South African Claire Reid has most recently won the title of Agripreneur of the Year at the global competition, Future Agro Challenge.
She is the inventor of a biodegradable seed tape which takes the hassle out of growing domestic vegetable and herb gardens. Reid’s seed tape (which evolved from her papier mache-like solution in high school) makes planting simple – as all gardeners have to do is bury the tape until just the coloured strip is visible above the ground. The colours and pictures on the strip make plants easily identifiable and each garden-in-a-box also comes with specific “companion plants”, which are used to repel harmful insects and aid beneficial ecosystems.
“Our market is very much the urban farmer the household that wants to plant out a couple of square metres in their back garden and they want to do it in a way that is cost effective and saves them water, time, and increases their chances of success,” said Reid.
But Reid admits that it took awhile for Reel Gardening to find its feet. “We basically went into over 200 stores at once and I invested a lot of money in stands. But I did not understand the need for partnerships in that space, the buy-in of the retailer, nor did I understand the competitive nature of the retail market and the need for merchandising, distribution and marketing. I went in very naively and thought that if we just got the product onto the shelf that was the job done. I didn’t realise that was where the job began and I failed monumentally,” she added.
Despite this, Reid did manage to form some vital partnerships during this time that opened up new opportunities for the company – which helped the business recover.
Reel Gardening also hoped to target poverty-stricken communities in other African countries by providing the product on loan and only requesting payback once the plants could be harvested and potentially sold. However, this model proved unsustainable.
“We obviously want to have a good impact – that is what makes our hearts tick. But we realised we need to make profit [to do this]. So we went back to the drawing board last year, relooked at our business model, and realised we have to sell our product in a middle to upper-income environment (the likes of Food Lover’s Market)… and work it into our pricing model that we are able to donate seed tape to a project in need through each of those sales.”