The technology may be cool, but it's the dirt that's the common denominator.
So says Riceville resident Charlie Hopper, who recently launched the Botany Buddy Tree and Shrub Finder interactive database for mobile devices such as the Apple iphone. It's a love of dirt and the green that grows from it that brought Hopper and Botany Buddy co-founder Byron Webster of Austin, Texas, together, and it's that same love that the two believe will make their new application a success.
The Botany Buddy database includes a listing of more than 1,200 native and ornamental trees and shrubs, according to Hopper, with a follow-up version expanding to cover flowers. The database also includes more than 4,500 full-color photos, which Hopper got from an Oregon State University library collection. Botany Buddy is donating a portion of proceeds to the college to be used for horticulture program scholarships, Hopper says. The Botany Buddy application sells for $9.99 and is available in the Apple iphone online application store.
Each plant listing includes 25 fields of information so that a user can search on everything from a botanical name to plant growth habits. The application includes tips for amateur green thumbs, Hopper says, and allows users to create collections of plant profiles to be shared with other users. A user can also upload their own photos to create a personalized database for a project such as a home garden, according to Hopper. The landscape designer says Botany Buddy can help a professional by simplifying, and speeding up, the way information is shared with potential clients. Hopper also notes that Botany Buddy won't take money from a commercial vendor to include their product in the database. The goal is to keep it free from that influence, and Botany Buddy requires users to exchange photos for free.
Hopper hooked up with Webster last year when both were looking to reinvent themselves. The two grew up together and got their hands dirty as teenagers by laying sod. The landscape design industry took a hard hit when the economy nose-dived last year, says Hopper, who began looking for other ways to bring in money. Webster, who worked in marketing and communications, had begun working for a company that built iphone applications, and when they reconnected and saw what the other was working on, they hit on the Botany Buddy idea.
"Gardening is still a growing market," Hopper says. Gardeners are a diverse lot, and Botany Buddy aims to bring together their many varied communities of like-minded people online. "We're going to an audience we know is there. We want to learn more from them about what they want."
Beyond the technical side of Botany Buddy, Hopper says he hopes the application will boost sustainable landscape management.
"The biggest key to sustainable landscape management is getting the right plant in the right spot, and nothing is more important than getting the right information in your hands. That's the whole point of Botany Buddy," Hopper says. "Getting people to realize they have a common love of nature — that's a huge step toward sustainability."