, product sizes, and customer orders.
Crops have two important metrics to consider: yield and days to maturity (DTM). Products also have two important metrics: an associated crop (or crops, for blends) and sizes (in weight). So when customers place an order for products, that order determines how much of each crop to grow to provide those products. Your harvest date and crops’ DTM determine your soaking and sowing, and uncovering dates for those crops. And how much of each product you sell determines your business’s revenue.
That’s it! (though, to read about crop planning in a bit more detail, see our Principles of Crop Planning blog post here: t.ly/QVZE).
So now let’s look at our above points within this context.
1. Waste Management and Lost Sales
How are waste management and lost sales related?! It’s simple: sowing too much crop can result in wasted product while sowing too little crop results in lost sales. Ideally, you want to sow just enough of each crop to meet your product needs. Now, ideally, “just enough” crop is a little more than you need (to avoid losing sales) and gives you a buffer in case of crop failures or lower than expected yields. With accurate crop data, you can easily determine your ideal crop needs for each harvest. End up with a bit of extra crop? Perfect! take some home, solicit new customers with samples, or give your existing customers some new products to try out.
2. Order Management
An order has at least seven components:
- Harvest/delivery date
- Product(s) – including size
- Product quantities
- Product pricing
- Order frequency (e.g., one-time; weekly; bi-weekly)
- Order end date (until end of year)
And an order can change, the most common changes being:
- Changing products (e.g., additions or deletions)
- Changing product quantities (e.g., more or less of a product)
- Canceling an order
As you can see – this is already a lot to manage! This is where a good crop planning tool comes in handy!
(oh, wondering about other order components? Well: delivery instructions, invoicing, discounts, tray deposits, and more!)
3. Crop Production Management
Your orders, and their corresponding products determine how much of each crop needs to be sowed. Your crop characteristics and your harvest date determine:
- How much crop to sow (based on crop yield relative to product needs)
- When to soak seed for a crop (if needed)
- When to sow seed for a crop (determined by soak time, sometimes overnight)
- When to uncover a crop (remove from germination cycle and put into the light)
- When to harvest
Keep in mind, you pay for each tray of crop you sow in seeds, soil, labour, and space. So growing crops you don’t need means incurring unnecessary expenses.
4. Order Fulfillment
Order fulfillment means turning crops into products and getting them to your customers! This means cutting crops and packing them into the numbers and sizes of each product your customers require – as determined by their orders. You want your customers and your products well organized to make packing and delivering a breeze.
5. Financial Projections and Reports
Having a good crop plan gives you the capacity to generate real-time and projected revenues. This helps you manage your day to day finances as well as plan for the future. In fact, you can benefit from creating a projected crop plan at the beginning of each year based on your expected sales or your sales goals. This will help you stay on target
So, hopefully with all that you better understand why crop planning is so important! And while it may not seem important yet, if you business is growing, it will become important soon!