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23 October 2012

Nonstarters: app-happy gardeners

Worst kickstarter video of the week.

By Fred Crawley

A broad school of thought on Kickstarter, and in the business world at large, holds that the key to making a runaway fortune is to turn everything, everywhere, into apps.

This bandwagoning brings to mind fictional mathematician Ian Malcolm, who quips that Jurassic Park’s reckless geneticists are “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should”.

Of course, he was talking about making a theme park full of reptilian murder titans, but I think the sentiment applies equally well to the modern entrepreneur’s quest to augment every human activity with mobile technology.

In this case, gardening. Smart Gardener Goes Mobile is an app that syncs with a person’s account on garden planning site Smartgardener.com, allowing them to take their garden plans out into the garden itself.

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I’m certainly not criticising the website, which provides an admirable set of resources for clueless optimists with dreams of beetroot husbandry. It’s the “Goes Mobile” part that irritates me.

Are people’s gardens so far from their computers or their minds so atrophied that they need to take a smaller computer outside with them just to remind them of the plan?

Plus, gardening is an intrinsically physical activity. Unless you plan on stirring worm turds with your Samsung, there’s only so far you can garden with an app before you have to pocket your phone and pick up a trowel.

Perhaps, I might suggest gently, if you need your gardening to involve a smartphone in hand, it might just not be the hobby for you.

Furthermore, why a company promoting back-to-the-land ideals should talk about “leveraging custom technology to deliver completely personalized online solutions” is beyond me. This sort of insidious boardroom waft is irritating even in the context of tech startups, but seems totally alien to the world of smallscale horticulture.

Maybe it’s just because watching my tomato plants is one of the few things in my life that doesn’t require a login and password, but I just can’t feel the need for this product. Evidently, the kickstart crowd felt the same.