The Plotty Distributed Seed Bank

A Seed Bank without walls. Plotty is a DEFRA appproved community of seed savers and sharers on a custom built website with postal network.

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Eligibility Criteria

  • I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Act for Biodiversity Challenge and that I am eligible to apply.
  • I am 18 years old or older.

Initiative's representative name

Raphaella Fearns

Initiative's representative date of birth

04/11/1991

Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • United Kingdom

Headquarters location: city

Penryn, Cornwall.

Where are you making a difference?

Plotty is a climate generative, food security start up - building community, knowledge and biodiversity. Tech start-ups like Plotty are providing jobs and skills to rural Cornwall.

Website or social media url(s)

Instagram - @plottygrow Website - www.plotty.co.uk

Date Started

12/2019

Project Stage

  • Start-up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget : What is your current yearly budget for the initiative?

  • €1k - €10k

Organization Type

  • Hybrid

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

"We have lost 94% of our Seed Varieties in the last Century" - From the Documentary Seed the Untold Story. After researching Seed Swapping Groups on Facebook and Instagram and hosting and attending our own community seed swaps - we saw that there was nothing custom built or that educated users about plant disease and invasive species. We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to share seeds - safely. We worked on designing our own system and making it as easy for people as possible by removing all pain points and barriers and designing our specialist seed swapping envelope.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Many crops have been intensively bred for Industrial Agriculture, Big Ag and Monocultures - causing deforestation and biodiversity loss. This breeding has led to crop homogenization which means that we are rapidly loosing the genetic blueprint for climate resilient crops like our wild crops relatives. Breeding for uniformity, shelf life and yield has also put nutrient content low on the priority list - creating a dystopian future of "hidden hunger" where people are fed, but nutrient starved.

3. Your solution: How are you working to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Plotty is a digital community platform for seed sharing and knowledge share. Our platform is a distributed Seed Bank without walls, facilitated by a postal network and our specialist designed seed sharing envelopes. Unlike Svalbard Seed Vault which is a high-tech and expensive genetic resource, we wanted a low tech and accessible approach. We aim to reskill the general population in the lost skill of saving seeds and sharing seeds, which also helps preserve rare and regional varieties. Plotty offers opportunity for knowledge share, which is often overlooked in Food Security. Our seed sharing envelopes include space for people to write to one another, sharing the precious ethnobotanical knowledge attached to the seeds.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

I toured and presented at the Nation's seed swaps was a speaker at Brighton Seed Swap (Nation's Largest and longest running) I presented at Daylesford Harvest Festival and ran workshops at Bristol Seed Swap, as well as attending events, speaking to students at Cornwall's Schools and hosting seed swaps locally. Much of our research was done through building an instagram community around seed saving and swapping. We discovered pain points with sharing seeds online - like not wanting to share your personal address, how to post and pack and who pays for postage to ensure our custom built website and bespoke envelope design solved all of these problems, testing and developing continuously.

5. Collaboration: How does your initiative seek to bring key players together to preserve biodiversity?

We believe in the Food Security potential of connecting a lot of small gardens together. Our seed envelopes are designed to share up to three different varieties at once, encouraging people to sow, grow and save multiple varieties in their gardens. We are also developing a circular economy gardening product range sold on our site - including a wooden seed saving tray. To reward users for sharing seeds, we are giving discount codes off products in the envelopes. This means that for the first time in a digital space, seeds are directly linked to a currency and our customers are rewarded for sharing seed and increasing biodiversity.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far — in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Our instagram community has currently grown to nearly 1000 - we use this platform to share tips and advice on small space gardening and our community interact with each other and try new varieties that each other are growing. Our website has over 150 active users with hundreds of different varieties and we have facilitated the exchange of nearly 100 seeds swaps since we have been live. We have also shared free seeds at all of the events that we have attended - seed envelopes are our business cards! After being invited to be a speaker at multiple events, including national and regional school events - I advocate the Agri-tech Sector and aim to encourage more young people and in particular women to consider the tech sector by making it friendly and accessible. I also educate on the importance of our seed banks.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We are working with programmers over the next few months to launch more community and sharing features, for example letting users self promote the website by sharing to facebook each time they add or request seeds as a "Seed Guardian". Although we are currently hitting our early stage organic growth targets, adding social network share features and launching incentives to share seeds via shop discounts - we have the potential for rapid growth. We are currently UK only due to seed law but hope to open subsidiaries within the EU, The US and Canada after scaling across the UK to around 5000 users.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for society? Or different stakeholders?

Plotty graduated out of Falmouth Universty Tech Incubator, Launchpad - designed to help poverty stricken and remote Cornwall become a Tech Hub. With the rise of the "Conscious Consumer" Plotty is at the forefront of a new wave of businesses that value climate generation or regeneration alongside commercial value - Plotty is a food security brand. I have recently spoken on various Podcasts - including recently as an advocate of inclusiveness in the tech sector for women on Tribe Tech's Podcast on Health and Wellbeing in the Tech Sector.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

While building traction, I currently work part-time alongside running Plotty and have a small amount of financial support from the Tech Incubator to cover running costs and help towards development and can access Grant funding as an alternative. I am currently in the process of a paid part-time PhD focusing on Urban and Millennial Food Security - using Plotty as a case study. We will also be launching an online shop in the next few months selling circular economy gardening products made locally - including the Plotty seed saver tray that I designed which is made by laser cutting oak offcuts.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your current team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

I have a Design Degree from Goldsmiths University of London (2013) and have since worked in Film, Manufacture and Horticulture across the UK and The Isles of Scilly. As a founder, I recently got a Distinction at Masters Level, specialising in Climate Generative Business and am in the Process of a Food Security PhD. The team is made up of founder and non-executive director as a representative of Launchpad Tech Incubator. We are supported by a team of Programmers.

11. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

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Photo of Richard Okoe

Very innovative. Congrats.

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