A number of companies have successfully Kickstarted their DIY gardening products, like Windowfarms and Horto domi. Now, Earth Starter is the newest project looking to nip food distribution challenges in the bud and empower a new kind of home-gardener. The company’s “Nourishmats” provide an easy way for people with little to no time, resources, space and gardening know-how to create flourishing gardens.
Why home gardens?
Almost 20 percent of american children and nearly 35 percent of adults are overweight or obese in America. Obesity and diet related disease treatments cost approximately $190.2 billion annually. In a culture where it’s cheaper to buy a bag of potato chips than it is to buy an apple, Earth Starter aims to “provide access to healthy food given limited resources–to cultivate gardeners, not gardens and get people used to the idea that they can actually do this [garden]. It’s about transitioning from a culture of consumer to producer so they can live a healthier lifestyle,” co-founder Phil Weiner said in an interview with VentureBeat.
How does it work?
The Nourishmats, for full-fledged vegetable gardens, and herbmats, for growing 8 culinary-favorite herbs, are fool-proof all encompassing gardening kits. What was prototyped as a tarp with wholes cut out for seeds has morphed into a soil covering mat made from durable, reusable (last up to 5 years) fabric. The kit comes complete with a printed planting guide, properly spaced holes for seedballs (seeds encased in a mixture of clay and compost, which protects them from drying out), and optional built-in irrigation.
The mats also contain a weed barrier, an easy-to-follow planting guide, and 82 seedballs from 19 different GMO-free plants. They create a high-functioning ecosystem, predicated on the principals of of companion planting and square foot gardening. For example, “marigolds and nasturtiums (both edible flowers) help attract beneficial insects to the garden. Square foot gardening allows you to produce the same results with only 20% of the space and resources,” reads its Kickstarter campaign.
What’s the business model?
After graduating from the University of Maryland, founders John Gorby and Phil Weiner schemed for 2 years on how to make products cheaply and domestically that would negate food distribution problems and make small food production more accessible to resource deprived communities. Gorby and Weiner self-funded Earth Starter through 3 stages of product development, and, according to its website, after completing a year-long beta test in 13 states, received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Nourishmats are fabricated in the United States, measure 4×6 feet and cost between $200 and $350, depending on the added features, while a full seedball refill costs $44.95. The average first-time Nourishmat user cultivated 30 pounds or $200 worth of produce in their first season alone. Earth Starter aims to take the guess work out of gardening, offering “cost-effective solutions that have a tangible return in your wallet.” In order to keep production within the U.S. and grow their marketing efforts simultaneously, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $70,000 of seed funding. If they meet their goal, they also plan to expand the model to encompass garden-based educational curriculum in schools, to foster food security solutions in populated urban areas.
There is one day left to donate to their Kickstarter campaign. Click here to give or learn more or check out their video below.