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Belief in Future of Small-Scale Urban Farming Prompts Company to Offer Free Garden Planning App

March 12, 2013 |

Farmscape, a company that installs and maintains urban gardens throughout Los Angeles, CA, decided to take two spectacular things – fresh produce and a dinosaur – and create an app out of them. The app, Agrisaurus, is designed to take the guesswork out of small-scale gardening and farming, and help farmers plan and plot produce sites.

On March 12, Agrisaurus became available for anyone to download. I recently got in touch with Rachel Bailin of Farmscape and Agrisaurus, and found out why Farmscape’s founders thought the app would help gardeners, and how the app works.

Seedstock: Why was the product created? How did you determine consumers needed it?

Rachel Bailin: We saw a need to give DIY gardeners better tools for planning, planting and managing garden plots. Before Agrisaurus there wasn’t a garden tool with so much depth and expertise all in one place — now there is something easy, affordable (free), and fun to use for the beginning gardener or the novice farmer. The founders determined there was a need because Farmscape offers multiple services: Installation, design and weekly maintenance for gardens and farms. We came across a lot of home gardeners who were just beginning and wanted to know more — when to plant, how to plant, what pests to look for, etc. — and we wanted to use our expertise to offer that to consumers.

Seedstock: How does the app work? Can user access it from their mobile phones?

Rachel Bailin: At this time, Agrisaurus does not work on mobile phones, but we are continuing to develop it and hope to have mobile capability soon. Agrisaurus is a web application that makes growing food in small spaces easier, more fun and more successful. It began in 2010 as a side project we worked on at night after long days building and maintaining intensive food gardens forFarmscape. Agrisaurus will help novice and veteran gardeners learn how to get more yield out of a small plot, and it will help users manage a garden ongoing with reminders and advice. It’s kind of like an electronic gardening book – Agrisaurus will help you learn as you go, it will let you test different garden plans and designs, and see likely outcomes. And it will give you custom advice based on your zip code and your crop selections. It’s free with no trial period and if you wish to opt into more features, those are always available to buy. You can buy more yard space, more crops, specialty shapes, but you can always use the free version to plan your garden.

Inside the app, Agrisaurus lets you create garden beds in your yard. Then you can add crops from the crop catalog, and space them out as you please.

If you want us to recommend the spacing based on our best practices at Farmscape, you can click the ‘organize’ button and they will be spaced efficiently, according to type, height and required growing space. Once you have crops picked out, you can plan your planting schedule using our timeline feature.

Agrisaurus will recommend ideal-planting dates for your zip code based on climate data and crop species. You can move planting dates around and see how it will affect yield projections. After you’ve assigned planting dates, Agrisaurus will keep you updated on management.

You can subscribe to alerts by email, or you can check the site regularly. Agrisaurus will warn you about weather threats, remind you about planting dates and prompt you to perform other tasks as needed.

Seedstock: Why is the company giving it away? How will that benefit Farmscape?

Rachel Bailin: We created a free garden app because we think that small-scale farming is the future and that everyone deserves the chance to learn how to grow their own food. Small-scale farming has no official definition, but we think of it in general terms — as sub-1-acre farms and gardens. Everything from a 50 square-foot kitchen garden, up to a large market garden for a restaurant operating in the city — perhaps on a rooftop or under power lines. Anyone with access to a sunny, level, well-draining space can have great success with small-scale farming, and most people could find this space even if it’s not in their own yard. Small-scale farming reduces our carbon footprint and brings fresh food to our communities, as well as building neighborhoods and bringing the farm back into our cities. Growing food can be quite complicated. There are a lot of variables: temperature, sunlight, days to maturity, crop variety, irrigation, drainage, pests, disease, and on and on. We want to make the effort of gardening more fun, more comprehensible and come harvest time, more rewarding.

Seedstock: How will gardeners find out about it? Is it specific to Los Angeles’ climate?

Rachel Bailin: It is not specific to Los Angeles’ climates. We have climate data for North America. We are working to create a larger database for worldwide climates and will be developing that as we go. There also are gardening clubs that we have reached out to who are promoting it.

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