18 July 2022

Farm Visit: Nexgarden Farms

In June, Portland Farmers Market staff were invited to tour the tech-enabled agricultural local business, Nexgarden Farms.

Cofounded, owned and operated by inventors/entrepreneurs Skyler Pearson and Hugh Neri, Nexgarden Farms has been part of the PFM community since 2020.

Nexgarden grows microgreens (mustard, red mizuna, green mizuna, arugula, radish, red kale, red cabbage, pak choi, broccoli, black oil sunflower, and dwarf sugar snap pea) in their indoor vertical farm located in Portland’s South Waterfront. These greens are raised to the exact age and size to maximize taste and texture. They then are harvested, mixed into the Nexgarden signature blends and sold at PSU and King Farmers Markets.

What makes these microgreens so unique is how they are grown and the farm’s backstory…

Nexgarden’s farming methods are sustainable and transparent, utilizing an aeroponics system to grow year-round using minimal resources. Aeroponics, different than hydroponics, involves exposing roots to the air and spraying them with a nutrient-rich solution. Their system uses 99% less water than a traditional outdoor farm would due to its ability to recirculate the water. The only water loss is through evapotranspiration from the leaves of the plant. Since this system is so effective and efficient in delivering nutrients to the plant roots, Nexgarden only uses a third of the fertilizer that an outdoor farm would use and no pesticides.

Minimizing waste within their farm is a priority, from composing their grow medium to repurposing old tools, equipment and building materials. Their primary waste is the grow medium; however, it is made from pineapple skins that they can compost. Hugh and Skyler built their farm from repurposed and upcycled materials found on craigslist and utilized YouTube tutorial videos to learn how to construct various aspects of their facility.

Skyler and Hugh met at Portland State University around 2017. Nexgarden’s concept for a high-efficiency vertical indoor farm to address food insecurity and climate change first sprouted that same year when they entered a PSU intra-school competition. They placed second with their sustainably-minded business idea and advanced to the Invent Oregon competition. In preparation for the Invent Oregon competition, they continued to refine their business plan and the farm prototype with the assistance of workshops and the help of mentors and professionals. Skyler and Hugh took first place in the contest and decided to use their winnings to start their business and develop a patent. And Nexgarden has been evolving and growing ever since!

Skyler says having a presence at PSU Farmers Market is extremely valuable because it allows them to connect with the community directly, provide nutrition education on their products and continue their livelihood. Plus, they love connecting with other farmers, sharing resources, and being a part of the local food production community!

In addition to the farmers markets, Nexgarden microgreens are available at local grocery stores like Rubinette Produce at Providore Market, People’s Food Co-op, Green Zebra and Food Front Cooperative Grocery.

Thank you to Skyler for providing a farm tour to the PFM staff. What Skyler and Hugh have built is awesome and an inspiration – we can’t wait to see where they take Nexgarden Farms in the future!

Check out Nexgarden Farms at PSU Farmers Market, Saturdays 8:30 am – 2 pm and King Farmers Market, Sundays 10 am – 2 pm.