The other day I was asked in an interview whether smart gardens will disconnect us from nature.
I had never seen it this way, so didn’t really think about it. It is a very good question which I believe deserves more attention.
At Gartenzwerg, our goal is to connect people back to nature instead of doing the opposite. With a growing world population, the need to find alternative sources of food and the demand for local production, I felt the pressure for innovation in the sector – innovation which could empower anyone to grow their own food from home effortlessly and I saw technology as a key part to do it.
Most people don’t combine technology with nature
When we think about technology we usually associate it with self-driving cars, robots and computers. Associating it with nature feels counter-intuitive. According to the English Oxford Dictionary, technology simply means “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry”.
The definition of technology
Technology has this image because we created it. Constantly we feed it with new terms, making it even more alien to many of us. Words such as Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are thrown into the room and hotly debated. More than often, debated by people who are tech enthusiasts but don’t understand how it is applicable for real life scenarios and whether it can add value to our everyday lives. This is especially true at the early stages of the innovation life cycle.
But this is also where the magic happens and the true potential is unleashed. At the moment, IoT still tries to dust off the reputation of random home devices that are connected to the internet and are able to communicate with you in one way or the other. We remember the fridge telling you when you are out of eggs and the lights at home that can be turned on and off even if you are on the other side of the globe. The responds to these solutions were mocking. Why do I need the fridge telling me I’m out of eggs when I simply can open it to check? The solution is not fully ripe yet and doesn’t have a practical purpose.
When connecting devices already feel alien, what about connecting nature with technology?
Why technology can enhance our growing experience
I believe technology is about enhancing our everyday life. Its purpose is not to get us away from nature but to complement our lives and make it easier. I’m often asked how we brand ourselves, as tech or lifestyle product, and my answer is: neither nor! We are a tech company and our focus is on creating the best grow-your-own food experience for our customers.
We conducted a research and interviewed over 1,400 people who live in the largest 30 UK cities. The top three reasons why people don’t grow their own food are lack of space, not knowing how to take care of plants and a busy lifestyle. Our goal is to take these hurdles away and make growing plants and food accessible for anyone with smart gardens. We are leveraging the power of technology to achieve this.
We use IoT and Machine Learning to connect people back to nature. Smart gardens may not be traditional gardening, but we are able to educate in a fun and engaging way about how to grow food successfully from the comfort of your home. Our tutorials teach you how to prune your basil and how to pollinate your chilies. It offers a fun hobby and connects people to nature in a before unknown way. We are able to take away the frustration of plants that don’t grow healthy or the uncertainty of how to take care of your plants, bringing people back to gardening. This way, when you have some spare time or space for traditional gardening, you will feel confident and excited to get started.
I felt complete sensation when I tried my first tomato grown from seed at home. That’s when I got hooked! And I wanted to grow more myself. Although the smart gardens are automated, activities such as pruning and harvesting are still done by you – so the feeling of having grown the food yourself doesn’t get lost.
Technology empowers and is not limited to an industry. It is on us how smart we are using new technologies. In our case, to get more people into gardening. Both, the new and traditional way.
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