Homebound gardening amid coronavirus: When green dreams grow on windowsills | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 06.04.2020
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Homebound gardening amid coronavirus: When green dreams grow on windowsills

Not that Berlin-based startup Grüneo had ever expected to profit from the coronavirus crisis when it started its crowdfunding campaign, but it just might as it offers a meaningful activity for those staying at home.

While thinking out of the box has been a prerequisite for many a startup to emerge and thrive, for the two entrepreneurs behind Berlin-based Grüneo it's rather important to put the right stuff into boxes.

Basically operating as a Spanish-German joint venture, Alicia Ferrer hailing from a town near Barcelona, and Lena Müller from Hof in Bavaria, Germany, have joined forces in Berlin.

Ferrer has a background in marketing in business, while Müller contributes her profound knowledge of horticulture to the undertaking.

The idea behind it

Their business idea is to get city dwellers — especially those without a garden and without a balcony — interested in watching plants grow from seeds on their windowsills, with Grüneo providing ready-to-use boxes with all the ingredients you need for doing some successful gardening in your apartment.

Growing plants on a windowsill

Growing plants on a windowsill at home can be fun, and watching plants grow isn't boring at all, says Grüneo

Some might argue that watching plants grow is just as exciting as watching paint dry, but the two startup co-founders agree to disagree.

"In Europe, there's a trend among people to eat more healthy stuff and to understand where our food comes from, in general, to become more aware of what we eat," Ferrer tells DW. "Young people tend to buy more plants to make their homes greener. So we offer an innovative way for people to not only decorate their homes but actually to eat what they grow."

What you get

With a crowdfunding campaign extended until April 11, Grüneo right now offers two varieties of its boxes. One's a herb garden box containing purple basil, parsley and chives; and the other is a veggie garden box with the seeds of cherry tomatoes, chili and red leaf lettuce. The boxes come complete with fertilizer, biodegradable pots, a natural substrate plus a starter guide for beginners.

Who's it meant for?

"Our target group are ecoconscious urbanites, who look for a meaningful activity to calm down amid the hustle and bustle of daily life," Müller told DW. "Our products are also meant for families with kids, DIY people and those looking for the ideal gift."

Apart from selling its boxes via its online shop, Grüneo sees major potential in B2B and has early on in the campaign approached retailers and companies. However, the latter are now experiencing budgetary constrains because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying production lockdown.

Grüneo co-founders Alicia Ferrer (right) and Lena Müller

Grüneo co-founders Alicia Ferrer (right) and Lena Müller

Coronavirus cuts both ways

"But the positive aspect of the current crisis is that with more people forced to stay at home now, many are looking for alternative activities in their apartments, and that's where we come in," Ferrer argues.

"It may well be that our business will be given a boost because of the stay-at-home drive," Müller agrees. "People are looking for things to do at home, and we can help them decorate their apartments and make them a bit greener at the same time."

Grüneo doesn't tire of stressing that everything about its boxes and their content is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

As green as it can get

"We only use sustainable material and allow people to grow 100% organic food — after all, that's what many people are looking for in the market right now," Ferrer notes.

She adds that the startup looked for gardening suppliers in Germany only with a view to keeping transport routes short. And she makes a point of saying that no plastics are used anywhere — the bags are made of paper, the pots are made of wood fiber and the fertilizer is made of plant-based sugar production waste, no chemicals involved at all.

"Most substrates you can get on the market are made with peat," adds Müller. "But our substrate to assist the sowing phase is absolutely peat-free."

Grüneo's Herb Garden Box content

The content of a Grüneo box gives you everything you need to become a successful gardener at home

Müller also points out that buyers enjoy unique customer support. "For once, there's our printed starter guide to help you get along from sowing right up to harvesting," she says. "We also have an online plant coach service, should there be additional questions."

There are already some 300 preorders for Grüneo boxes so far, an amount the two female entrepreneurs can just about handle themselves. But of course — if everything goes according to plan — their business will grow, and so will the small all-female team.

While Ferrer and Müller have set their sights predominantly on the German market, customers from other European nations are also already firmly in their sights.