In bustling modern metropoles, gardening has taken a side-line. Melbourne-based Glowpear wants to change that, delivering mini gardens to even the smallest spaces with their self-watering planters.
The rise of the ‘urban gardener’ is being tracked around the world. One company keen to play a big part in this green revolution is Glowpear, a Melbourne-based maker of innovative, self-watering planters billed as “the garden you never knew you had room for.” Manufacturing plant receptacles that enable people to grow anything from flowers to herbs to heirloom vegetables in even the tiniest of spaces, their mission is to make it possible for everyone, no matter where they live, to grow their own produce. Simon Lockrey, sustainability academic and Glowpear co-founder, talked Hive Life through their mission.
With a background in product design, it was a desire to create something that led Simon to start Glowpear alongside four friends. “We wanted to build a business for ourselves, rather than see other people get successful off our ideas,” he explains of their beginnings. “We started thinking about a product that would fit our ethos, as well as something we’d enjoy building up as a business.” And, quickly, they happened on the concept of growing. “We all live in small spaces in Melbourne and we realised there wasn’t a connection between growing your own produce and design. The gardening industry was still pretty agricultural and hadn’t really been given a design edge, but people want things in their small spaces that look good and work well. And that goes for gardens, too.” Starting with prototypes installed on their own balconies, they edged towards Glowpear. “For about two years we were playing around with all sorts of things with pumps and wind farms, vermiculture. We landed on planters as something foolproof.”
What makes Glowpear’s products foolproof is their technology – otherwise known as “capillary action.” With three different planters currently on offer, each one designed for use in different spaces, be that on a tiny patio, in a small garden, or wall-mounted on the side of your balcony, the important element is their self-watering function. Each planter has a water reservoir below the soil that uses capillary action – think of it as wicking like a candle – to enable the water held below to flow up on its own, making the product work for busy urbanites who need to leave their gardens for days or weeks at a time without fear of it going thirsty. “Wicking is just the simplest way to make most plants survive. We also wanted tactile feedback, so there is a level indicator that pops up when the water reservoir is full, and drops down when it needs a top-up,” explains Simon.
Glowpear’s units are modular and adaptable and can be mounted virtually anywhere – on walls, railings or floor spaces, helping those who previously did not have the capacity to grow things become instant farmers. “We never targeted traditional or expert gardeners, but novices that want a green space, herbs to cook with, or something for their smoothie. They want their own fresh produce and they want to live a healthy lifestyle in these dense cities,” explains Simon of their target demographic. The added bonus of thoughtful design and flexibility – the planters can be picked up and moved as owners fancy – plays into this mix. The types of plants that thrive in a Glowpear are endless. “You can grow everything through from succulents to flowers all the way to herbs, veggies and root vegetables” says Simon. “We have suggestions we call “cocktails” of companion plants that work really well together, so, for example, a flowering plant with something that fruits like tomatoes or capsicums will get you some much-needed cross-pollination.”
For many of their ‘Glowpearians,’ the biggest draw is the idea of growing their own produce. “We have actually moved away from more organic and natural ways of farming and that has definitely affected the quality of food that comes into supermarkets,” says Simon. “Likewise, there’s a whole slew of NASA research done in the 70s and 80s that proves plants have air cleaning qualities. They were considering taking live plants up in shuttles, purely on the basis that they would help them clean the air.” An added bonus, also, is that each Glowpear purchase can be used as a force for good, thanks to an initiative the company runs with the charity Secondbite. “They provide meals to people who can’t afford food,” explains Simon. “And, even in Australia with its population of 25 million, 1 million people can’t afford food at some point in their lives, which is pretty astounding. We felt this was a very connected cause, so for every planter someone buys, 5 meals are made for someone who can’t afford them.”
Shipping their products to over 150 countries and with coverage everywhere from Wired to the New York Daily News, Glowpear has hit its stride. Next up, they’re looking to provide their style-conscious urban gardeners with more colour options as well as more accessories such as a ‘Soft Top’ – a way to turn your Glowpear into a greenhouse. And, to help those convert more to the life of an urban gardener, there’s a plant delivery service in the offering. “You can always provide people with seeds, but it’s a lot harder to get them to work than by providing the actual plants,” he explains. Still, as far as he’s concerned, getting your gardening groove on is something we all could do with a bit of. “We’re all living in smaller spaces than our parents’ generation,” says Simon. “Our kind of consumer didn’t necessarily know about gardening before, or they might have failed at it in the past, but with Glowpear, we can provide small spaces with a new type of living.”