Twelve months ago, Rebecka Hagman quit her demanding job to be a parent. Her first child had just been born and raising a family would be full-time work in itself. While taking her child out for walks in her area, she realised that many of the gardens were unused. Her balcony was growing increasingly small for her ambitions and waiting lists for allotment gardens in central Stockholm ranged from anywhere between 10 to 20 years.
She thought about approaching landowners in her local residence to find someone who might be willing to lend her their land to grow food, but realising that there were many others facing a similar situation led her to write a message in a group on Facebook to ask if people would be interested to test out an idea. A local newspaper contacted her the following day and things snowballed.
“The radio called, more newspapers wrote about this…. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t have a website or a Facebook group or anything,” Rebecka says. “It was overwhelming with all of the media attention. It was obvious that I put my finger on something that is important in society.”
Today, Rebecka Hagman is the Founder of Co-Grow, a startup whose message is “Let’s grow together.” What was previously an idea in its infancy, has now become a matchmaking service that connects people who are looking for land with those who have it.
With increasing demand for organic and local production coupled with impossibly long allotment queues, Co-grow now boasts more than 30 landowners and 20 growers from all over the region. Co-growers can specify what they would like from the arrangement: from the amount of time spent in the garden and financial responsibilities, to a cut of the harvests. Each arrangement is manually paired.
“Everyone is talking about the sharing economy and how we can use resources better. There’s a lot of potential and possibility when it comes to Co-grow to strengthen the social capital in our neighbourhood. That has been an extra social effect.”
Food tech may be the current trend, but Rebecka sees this as something bigger. While many homeowners don’t have an interest in putting their gardens to productive use, the number of people in urban areas who want to connect their budding green thumbs to the soil is growing. “It’s very easy to write good titles from the idea, like ‘How to cultivate good friends in your garden’,” she says, but for sustainable change “the best entrepreneurial ideas arise from challenges and possibilities in your everyday life.”
Co-grow is currently in the process of becoming a registered aktiebolag and Rebecka hopes to one day create an app to automate the matchmaking process. “My ambition where I am standing at the moment, I think this kind of idea could be made into a more commercial system or solution from growing to sharing and selling to markets and making use of all the space that isn’t being used in local apartments and gardens.”
Last words from Rebecka? “Got a garden but don’t want to use it? Become a Co-grower or read more in Facebook. Whether you would like to grow or whether you have a garden that you don’t want to use, go to our website and become a Co-grower.”
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Rebecka from Co-grow was at Impact Hub Stockholm for our bi-weekly Stockholm Food Movement meetup on September 22. Want to come to our next event and be inspired by local startups and changemakers? Swing by. It’s on Thursday evening, October 6th.