In comparison to last year, many things have changed at InstaGreen. “Not only in relation to what we do but also as a team,” says Anneke Stolk, co-founder of InstaGreen. The Barcelona-based startup originally started as a microgreens farm, delivering greens to multiple well-known restaurants and caterers in the city. Due to the pandemic, these clients had to temporarily close, farm production decreased and the business model pivoted.
“We’re essentially back to our basics as founders and engineers. Given my origin is in industrial design engineering, I really missed that part once our farm was up and running successfully. Before the pandemic, most of our efforts were put into farming. However, you cannot change that on the spot because there’s simply too much to do.”
Anneke (left) during a training at the InstaGreen farm
"Because of the pandemic, many clients had to temporarily close which resulted in using our spare time with prioritizing our ‘wish list’. When starting our own business years ago, we didn’t find suitable cultivation systems for small to medium-sized local farms. So, we went on to design and make our own,” Anneke affirms.
Even before the pandemic, the company had seen a growing interest in its knowledge and systems, but the InstaGreen team had difficulty finding the time to help others due to the many other time-consuming farm processes. They used the lockdown as an opportunity to finally work on adapting our systems so that they could produce them in series for other farmers too. They now have 2 types of cultivation systems available: a standard density with 6 layers and a high density with 8, both with automatic irrigation and LED lighting for microgreens.
Anneke and Remko also started educating people via their business courses. Interest was seen from people from all over the world who are either beginning farmers or existing farmers who want to expand their product range with microgreens.
Therefore, co-founders Anneke and Remko are now heavily investing in these courses and they’re enjoying it to the fullest. Training is mostly done online to reach as many people as possible. However, some courses were held physically on their farm in Barcelona and they now also travel to the (starting) farms to help entrepreneurs on site. “It’s very rewarding to teach people how to start their own farm and help them to not make mistakes we and others already made,” Anneke says. Internationally, they’ve been training over 30 people so far.
Anneke Stolk and Remko Dirkmaat
“By starting our own business we’ve experienced every process, growing locally and on a small to medium scale," she adds. Throughout the course, all these things are elaborated on. From growing microgreens, discussing microgreens nutrient levels, to setting up and running a facility in a big city, the cultivation systems of InstaGreen, growing locally, to the economics of running a successful business and much more.
Helping underdeveloped areas
Besides training courses and developing the InstaGreen cultivation systems for other farms, InstaGreen is looking into collaborating with NGOs to battle hidden hunger, where people do not get sufficient nutrients on a daily basis. “A large portion can be solved with microgreens as these include a big dose of adequate nutrients. We want to explore the potential of growing nutrient-dense microgreens in underdeveloped areas through hydroponics, using a minimal amount of water,” says Anneke.