If there's one thing I've learned over the past 8 months, it's that planning is probably one of the most important things when it comes to growing crops for sale. Now, I already knew that planning was important, but the scale of planning is what caught me off guard.
I come from an IT and development background, so planning and estimating is nothing new. With dev work though, things move quickly and planning goes something like this:
- Figure out what you're doing for the quarter (~ 3 months)
- Break that down into specific features
- Break a feature into various stories and tasks, then pick an appropriate amount of work that can be completed in a sprint (~1 - 2 weeks)
- Throw the rest in a backlog to review at the end of the current sprint
- Start working and repeat steps 3-4
Note the duration. Generally, the largest amount of time we take into account is about 3 months, and most of our actual planning and execution happens on a weekly basis. This is because things can change so much over the course of a sprint or two that planning specifics more than a couple months out is a waste of time and doesn't make sense.
However, on the agriculture side, growing crops happens over seasons and you not only have to think about what's going to be planted, but when and where you're going to plant as well. And this is just crops - it doesn't take into consideration any other enterprises, equipment replacement, new projects, etc.
So now, planning means figuring out what crops you're going to grow over the course of the year, which beds are going to be used for a specific crop, and how much seed is required to fill the grow space. Then you have to look at how long the crop's going to be in the ground, what you want to grow in the space after that, and figure out when the new crops need to be planted ahead of time so they're ready to transplant as soon as the old crops are harvested.
Also, since we're dealing with living organisms, you have to account for nutrient levels and know when to apply different fertilizers, compost, etc. This also means having things ready to deal with pests ahead of time, because it's not ideal to start with nothing, realize you're crops are infested with X, then have to order something, wait for it to arrive, and then apply it.
In general, this means that the minimum amount of time you're planning for is a year - 26x longer than what I typically account for! It's no surprise that I had a lot of wasted space and down time my first go-around. Things don't flow too smoothly when you look at what you want to plant on a given week, wait until it's almost harvest time, and then figure out what's next.
On the bright side, it was a little easier dealing with microgreens, since their turnaround is a little over a week, which is much closer to what I'm used to dealing with. That being said, I'm looking forward to October and putting together an actual crop plan for 2024 instead of my "fly by the seat of my pants" method that was taken this year!