Recently we caught up with fellow Cornwall-based entrepreneur, Raphaella Fearns, to learn about how her startup is progressing and their mission to restore biodiversity and food security.
Plotty is a seed sharing community platform, with a small team consisting of Raph as CEO and Alex Wilkes as CTO (Chief Technology Officer). As Raph likes to call the platform, it is a ‘seed bank without walls’.
by Jess Fishburn /6th-June-2020
“Seed conservation is huge, and we are rapidly losing lots of species and strains that are not seen as commercial.”
She believes they can become commercial in the future, as the climate is changing, we will need to look to our wild crop relatives. Often seeds are preserved in physical seed banks, locked up in scientific establishments. Plotty are really interested in getting seeds out to the people, creating a community network of people saving seeds and exchanging them across a distributed scale.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Raph tells us lots of seed banks have actually closed and seed retailers have had to close down. On the contrary, Plotty has seen a huge leap in traction, with food security coming to the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“It’s a good opportunity for us, now that everybody wants to grow their own food more it’s a great time to do a big rebuild of our platform so that we are more accessible and can scale up.”
Plotty are also looking at how they can use their platform to reintroduce rare species. Raph tells us there’s a lot of really interesting research in Cornwall, where her startup is based, into wild crop relatives and the commercial potential of these crops. She hopes that Plotty can be a bridge between what is going on in the scientific community and getting that growing in people’s gardens.
Photos showing the Plotty packaging used to send the seeds on to others and talks and events attended by Plotty.
“Rather than that knowledge being coveted to the scientific community, Plotty can help get research out to people and introduce more biodiversity. Together we can actively save and preserve these crops on a living system.”
So, how can people ‘spread the seeds’?
Firstly, sign up to Plotty! There is a sign-up process so that they can closely monitor biosecurity.
You can then create a profile to start adding seeds. They have a setup database with a specifically designed list of all the safe seeds, so if you have those seeds, it is super easy to add.
If you would like to add a seed that is not in the approved database, Plotty will receive an alert to review it.
“We want to remain safe, legal, and positive for biosecurity.”
Raphaella, posting her sharing packaging for seeds on to others.
People add seeds to the central list that you can scroll through and see what is available.
You can also view people’s profiles and see what they have available.
In its current state, people request things and approve them. But with the platform rebuild, Plotty are making it easier and quicker to request seeds and to send out in their specialist designed seed sharing envelopes.
“We do not do any distribution or handling of the seeds, we simply provide the platform and envelopes to facilitate the exchange.”
To support building community and knowledge share, there is space in the envelopes to write a message.
And how much does it cost?
At current, during the beta test period, it is free. In future, they need to start charging to cover packaging and service costs. To create a small profit margin Plotty hope to offer the swaps at £3 per pack that include up to three seed species.
This is placed at a competitive price in line with supermarkets and garden centres offering seed packets. In addition, Plotty offer really rare species as they don’t require the licence to sell them, they are simply offering the exchange platform.
“This means we can help keep these strains alive that the commercial retailers cannot. The recipient pays for the service, to make it easy for the sharers, and the postage is prepaid.”
On a final note, Raph shares what she has been up to during lockdown…
“I’m really excited about bringing these wild crops to market and realising their potential. I’ve been doing a lot of ‘lockdown’ botany. Going out with my camera and finding these crops. For example, I discovered rosy garlic recently and not only is it a beautiful flower but it has a mild garlic taste which makes it perfect for chefs because you get the flavour and the lovely visual aspect.”
If you are interested in finding out more about Plotty, please head to their website www.plotty.co.uk and don’t forget to follow them over on instagram @plottygrow