Organic food app Garden Genie wins Auckland Startup Weekend

Organic food app Garden Genie wins Auckland Startup Weekend

The Garden Genie team, creators of an app designed to get people growing organic produce, got its wish by winning the latest Auckland Startup Weekend.

The app concept is designed to simplify the process by sending instructions and reminders to users' smartphones and brings together a group of suppliers in an e-commerce site.

Team leader Jennifer Clamp's day job is growth programme specialist at Auckland's economic development agency ATEED.

The seeds of the idea were sown during a sabbatical from a previous role at insurance firm Vero. During that time she thought about her values and what was most important to her.

"I love tasty food and I really care about the environment, and family and community has always been really important to me," she says. "Growing your own food is something you can do with your family and you can do it in a way that's sustainable and be self sufficient.

"I've tried to grow my own garden myself but I felt I had all the problems of too little knowledge and time: the problems customers we interviewed cited. There was so much information and you get so much conflicting advice. There are so many components to consider, like how to sow the garden and fertilise it, where to plant, caring for the soil and companion planting. It was quite overwhelming."

Clamp was joined at the Startup Weekend by six other team members and they developed a working prototype of the app for Windows Phone. They plan to develop it as a free app for Android and iOS devices.

It will send personalised suggestions on how to sow seeds, fertilise plants and track watering, and connect users to local organic suppliers of seeds, fertilisers and more.

The team plans to build a community around the app so users can crowdsource advice for specific gardening problems, says Clamp.

It also wants to develop a subscription service so users can order everything they need for a season instead of buying items one by one. The team plans to make a margin on suppliers' products and has identified a customer relationship management system to integrate with the app, that can be used by participating suppliers to help with orders and stock management.

It also wants to integrate with other systems used by suppliers, Clamp says.

A video about Garden Genie has been made as an entry in the Global Startup Battle, where it will compete against other entrepreneurs to get the most votes for the entry.

Eighty entrepreneurs entered the Startup Weekend, forming 11 teams.

The team won a startup law pack, mentoring at Massey University's ecentre, an accounting package from Xero, Trade Me advertising and ten days at the Biz Dojo.

The Startup Weekend runner up was Pop Up Parking, which aims to link drivers with parking space owners.

The judges were Vend CEO Vaughan Rowsell, Trigger Happy CEO Shona Grundy, Lighting Lab accelerator mentor Dan Khan and New Zealand Home Loans chairman Neil Richardson.

Image: Janine Barr