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The Backyard Revolution

PicMonkey Collage(31)Perennial Harvest CEO Stuart Campbell is on a mission.

The Traverse City entrepreneur is preparing to launch a mobile app he hopes will revolutionize how people think about their backyards – while also addressing food insecurity, habitat loss and biodiversity decline.

Called BE – in honor of Gandhi’s exhortation to “be the change you wish to see in the world” – the app aims to put a free extensive database of plants, trees and vegetables at the fingertips of mobile users, along with their wildlife benefits, medicinal qualities and growing requirements. Campbell also plans to condense “all of the best sustainable gardening and permaculture information available” and make it freely available to the public.

“Not everyone can afford permaculture classes or books…and sometimes it’s too esoteric and limited just to people who are experts,” says Campbell. “We want to eliminate the time and cost barriers and bring sustainable agriculture – and the ability to create that – to the masses.”

A key feature of the app will be design software – a one-time $10 upgrade from the free database – that allows users to take a photo of their backyard, drag-and-drop plants from the database, and instantly create an “after” photo showing what different garden designs would look like (see example above). Normal landscaping software or design services can run into the hundreds to thousands of dollars, Campbell explains; the BE app aims to eliminate those costs and help users “instantly visualize” planting configurations on their property.

Beyond just a self-help app for gardeners, Campbell envisions BE as an educational tool and job creator. The app will eventually host a database of contractors from whom users can solicit bids on gardening or landscaping projects (“it’s like the Uber of sustainable gardening,” Campbell explains). Conversely, users – even those brand-new to gardening – can become certified through the resources available on the app and bid on local projects themselves.

“We’re looking at, even if you’re a novice, what tools does someone need to have a green job?” says Campbell. “You need a good information base. You need to be able to design. We’re providing that…so all you need is a phone, boots and a shovel.”

Campbell also hopes to “make permaculture cool” and teach a new generation how to grow food and reconnect with nature. BE is partnering with Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program – which teaches students hands-on gardening skills – to provide both the app and its design software for free to more than 600 schools across the country. “If (gardening and permaculture) are taught as the norm, then hopefully more people will get into it,” Campbell says.

In anticipation of a spring 2016 launch, BE has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help finish the completion of the app and database. Donor rewards include seed kits and food packages, CDs and DVDs from local groups like On The Ground and Earthwork Music and lifetime subscriptions to BE. (In addition to the free database, the app will offer premium content to subscribers including instructional videos, recipes and plant and product discounts for $5/month.) Campbell is also donating $5 from every $25 donation to Slow Food USA.

In the future, BE could expand to other countries – Campbell hopes to make the app available in 15 languages – and could eventually feature home exterior and interior design options. But for now, democratizing access to information that can help people grow food and build sustainable natural environments is Campbell’s top priority. “Our goal is to eliminate anything that might impede someone from creating their own garden or backyard habitat,” Campbell says.

Source: The Ticker
Original Article: The Backyard Revolution

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