Pioneering online platform AllotMe connects gardeners with available space to grow their own crops
The Belfast-born founder of the first-ever online marketplace for allotments – AllotMe – has revealed plans for rapid expansion after securing an investment of more than £250,000 to grow the thriving business.
AllotMe’s groundbreaking online platform connects anyone with available outdoor space with people looking for a place to grow their own – known on the platform as “Greenfingers” – and allows them to rent plots of land with just a few clicks .
Since launching in May last year, the marketplace for urban gardens – dubbed ‘Airbnb for Gardens’ – has grown in popularity, with more than 100 hosts listing unused land for growing fruit and vegetables across the UK. Some Greenfingers have been successfully renting out space from hosts for more than a year.
AllotMe is now preparing to launch AllotMents 2.0 – a summer campaign to recruit hosts for the site and increase available rental space for potential Greenfingers. The campaign will coincide with a number of improvements to the platform designed to make it even easier for hosts and greenfingers to take advantage of unused space.
The up-and-coming company aims to increase the number of properties listed by more than 2,000% over the next 18 months. The investment of £250,000. This includes £120,000 from venture capital firm QVentures, more than £50,000 from HBAN Angel Network in Northern Ireland and further support from veteran startup investors Alastair Bell and Michael Harding, which will be used to improve the platform. AllotMe has already hired in-house software engineer Nandan Grover, a former software director at French tech company Dassault Systèmes, to lead the project.
AllotMe was set up by entrepreneur Conor Gallagher in response to increasing demand for space amid declining availability in urban settings – particularly London – where some areas have waiting lists of up to 40 years for allotments.
More than 80% of the UK population currently live in cities, with one in eight households having no garden at all, a figure rising to one in five in London.
Gallagher, 32, a University of Ulster graduate, also gave up a successful career as an architect and urban planner, during which he worked on over £30million building projects in New York and London, as well as startup Farmacy NYC, to pursue his full potential to focus time on AllotMe, driven by a passion for promoting sustainability and urban regeneration.
Gallagher, a former St Malachy’s College student who grew up in North Belfast, said: “This support from QVentures, HBAN and other angel investors shows people’s confidence in what we are trying to achieve at AllotMe and the investment will play a big part in driving the next chapter for the platform.
“AllotMe’s first year has demonstrated the tremendous potential of the platform, from both hosts and Greenfingers, and it is time to invest in scaling the company’s technology and reach to meet demand.
“People across the UK are telling us this is a service they want and I’m delighted with this next stage for AllotMe as we continue our mission to revitalize underutilized space in cities by offering a truly sustainable solution, which encourages people to grow their own and also eat healthier.
“AllotMents 2.0 will focus on encouraging hosts to think about how the platform can enable them to make their space work for them, whether it’s making money to spend on other things; manage outdoor space they can’t; or help the environment through passive sustainability.”
Gallagher believes the ability to grow your own has never been more important as the cost-of-living crisis grips the nation, and hopes AllotMe will play a role in helping people across the country cope.
He added: “AllotMe was formed as interest in allotment and garden space in cities surged during the Covid-19 pandemic, but with a severely limited supply. That interest has skyrocketed as the cost-of-living crisis escalates. With inflation at a 30-year high, people are seeing food prices soar, which is why more and more people are turning to cultivation. However, the lack of space is still an issue, which is why this investment is so important.
“The cost of living crisis affects everyone, and if we want to offer more people a solution that provides access to a healthy and sustainable food source.”
Robert Walsh, Managing Partner at QVentures, said: “QVentures is proud to support AllotMe on its journey to shape the future of cities and a more sustainable future for the next generation. We are also very excited to be collaborating with Conor Gallagher, an innovative founder and architect who is revolutionizing this industry.”
AllotMe works by allowing hosts to list their land on the platform, set prices and outline the details of the land available. Greenfingers and organizations then find local properties that meet their growing needs, exchange messages with potential property managers, and apply to rent the property on a monthly basis. Once an agreement has been reached, Greenfingers can start growing their own fruit and vegetables. Hosts also benefit as their empty garden is tended, which in turn improves the climate of the local community as 25% of emissions are absorbed by plants.
Gallagher’s flair for innovation also included the creation of the AllotMe ‘GrowPod’, the world’s most sustainable hydroponic grower, which was named to the Evening Standard’s list of Best New Home Technologies of 2021. Requiring only seed pods, water and natural sunlight, the GrowPod is also designed to enable those with limited space to grow vegetables indoors.