A Journal exploring the value of plants and flowers
22-11-2016 Interview Green tech

Introducing Class 1: Gardian

Words by Kristina Foster

Photos by Marie Wanders

This week in our series of interviews introducing the teams in the Let it Grow Lab’s Incubation Programme, we catch up with Martijn Lukaart, one of the founders of Gardian, the plant-monitoring system keeping you up close and personal with your plant.

 

These days, we can use technology to measure several aspects of our daily lives. Need a step counter to tell you if you’re being active enough? A calorie counter to police your diet? A way to measure your sleep cycle? Then head to the app store, where all these services are downloadable at a touch of a button. We like to be kept up-to-date with how our bodies are doing through our smartphones, but what about the wellbeing of our houseplants? Martijn Lukaart talks to us about, Gardian, the new plant-monitoring app which measures water, temperature and light and brings plant care into this quantitative lifestyle

How did the idea for the Gardian app come about?

Our team has a very technical background. We brainstormed our idea for Gardian during a Hackathon, an intensive session where people come together to programme and generate innovative concepts. We wanted to solve our collective problem of our houseplants always dying so we got together and ‘hacked’ a solution, which turned out to be the basis for the Gardian app. Basically Gardian is a way of letting plants communicate with people. It tells you when your plant needs water, more light, if it’s too hot or cold or even if it’s fallen over. We wanted to share this solution with the rest of the world and see if we could turn this into a sustainable business.

How does Gardian work exactly?

Gardian consists of two elements: hardware and software. Our hardware is the sensors which we place next to the plant in order to measure moisture, light intensity and temperature. These sensors can communicate directly to our servers so we can connect everything we receive from them to the end user via our software, a mobile app. If the sensor detects that a plant needs some extra attention, then we send a proactive notification to the plant owner. In this way, we provide support and peace of mind about your plant being happy.

How do you think businesses using green technology such as Gardian can affect the floriculture industry?

By using technology to provide knowledge to plant and flower consumers, we can definitely have a positive impact on the sector. We found out that when consumers buy plants, they are uncertain about how to take care of them. Therefore, we know that there is a demand for customised and proactive information. Gardian takes away the anxiety of buying new plants by providing the consumer with knowledge. Also, people are often hesitant to buy plants as gifts because they don’t want to put the pressure and responsibility of taking care of a plant on another person. By relieving this stress, Gardian can also remove this barrier.

How do you think businesses such as yours are changing the way we interact with plants?

Initiatives such as Gardian are helping create a more intimate connection between plants and people using new technology. With our smart plant-monitoring app, we’re also bringing the act of growing plants at home into the ‘Quantified Self’ movement. Basically, this is a movement that aims to measure all aspects of our daily lives with technological devices such as running trackers and sleeping cycle apps, but it also reflects a larger trend of wanting to understand and quantify yourself and the things around you. We also want to gamify plant care by making it fun and interactive. We have the idea of introducing a Tamagotchi-like interface for our app, in which the plant, like the famous 90s digital pet, asks you to take care of it.

 

We provide support and peace of mind about your plant being happy.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced since beginning Gardian?

The biggest challenge so far is actually where we are right now. We’re in the beginning stages of trying to identify who our target group is. That’s what Let it Grow is helping us with right now. Over the last few weeks of classes, we’ve created buyer personas. Obviously, we find we that the people we can relate to most are people like ourselves; tech savvy, early adopters who are interested in the ‘Internet of things’, that is, the idea that physical objects such as mobile phones, coffee makers and washing machines are connected to an Internet network. These people often don’t have much knowledge about plant care but they are searching for a simple and tech-based solution that can assist them.

 

What aspects of Let it Grow Lab’s Incubation Programme are you most enthusiastic about?

We were struggling with how we could move this into a sustainable business, so the coaching, consulting, networking and support that Let it Grow offers us is very valuable. We also find brainstorming with the other Class 1 teams very stimulating as well our location at B Amsterdam; it’s really the startup hub of the Netherlands where everything happens, a real hotspot for innovation.

What has been the biggest learning curve since you applied to the programme?

I was just surprise to learn how easy it was to talk to people. Through Let it Grow, Royal FloraHolland is really showing the world that they are open to innovation. They are literally calling out and saying “come to us with your good ideas, we will listen, talk with you and we will take you seriously”. This was a huge surprise for me. I’m an entrepreneur and it’s not often that I come across companies that are so welcoming. Often you have to prove yourself first and if you have a thousand customers then you can start to think about approaching people in the industry. Our experience with Let it Grow has been very positive and it’s given us the wind in our sails.

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