Mason Day describes his new horticultural app GrowIt! as a Yelp meets Instagram for plants. People across the country can post photos of plants and rate and review them, or “garden socially,” as the app’s tagline reads. That information is then shared with other app users in their area.
The app has features to cater to both advanced and novice gardeners alike, says Day, who co-founded the app with Seth Reed while they were working in other divisions of Ball Horticultural.
“We wanted to give gardeners and growers a chance to finally rate plants in their local area. Someone, maybe an experienced gardener or a beginning gardener, takes a picture of a plant. If they know what it is they tag it, if they don’t, they can select ‘Help me identify,’” he says. “They also give it a leave it, like it or grow it rating, and then anyone within 75 miles is shown that photo and they get a chance to rate that photo.”
The photos are searchable by growing preferences, color and more, so that people who may not be familiar with specific varieties can still find plants. All plants include the common name and most include the genus as well, Day says.
Reed and Day were driving from a trade show when they thought of the idea. Reed asked Day to search Yelp for places they could eat in Kansas City, like many people do when traveling in unfamiliar places. Day and Reed laughed at the ratings for Applebee’s. Two locations, though not too far from one another, received completely different reviews from diners.
“I said, ‘It’s funny how restaurants are so local, it’s really a lot like plants,’” Day explained. “’Plants may work well in one area but not well in another.’ And then a light bulb started going off, and I don’t think we were even hungry anymore. We just started talking about how we could incorporate these ideas for an app for new gardeners and experienced gardeners to share information and get more people interested in gardening.”
Day and Reed would often dream up business ideas to encourage Millennials like them to garden, but nothing came to fruition. This time was different, though. GrowIt! moved from a big idea to an actual business in two months, and the app was launched within four. Ball Horticultural owns the app, and when president and CEO Anna Ball heard the idea, she “fell in love with it” and asked Day and Reed to pitch it to the executive team three days later.
For now the app is available primarily to garden center retailers, growers, garden writers and others involved in the industry, but it will launch to consumers this spring, Day says. It’s available in the Apple store now and will soon be available for Android users, too.
“We wanted to make sure it had the data that the industry wants but also the information that the consumer needs without going too far over their heads,” Day says. He also added that consumers decide which plants get voted up or down – Ball does not control the content.
Soon there will be a report feature so that users can flag images that are not plants and an automated process to remove spam or unrelated content. But for now, Day and Reed are monitoring it. So far, they have “thousands” of downloads, Day says, and they are collecting feedback from the plant experts using GrowIt!
“I’d like to see our industry more focused on what the consumer wants. I think there might be a disconnect between what our consumers want and what we’re actually growing,” he says. “We’re can’t sit back and wait for Millennials to come to us. [Through GrowIt!,] we want to find out where they live and what they like.”