19/04/2018 - 14:42

Fresh greens at your fingertips

19/04/2018 - 14:42

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Indoor plant solutions startup Urbotanica is hoping to springboard off the growth in healthy food preparation appliances with the launch of its UrbiPod.

Fresh greens at your fingertips
Ray Hart says young professionals, retirees and schools are some of the current UrbiPod customers. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Indoor plant solutions startup Urbotanica is hoping to springboard off the growth in healthy food preparation appliances with the launch of its UrbiPod.

Backed by Perth Angels co-founder and investor, Ray Hart, Urbotanica’s inaugural product is designed for those who lack time and a green thumb.

The self-watering plant-growing system is effectively an indoor micro herb garden, featuring low-energy auto-lighting and four detachable plastic pots.

Mr Hart said health and wellness trends had led to strong growth in appliance use in Australia, with about 350,000 Thermomix units sold across Australia and 16 million NutriBullets sold globally since 2012.

“Without a doubt people are taking a far more active interest in and have a preference for sourcing honest good produce and developing healthy eating habits at home,” he said.

“The plethora of cooking shows, books and magazines has made for an educated market.”

As managing director, Mr Hart said Urbotanica had a strong educational element integrated into its branding.

“We spend a lot of time on the brand and how we defend what we’ve got,” he said.

“We’re very lucky to have Sabrina Hahn, WA’s leading horticulturist on the team; the fundamental success of the product is assured because of Sabrina’s knowledge.”

Despite securing an intellectual property strategy through local IP business Watermark, Mr Hart said fighting back against copycat products would be difficult.

“At the end of the day, if someone wants to copy it out of China, we won’t be able to stop them,” he said.

“But what do we have no-one can copy? ‘Brand Australia’,” he said.

Urbotanica currently sources plastic parts from an Osborne Park-based manufacturer and electronic components from Joondalup, while commissioning disability services provider Activ Foundation to assemble the product.

“We’re trying to bust myths so, one, we can make stuff in Australia and two, the disability services team can do complex work,” Mr Hart said.

Being a team of six and providing about 50 Western Australia-based jobs, Mr Hart said Urbotanica had so far produced 1,000 UrbiPods and sold several hundred units since taking it to market six months ago.

“Our challenge is growing pains, so growth capital; we’ve tested the market here and people love it, we’ll sell in Australia, our biggest challenge next is making more,” he said.

Mr Hart said Urbotanica would need to sell about 5,000 units per annum to break even and planned to export to Asia and the UK.

The startup was considering multiple avenues to raise investment and scale production, he said, including private equity, venture capitalists, and industry partners involved in horticulture.

The UrbiPod will be the first of a series of Urbotanica products, with a mushroom box and a wall-specific plant growing system other potential offerings.

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