Newcastle startup Herb Urban takes the guess work out of gardening for those who want to grow their own

TINKER TAILOR: Jared Lawlor, founder of Herb Urban, with an example of one of his smart garden systems. JARED Lawlor has a green thumb but when he moved into a Tighes Hill house a few years back he grew it –and a business – to next level proportions.
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Mr Lawlor andpartner Heidi took the sun for granted until they settled in thesouth-facing home, which enjoyed little drenching natural light beyond a small patch at the front fence.

“Being so used to growing herbs and veges we didn’t know what to do so I put my skills to the test,” says the electrical engineer.

He ran PVC pipes along a wall and developed a complex watering and plant nutrient system which quickly drew comments.

“Friendswere like ‘wow, that is a great idea’ and I soon realised it was and started to look at ways to simplify the system so the end user who didn’t have time or the inclination to do the tech stuff but wanted a garden could just set it and forget it,” he says.

Today Mr Lawlor’s startup Herb Urban is thriving, with plans to retail its smart gardening systems nationally and globally. It offers automatedgardening systems including vertical farms, urban farms and automated green wall systems, all of which turn on a controller with sensorsthat ensure plants receive the right amount of water and nutrients.

Greening spaces: A Herb Urban installation in Newcastle.

“It is a zero waste system – there is nothing out there on the market like it and I’ve designed this from scratch in Newcastle,”says Mr Lawlorof the product that he makes in the Islington co-workspace of carpenter Stu Pinkerton.

Watch my garden grow: The controller of the Herb Urban system is in the large box, which controls the water and nutrients given to the garden.

“The plants only get given what they will use and nothing more or less so they are living in a perfect state.”

Herb Urban will soon release its first commercial product, a DYI “plug and play” product allowing customers to buy and setup the system at home.

Out of the box: Herb Urban garden systems are horizontal and vertical and made to measure for urban spaces.

“The first units will be delivered around Newcastle but the product will be refined so we can go interstate and globally,” says Mr Lawlor.

He and his partner have long grown their own produce, keen to cutwaste associated withsupermarkets.

Mr Lawlor says Herb Urban grew from a pure desire to give people the ability to grow their own food without having to think about it.

“People who can gardentake it for granted, the knowledge base you have to build up over a long time; ifyou are gardening conventionally you have to cultivate soil and put time and sweat into it,” he says. “We wanted to take the guess work out of it.”

Mr Lawlor, a participant in The Business Centre’s Start House 100 innovation course, says many clients live in central Newcastle andwant to grow their own produce for sustainability and health reasons.With manyhavingan oversupply of produce, heplans to create a community of sharing via a local farmers markets stall or an online forum.