Amanda Wood The Micro Greengrocer by Rowenna Hoskin

The Micro Greengrocer bringing vertical farming to Cardiff

Penarth resident’s microgreen business celebrated its one-year anniversary last week

WALKING over the Penarth Road bridge it would be easy to miss the containers tucked around the side of the looming Big Yellow Self-Storage building.  

On a rainy Thursday morning I nearly did just that, but the Curran Embankment Road led me to the silver containers that are home to a multitude of businesses.  

It might be out-of-the-way, but The Micro Greengrocer certainly does not disappoint.  

As I entered through the sliding door, Amanda Wood welcomed me into the future of urban farming.  

The silver shelves housed trays of growing seedlings that would be harvested later that day. 

Ranging from Basil, Broccoli, China Rose, Coriander, Fenugreek, Radish Rambo, Wheatgrass, Sunflower, Tendril Pea – the seedlings provided bright colours to the otherwise grey walls of the container.  

Amanda Wood by her microgreens | Photo by Rowenna Hoskin

Microgreen seeds can be grown in a very small space efficiently. The seeds grow within five to 10 days, from seedlings to harvest. 

Pop music filled the room, while LED lights, a dehumidifier and a fan provide a controlled clean environment to promote growth.  

As we sat down to talk about her journey so far, Ms Wood’s passion for growing nutritious food was evident.  

She explained that although microgreens have typically been a very specialist gourmet food popularised by chefs, she wanted to change this.  

“I’m trying to make my greens less fancy and more functional. I want to make them for everyday consumption,” she said. 

Ms Wood looked around the container and gestured to the seedlings she has been growing, “When I was a kid I grew cress, and I was given a shed for my 13th birthday,” she laughed.  

“I’m just doing what I’ve always loved as a job, going back to my roots.” 

Coriander | Photo by Rowenna Hoskin

Her business began when she moved to Penarth to be with her partner after she was suffering from Long Covid during the first Lockdown.  

Working from home as a teacher, she started growing microgreens on the windowsills. 

Through Ms Wood’s hard work and a little bit of luck, she turned her passion into a flourishing business. 

After quitting her job, she was looking to do something completely different.  

“I saw an advert from Business Wales saying – are you wanting to start your own business? Well, Yes! Do you need some help? Yes!  

“I’m new here, I don’t know Wales. I don’t even know the town I live in.  

“So, I contacted them and they were there straight from the start, helping me with my business plan.” 

Through Business Wales she was then introduced to Purple Shoots, which is a community organisation that lends money to start ups and help set up community-based self-reliant groups.  

Radish Rambo | Photo by Rowenna Hoskin

“So, I got to work transforming the back room into a vertical farm and testing my idea out. It took me a whole year.” 

The breakthrough for Ms Wood was when she started doing farmers’ markets as it allowed her to create a loyal customer base.  

Aberystwyth University then offered Ms Wood a place to study Controlled Environment Agriculture for free.  

“What I learnt blew my mind. I didn’t realise that something that came so intuitively to me to grow microgreens as a solution, actually is the tip of the iceberg,” she said.  

“This is small scale in comparison to huge vertical farms across the globe,” she said, as she gestured to her shelves of seedlings.  

“Empty warehouses can be filled with vertical farming. It should become the norm, there’s just so much potential to urban farming like this.” 

After studying the course, Ms Wood said that her business was transformed.  

“I feel a real need now to make people aware of what we can all be doing. Buying local, buy organic, cutting down the supply chains.” 

Ms Wood says that microgreens are a mechanism that brings people together and encourages discussion about the environment, nutrition and supply systems.  

“The whole process of growing them is brilliant for your mental health, – touching compost and breathing it in – the natural bacteria is really good for promoting serotonin as well as the nutritional benefits of growing microgreens.” 

The Micro Greengrocer celebrated its first birthday last week and the public were able to plant their own seedlings.

Each strand of the business has been focused on a community initiative: each customer who buys weekly gets to donate a pack of seeds to a community gardening group, each restaurant gets to donate a punnet of microgreens to a community food bank/pantry/fridge, and Ms Wood collects for Pedal Power at the farmers’ markets. 

Now Ms Wood intends to expand these community foundations into other social organisations, one of which is the The Penarth Food Festival.  

Beginning on February 17 at Victoria Primary School, Year 3 and 5 pupils will be able to sow their own seeds. They will then be able to sell to family and friends to raise money for their school’s garden fund.  

“It has been an incredible year with lots of highs and lows, however the lows have offered opportunities to think outside the box and I’ve been able to adapt quickly for the benefit of my customers and businesses,” she smiled. 

“I’m looking forward to the coming year as we have lots of new initiatives to support the local community, from workshops and activities to training.”