On the back of an increased interest in reconnecting consumers with local food, Croatian citizens are being offered the chance to be involved in an innovative ‘agri-digital’ project, known as a “Gruntek”. EURACTIV Croatia took a closer look.
Gruntek, a recently coined word meaning ”small land”, is an innovative agricultural project which offers people the chance to rent small allotments. But they will not be traditional tenants of their land – instead, they will be digital tenants, with the plots managed through an app.
Situated just an hour’s drive from Zagreb, these plots will then be cultivated by professional gardeners who will guarantee the tenants fresh, organic vegetables.
Nearly 100 plots have already been sold since the project launched on 16 November.
“If we continue like this, in about 10 days, all the gardens could be sold out,” said Tino Prosenik, one of the two founders of Gruntek.
The project is initially offering 1,000 plots to test the market, although the land has the capacity for many more.
His partner, Vjekoslav Budanec, is one of the most famous Croatian vegetable growers and also president of their umbrella association.
The two joined forces to launch the project after the coronavirus pandemic left many people unable to work, and also raised concerns over the food supply chain.
“Gruntek was born as a universal solution for dealing with something that is resistant to coronavirus. The idea was to do something that is intuitive and beautiful – such as the production of organic food and create kind of food supply chain where we will no longer depend on the supermarkets,” Prosenik, who handles the digital side of the project, explained.
They believe the idea is unlike any other community garden model currently on offer.
The app notifies tenants of which crop is best to plant and when. Users are then able to select for themselves which crops they would like planted.
“It will also be a kind of educational app that will give constant guidance on what to cultivate and when, what are yields, etc. Through that, people will learn something about gardening ”, said Vjekoslav.
The Gruntek team estimate that a plot of 40 square metres can expect an average of about 140 pounds of organic vegetables over a period of eight months.
The price of the crops produced rivals that of organic produce bought from supermarkets, they added.
Digital tenants will also be able to monitor what is happening on their plot via the app, which offers users a glimpse at their plot, and also through weekly updates.
“We live in a time that does not allow the luxury of gardening, and then we enter the story with our technological solution to bridge that gap,” said Prosenik.
But the digital element of the project doesn’t stop at the users.
The team of gardeners will also be benefiting from the helping hand of digital technology. This will be mainly through the use of apps, which will record the condition of each individual garden or the appearance of pests or diseases.
The project also plans to use drones to record the garden from the air and detect any anomalies in humidity and the like.
Ultimately, the project aims to reconnect citizens with their food and flavours of their youth. They hope that as well as interacting via the app, users will also visit the gardens with their children and attend open days organised by the Gruntek team.
”Our mission is primarily to produce organic vegetables and secondarily to create small farmers. The app is a hook and we want typing on a cell phone to turn into tinkering around the garden,” Prosenik said.
“If we manage to do that then our mission has fully succeeded. Then we will create a different ‘mindset’ and change the culture of today’s urban population. That would be a real success,” Prosenik said.
Although the interest is currently high and the initial launch campaign was successful, time will tell if the project will really take off.
For the moment, the team is concentrating on making it work in Croatia, but if it proves successful, it could also serve as an interesting model for similar projects elsewhere across the EU.
[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]