The creator of "Airbnb for gardens" has revealed how the seeds of his business were sown in Glasgow.

AllotMe has also launched a new artificial intelligence gardening assistant called Hazel, aimed at helping "get more young people into growing their own by breaking barriers to information".

Name:

Conor Gallagher

What is your business called?

AllotMe

Where is it based?

UK–wide

What does it produce/do?

AllotMe is an online platform that makes it easy for anyone to grow their own food. We pair unused garden space with would-be vegetable growers who don’t have any space; and we create guides and tools so anyone can learn how to get growing. We’ve been described as "like Airbnb for garden space" – if we achieve similar success I’ll be very happy! 

To whom does it sell?

We have two customer types: Hosts – people with available outdoor space; and Greenfingers – people who want to grow their own food. We currently have more than 6,000 people using the platform all over the UK and it’s growing all the time (no pun intended).  

How many employees?

Three full-time employees 

Why did you take the plunge?

I started growing my own food in a flat in London with just a balcony. I soon realised I was in desperate need of more space so explored options – including an allotment.

I was shocked at how difficult it was – bordering on impossible. It can take anything from 18 months to four years to secure an allotment in the UK, and even longer in some places. It struck me how many other people must be in the same position, particularly in built up urban environments.

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I did some research and found more than 80% of the UK population currently lives in cities, with one in eight homes without any garden space at all, a figure rising to one in five in London.

I knew it was a real problem that needed to be solved and set about doing something about it. The eureka moment came when I was walking down my street and saw an empty overgrown garden out the front of a house – I thought there must be any number of people who’d bend over backwards for that space. I wondered how many times that must be repeated across London, the UK, and everywhere for that matter, and that’s how the AllotMe concept came into being.

What were you doing before?

I was an architect. I trained at the Glasgow School of Art and loved my time in Scotland. It was that training to spot space and different ways of utilising it that inspired AllotMe.

What do you least enjoy?

I’m a creative person and a big thinker, so unsurprisingly it’s the day-to-day stuff that it takes to run a business that bothers me most – necessary admin; dealing with accountants etc.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

When you think about growing your own food, you think of AllotMe - become the number one worldwide brand for the grow your own movement.

Within 30 years, more than 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities – meaning a lack of available outdoor space will affect a huge proportion of people. The reality is it’s already a major issue for millions. 

READ MORE: Soil-free home fruit and veg kit launched

After I moved to London, I saw how people wanted to eat more healthily, ethically, and sustainably but it was increasingly difficult for the majority due to barriers such as a lack of space or excessive cost. 

I was aware of so many people with no garden or access to outdoor space, and of the difficulty verging on the impossibility of obtaining an allotment through traditional routes. It became apparent there is a huge desire for sustainable living but no way of satisfying it. 

I want AllotMe to be known as the solution to that challenge.

What single thing would most help?

Short of a Disney+ documentary or Ryan Reynolds joining the company – investment.

It takes time and money to get a new idea out into the world. We’ve already received backing from QVentures and several angel investors, and we’ll soon be inviting new investors to come on board, and inevitably that will be the most helpful fuel to our growth.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

Even a very small start-up can have a significant impact on the world. When I hear the stories of our users who’ve managed to find themselves a plot of their own, I feel inspired to keep going and get our platform in front of more people so they can experience the same.

What was your best moment?

We’ve recently launched an AI gardening assistant called Hazel, with the aim of making growing your own food more accessible to more people. I’m immensely proud of our team for getting this product to market, and I hope it can have the impact we intend. The intention is to help get more young people into growing their own by breaking barriers to information. It’s an exciting development and one that could make a big impact.

What was your worst moment?

Ultimately, we’re creating a digital product that people interact with every day. When something goes wrong, we know about it very quickly – so when our users tell us they can’t do something, or that something isn’t working properly, I take it very seriously and personally.

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A few moments spring to mind where I feel like we’ve let our users down – but thankfully the AllotMe community has been very understanding, and appreciate that we’re still learning and can all make mistakes. The important thing is how you deal with them and learn from it. 

How do you relax?

At risk of reverting to type, spending time in the vegetable garden is very relaxing for me – it’s my haven. I also enjoy going on long runs whilst listening to audiobooks. I usually come back from both these activities with a clear mind and occasionally a bright idea.