Why isnt there an app for that?

this began as a post about the barrier-to-entry my friends feel there is to gardening and personal resilience. to accurately quote my friend who’s in her mid 20’s during a discussion about growing tomatoes over a drink in the pub:  “i’d like to, but i don’t know shit about shit -  why isnt there an app for that?”. it seems that many people i’ve spoke too think that personal resilience is a good idea - and certainly in the UK, the WWII ‘Dig for Victory’ and the homefront played a big part in our school curriculum in the 90’s putting the war into context comes up a lot around this topic.

but it also seems that people would just quite like to just be told what to do - and when to do it.

as a consequence this post turned into a part app pitch / startup idea: this is the app i’d like to see:

the 140 character pitch:

instructional almanac/diary to hand hold people into the world of gardening. Combining a network building real world resilient communities


the app is primarily a step-by-step guide for people that know nothing about gardening at all, but would like to get started growing their own useful foods. emphasis would be put on growing things from seed. but if a user were to chose to buy a small plant from a garden center, an option would be available to skip through steps would be available. what follows is a high level user story:

Upon registering the user would be asked to ‘select from location type’:

urban, suburban, fields

input some rudimentary details

  • your location

  • space you have to grow

  • direction of area (N,S,E,W)

  • is it outside / inside / windowsill etc

App would then ask you if you have any pots to grow things in, pots, planters etc.

If not will recommend types of ones to buy, or suggest homebrew planters - appropedia / homegrown evolution style things to build or use.

based on the data the app would then recommend seeds and what to grow etc / especially favouring local varieties.

once you have followed the advice, you tell it what and where you have planted, how much etc and click GrOw

periodically the app will remind you to water and feed your plants (could it use local open local weather data to estimate this better?)

with every interaction between you, the app and the plant, it should prompet you to input some data about its progress; approximate height etc - and who doesn’t want to take photos of the things they have grown to show people?!

at the end when you are ready to harvest your food, you will be asked to input some details like final height of your plant (if applicable) weight of the harvest, perhaps even ask some subjective questions / rate taste of your food etc.

alongside the core function of the app is a network - this network would allow you to share the photos of the things you are growing. rough geo-data could be used to make sure your photos are seen by other users locally around you; you can see their photos and plants too and should be able to comment and rate it.

every interaction from watering your plants, to commenting on and offering advice to other users should give you ‘points’ or some kind of ‘reputation points’. indeed, using a 2 user conformation system - meaning if to people verify your photo of your plant. all three of you get points (this also maintains the integrity of the network information) - as an aside: geolocated flirt/dating apps like skout have perfected the art of creating perceived value of points inside their networks for simple interactions.

as people verify other peoples photos - with priority given to people local to you - users should begin to feel connected to the growers around them. this is the soft network.

the hard network comes in with the reporting of yields for example - perhaps excesses can be donated to/picked up by transition towns if you join the transition suppliers group for example (this of course will give you more points) . this feature can then tap in to existing hard networks of people working on long resilience.

Urban farms could all have a presence on the network promoting their learning sessions and experience. There are so many small hyper local community gardens, permaculture groups etc that could all have a presence on this kind of network; these real world social hubs are all doing amazing things around the globe and are important in growing the hard resilience of the network.

Perhaps the app could have badges for completing ‘missions’ donating x amount to transition towns, or some other local scheme to you. successfully ‘growing out’ and returning seeds from Seed Savers, build a window farm etc… i’m sure there are lots of possibilities.

The network that connects you to other local growers that sits alongside the core ‘tell you exactly what to do‘ primary function of the app i think is a great opportunity for connecting not only people, but the many different groups that are working in the resilience field.

Anyway just an idea… if you like it, let me know.

as i’d quite like to find some people to build it with…


I love the handholding side of it, and the local networking (if carefully done) would be extremely good.

Count me in as a beta-tester. And we all know developers, some of them more “agile” than others.

Crowdfund it (if it doesn’t exist)?

Perfect for the time-constrained

I love this idea - I’d definitely take this up if it existed (and if I was a paid-up member of the smartphone community… which I’m not… yet).  I think what I find most interesting about this idea is the fact that it makes becoming resilient easier/more accessible in the sense of being less time-consuming.  If you have a service that allows you to begin by using what you already have to hand, you can start to build competence (and then interest and enthusiasm) without having to devote what can otherwise be big chunks of time to acquiring the necessary equipment.  Because it’s this first stage that I think for a lot of people can be off-putting.  BUT - if, in the first instance, you can start with what you already have, and have an ‘idiot’s guide’ service to talk you through each step, all of a sudden the first few steps towards food resilience become that much easier to take.

competence is a keyword

hi beck, thanks for the supportive comment.

i really like your use of the word ‘competence’  i completely agree. the first couple of time i first tried to grow anything on a windowsill they ended up diying / being killed by me. how many people do you know that have had the same experience and simply jsut say to themselves ‘im just not green fingered’

it would definitely have been great to have an idiots guide app talking me through each step. once you have grown a single thing from start to finish and consumed it (in my case windowsill tomatoes) you have passed that ‘preventative barrier to entry’ that i think many people feel exists. once crossed however, you have quite literally picked the low hanging fruit and are taking the first steps towards food resilience.

with regard to your first point about not being a fully paid up member of the smartphone community - if the app was entirely written in HTML5 i reckon it would work fine on the desktop too!

Impressive, Jay. I think this is solid. Not sure how i can help though…


thanks alberto, had a number of really positive discussions about it at #edgecamp & over beers. im going to start pushing, and trying to get something goin on this / asking for some help once my brain has finished processing last weekend.

im sure you will be able to help. if it gets off the ground, you and gaia can be network gardeners in residence for the team :wink:

is anybody developing the app already?

Excellent idea! I would use this app definitively. I am a developer so I might join the development, perhaps. Is anybody writing code for this app already?

Thanks :slight_smile:

sweet! what data would we need and in which formats?

Hi Carlos, Welcome to Edgeryders. I just moved to a new city and would so lovr to be able to use an app like this. What do we need to do to help you makeit happen?


hi carlos! your comment was read but not forgotten!

i have just joined a really young OpenSource project called growstuff.org its not exactly the app i described above but there are quite a lot of similar ideas and certainly a good jumping off point, and is a good fit for anyone wanting to get involved in somthing like this.

its an agile project with currently a small but super cool group of people partnering remotely on stories/tasks. last night i was taken through a whole bunch of sysadmin stuff to get the project wiki up and running from the command line - i learnt so much!. early days coding has already begun, at the moment all stories etc are over on github - but we are currently running pivotal tracker in parallel to see it will be suitable for iteration 3.

if you or anyone on here who would like to learn and get involved have a read of the project blog or sign up and say hello on the mailing list!

where to start from

Thanks Nadia,

Well, I have no idea of gardeing or agriculture. I am starting to learn them and I would love to have that app already available. But all I have is knowledge on how to write computer programs. So I would need several experts on gardning and agriculture to try to put part of their knowledge into an application. I guess I would need a lot of data, depending on what do we want to build.

I would start with only the smalles amount of functionality that make this app useful. A single feature would be nice to have. Something really small but useful. After that we can review what to implement next, learning from the experience.

Any expert to help me out learning agrigulture/gardening?

Cheers :slight_smile: