If the seed sprouting business sounds good to you, but you'd rather get into it on a "turnkey" basis instead of all by yourself alone, then you should know about an operation in Iowa that will sell you commercial sprouting equipment.
Sunsprout Systems, Inc. is headed up by a fellow named Marcus Lehrman. He has been growing bean and seed sprouts in commercial quantities since 1971. He also holds a degree in food service administration, has been a professional natural foods chef and food service administrator for over eight years, has directed large natural food kitchens in Europe, and has been instrumental in the establishment of the first all-natural "fast food" chain of restaurants in California.
Anyway, Mr. Lehrman and a few other natural-food freaks got together out in Fairfield, Iowa some months back and decided that what North America really needs right now is a federation of independent businessmen and -women scattered across the continent, all growing and marketing sprouts for human consumption in his or her small area under standardized conditions and with "state of the art" equipment.
After quite a bit of experimentation, the group came up with a system of trays, automatic sprinklers, grow lights, and other miscellaneous hardware all blended together into about as nearly an automated sprout production setup as you're likely to find anywhere for a packaged price of approximately $1,500. (That's for the basic automated sprout production system. Anyone planning to go into business with a Sunsprout setup should add housing, storage, refrigeration, transportation and other operating expenses to that base price.)
MOTHER EARTH NEWS recently purchased, assembled, and then tested one of these $1,500 packages and was favorably impressed by the thought that has gone into it, its ease of operation, and its flexibility. The MOTHER EARTH NEWS employees who talked to and worked with Sunsprout representatives also found those representatives to be trustworthy, honest, and a pleasure to deal with. On top of that, some of the Sunsprout engineering ideas (the company's novel and extremely low-cost method of final washing and drying each batch of sprouts, for instance) is nothing if not downright ingenious. And the firm does seem sincere about building and supporting a federation of independent businesspeople under the Sunsprout banner.
Are there any negatives to this deal? Not really, as far as we know. As already mentioned, anyone going into business with a Sunsprout system will probably wind up spending more than $1,500 before he or she is really established, but the Sunsprout people point this fact out themselves. And the setup does tend to put a lot more water into the air (in the form of a fine mist) than a homegrown sprouting system—which may or may not be a problem if you want to install one of the prefabbed setups in a wooden structure that might be damaged by too much humidity.
Other than that, the Sunsprout method of producing sprouts faces the same problems—temperature control, purity of water, etc.—faced by any other sprouting system. If anything, Sunsprout may come out a little ahead on marketing ideas and assistance that increasingly seem
to be feeding back and forth from the Fairfield home office out to purchasers of the company's equipment and back again—marketing ideas and assistance that a "lone sprouter" will have to figure out for him- or herself. You pays your money and you takes your choice: $1 ,000 for a do-it-yourself operation, or $1,500 for Sunsprout's prefabbed installation. There are advantages both ways.