Young companies are struggling to introduce new tech solutions and new ways of working with water through existing market channels: water utilities, homes and businesses. Reel Gardening has been growing rapidly by leveraging a new consumer market for locally grown food — schools.
Reel Gardening combines an innovative product with an innovative marketing strategy. It has developed a patented pre-fertilized seed tape which encases seed, fertilizer and water-retaining minerals on custom printed biodegradable paper tape. With the tape, seeds are planted at the correct depth and distance apart. Plants grow faster and healthier in a wider growing period and use 80% less water than conventional planting.
Claire Reid, the founder and CEO, was awarded a grant from the US/Swedish/Dutch “Securing Water for Food” initiative at Stockholm Water Week.
How have partnerships with schools helped you launch?
I believe that children are the best teachers for their parents. Children love figuring out new technology, while parents tend to hold back and stick with what they know. After using Reel seed tapes at school gardens, kids plant a family garden as part of their homework and get parents involved. Our agents, recruited from our school programs, follow up with sales to retailers in those neighborhoods.
How did the school partnership start?
Reel Gardening was approached by the Independant Development Trust which builds rural schools in South Africa. They had been purchasing our household gardens in a retail store and planting them in a few schools but doing it this was was cost prohibitive. They asked us if we could put together a bigger solutions targeted at schools and the School Garden in a Box was born. The program takes a seed planting project and builds a community food program.
Starting with 32 national schools in Gauteng, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, KZN, Mpumalanga and Western Cape, the program is expanding throughout South Africa. Reel has launched in the UK and is expanding to the US and Australia. “We are building our market in wealthy schools which enables us to make the product cheaper to poorer neighborhoods.”
How do you see the Securing Water for Food program driving the company’s development?
SWFF is helping finance a program with Unilever to distribute Reel tapes and product re-purchase program. This program is a game changer for my business.
What are your goals for the company for the next two years?
We want to implement in 500 schools in South Africa and build a network of 44 trainers and agents nationally and build sales in the US and Australia and maybe the UK. We are aiming to quadruple manufacturing and triple the number of employees.