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App focusing on food security wins startup competition

ProdYous won a $4,000 prize for its plan to help people launch urban farms and market their vegetables and fruits.
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The ProdYous app is intended to encourage more gardening and increase food security.

REGINA — Team members developed a program designed to help gardeners connect with consumers looking for locally grown produce

The idea of connecting buyers and sellers of backyard garden produce resonated with the judges at the 24-hour Ag Tech Startup held during Canada’s Farm Show.

An app called ProdYous won the $4,000 prize for its plan to help people launch urban farms and market their vegetables and fruits. The event is held by Cultivator, powered by Conexus, and designed to bring a team together, pitch an idea and develop a minimum viable product all within 24 hours.

Hannah Tait, one of the ProdYous co-founders, said there are three pillars to the business that she and her teammates conceived and developed.

“It’s aimed to help people launch their gardens from home,” she told reporters. “Learning is going to help home producers produce a higher yield, as well as be more productive and efficient in their gardening practices. Trade is the marketplace that we built on our app, and so this is where our producers can connect with local consumers that aren’t quite served by the current production system.”

Tait said team members talked to business leaders and the community during the competition to see if a business to assist with food insecurity would work.

“We reached out to some of the biggest bosses in Regina and said, ‘here’s our idea, what do you think?’ And they were supportive of wanting to fight food insecurity but also to support some young entrepreneurs with a big idea.”

Tait said they wanted a self-sustaining solution rather than to rely on external funding. Many non-profit organizations working in the space have to take what they can get, she said.

She has volunteered with the Regina Food Bank and other team members have been involved with non-profits.

“We identified that external funding is not going to be able to really eradicate the issue of food insecurity,” she said.

The ProdYous app would operate on a subscription basis, with some free features and some premium pricing. Tait said the money the team won is likely to be reinvested in the start-up.

One problem they identified with their model was that garden production stops in winter. That is a long time for an app to be inactive, she said.

Being at the show gave them the opportunity to meet with exhibitors in the innovation area.

“Look at all this technology. Is there not something that can help us fight winter?” she said they asked themselves.

“And it turns out there was and so we even got new ideas just being in this space.”

One of the nearby exhibitors was Harvest Today, a vertical indoor growing system with stand-alone plumbing. It contains ports for plants and ranges in size from 144 to 720 ports.

Tait, a recent University of Regina graduate, said Cultivator has helped her both personally and professionally. She noted that this is the second time she entered the 24-hour challenge; she didn’t win the first time and in retrospect her idea didn’t make sense, she said.

But the community at the show and within Cultivator helped her rebound.

“There’s going to be people there to cushion the fall and pick you back up,” she said. “The Cultivator has really created an environment where you feel like you can take on the world.”

Tait also said that being a woman in tech and in agriculture can be hard because the fear of failure looms.

She has no agricultural background but participating at the show has made her feel welcome.

“I always felt like I was beside the agriculture sector in Saskatchewan, but this kind of event has brought me in and made me feel a part of it. I think I was able to bring some value that maybe wasn’t present already by bringing a bit of an outsider’s perspective,” she said, adding that it was inspiring to see the innovation on display.