WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

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Hanging Gardens of New Zealand - The new wonder of the modern world

Our project aims to address the issue of biodiversity conservation in urban areas. As a new business we are aiming to create corridors of vegetation in urban areas by using our unique, soil based and New Zealand designed vertical garden products. In the UK, hedgerows are known to support some 10,000 species of wildlife. By creating corridors of vegetation from the mountains to the coast we can provide habitats for biodiversity, remove toxins from the air and water, reduce urban temperatures and green up our urban spaces for healthier communities.

What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Our conservation problem is the lack of biodiversity in urban areas. Increasing urbanisation results in diminished habitats for our unique biodiversity. Our solution is to use vertical gardens to increase habitats for our unique biodiversity in urban areas. This not only provides more habitats for our wonderful NZ native plants, but also improves the quality of air and water  further benefitting the environment. In addition this provides healthier environments for people, reduces urban temperatures and mitigates the effects of climate change, while building more resilient urban areas.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Through years of research, we have created a new product which allows NZ native plants to grow and thrive on vertical surfaces. Our Hanging Gardens are soil based and as many of our NZ native plants have evolved over millions of years to grow in tiny pockets of soil in vertical situations, we are replicating nature, by providing a pocket of soil for plants to grow in otherwise hostile situations. The symbiotic relationship between plant roots and the soil encourages plant growth and the bacteria in the soil remove heavy metals and toxins. The plants remove carbon dioxide and pollutants from the air while water is purified  through transpiration. Vertical gardens cool urban areas and provide habitats for birds and other fauna.

What makes your idea new and unique?

Our Hanging Gardens have been designed and are made in NZ and our designs are registered with the Intellectual property Office of NZ. Our products have an outer "garden bag" which is guaranteed in harsh sunlight for 15 years. The secret is our unique removable felt pocket which has a waterproofing membrane to ensure the soil retains a high degree of moisture while also aerating the plant roots. This provides a perfect pocket of soil for NZ native plants to grow in vertical situations. We have run trials on a large number of NZ natives and they perform wonderfully in all situations across the country. There is no other solution or product like ours anywhere in the world.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

We provide our DIY products to schools, educational facilities, universities, home gardeners and landscapers. We also have a number of commercial solutions (specified in MasterSpec, the NZ architectural database) and these are used by architects, developers, designers and building owners. The users enjoy a range of benefits from cleaner air, increased property values, healthier and happier staff, reduced blood pressure, decreased stress, etc. The benefits of providing greenery are well known and the field of biophilic design is finding more and more benefits of reconnecting humans with nature. 

What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

We are a young and growing organisation. We have taken on a number of new young people and are investing heavily in them.

The money would be spent as follows:-

10K on equipment and tools to gear up for large scale delivery of vertical gardens

4K Maketing through architectural databases

4 k Training of young staff

7K development of new products

We need more equipment, more staff, more training and we would love to be able to have someone spend the time to get us certified for the Green Building Council. A $25000 grant would enable us to increase our team, providing more young people with more training, provide the tools and skills required to gear up the business for increased demand. We are constantly designing new products to meet client demands and we also have a new product we would like to bring to market. 

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?

YES

I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy

YES

List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

In no order , I like the:- 

The E-Coli test as there is a growing global demand for water quality checking products and services, we need to focus heavily on water quality and we could be world leaders in this field.

Guardians of Zealandia - Having just been to Zealandia - I was blown away by the beauty - it is a NATIONAL TREASURE :)

Possum and Rat Traps - got get rid of the pests so the whole of NZ can look like Zealandia!

Autonomous Weed Eaters - plant pest should be treated like possums - gone

DIY Smart Garden - we could provide them with low cost garden solutions where each child has a pocket and they can compete for the best pocket - children love a challenge!

How could you improve your idea?

Some ideas have inspired me to think more about incorporating lighting into the gardens. Great opportunity for higher end projects!

edited on Oct 13, 2017 by Leigh Nicholson

Mohinder Sohal 10 months ago

Love the idea

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Thanks Mo!

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Megan Somerville 10 months ago

Kia ora
I like your approach to focusing on young people and wanting to offer more training, and this would allow them to train more people to green up more areas. Could you talk a bit more about this approach please?

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Sure! Hanging Gardens was founded by me in conjunction with 3 of my great friends (all well over 50) and each one of us has a history and passion for mentoring. With the huge business growth we have experienced, we have worked with a great number of young people as contractors. We provide training, great work experience, flexibility, purpose, ethics and a whole lot of fun, etc. More recently we have taken on 3 young men as part of the Hanging Gardens team and these three people are being trained up to run teams of young people to cater for the increasing business demand. Not only that, but we supply our products to landscapers, architects, schools, universities, other educational institutions, etc and we help them with advice and training. And then we work with a wide range of nurseries and councils around the country and we provide them with training. And all this generates a spiraling network of collaborators where everyone benefits!
This we believe, is the way that a green economy, sustainable business should operate! It is based upon a focus of creating a better world for future generations. In the face of the extraordinary challenges the planet is facing, we think this is our moral obligation :)

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Hi Megan, just a bit more on this, Darden Business School - University of Virginia, so loved the sustainable and innovative way we operate, that they have written up a Business Case about us, which they use for their Leadership, Innovation and Sustainability program. If you would like to see this, let me know!

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

vertical Gardens originated from the work done by Patrick Blanc, the French botanist. His work was around hydroponic gardens. We have been inspired by his work, but took the idea further and introduced the soil based gardens. Not only are our gardens a low cost alternative, but they are healthier for plants as the bacteria in the soil works symbiotically with the plant roots to promote plant health. This is an ideal solution for NZ natives as we are replicating nature. Our designs are unique in the world. We know of no other solution that does this. Each plant has its own felt pocket and so this enables plants to be swapped about quickly and easily without damaging the plant. The pocket has a waterproofing membrane to increase moisture retention while the felt allows the roots to breath.

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Wouldn't you love a garden like this?

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Jeremy Stead 10 months ago

Hey Leigh, can you use the hanging gardens indoors to grow native plants?

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Hi Jeremy - the success of growing plants indoors depends largely on the species requirements for light and the interior light conditions. But there is also the humidity and temperature to consider. So in a nut shell, if you know the interior environment and match the plants or vice versa, then you will have success!

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Pavel Plotinnov 10 months ago

Dear Leigh,

I really like your gardens :)
I wonder if your gardens can grow indoors as well?
I am specializing on full spectrum LED lights, humidity and temperature control
for indoor plants :)
At some stage we might be able to amalgamate our inventions :)
Going to vote for you!

Cheers,
Pavel

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Hi Pavel we have loads of indoor gardens and this is a growing area of demand as people realise the benefits of plants - I would love to connect to talk about what you are doing with lights and control systems! feel free to call me

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Shannon Weaver 10 months ago

Hi Leigh, I think hanging gardens are fantastic and know of many throughout New Zealand. It is great to see that you have created a thriving business, have gone through the IP process, have staff and are aiming to expand. Can you please expand for me on the conservation and innovation aspects? Do you operate as a for profit business or as a charity?

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Hi Shannon. Hanging Gardens is a profitable business (we support any educational organisation with discounted prices) Regarding conservation, our aim is to create corridors of vegetation in urban areas using vertical surfaces as we are so short on horizontal spaces. By using our wonderful NZ native plants we can provide a whole 3D environment to regenerate urban areas and protect out wonderful plants and allow people to appreciate their beauty. The picture below shows a kids pre-school in Auckland CBD - 4 levels above Queen Street. By reconnecting kids with nature they will grow up to love it and protect it. We are constantly innovating new solutions for tricky building sites, but the core of our system is our unique and removable felt pocket which has been designed specifically for our Native plants and taking into consideration climate change. The felt pockets are unique in the world and no other system uses this soil based method of growing plants on vertical surfaces. The pockets aerate the roots and retain a high degree of moisture while also allowing the bacteria in the soil to work symbiotically with the plant roots. The bacteria in the soil aids in the removal of toxins from the environment

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Shannon Weaver 10 months ago

But your companies website makes it clear you do not solely concentrate on native plants?

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

No we do not only do native plants, some people want specific plants and of course some people want lots of colour - which is difficult with natives. So our gardens work perfectly with a wide range of plants - and these provide additional environmental benefits for birds and bees. When generally recommend NZ Natives and then will add in some seasonal colour or even edibles! Very versatile!. See picture below of bird drinking from an exotic bromeliad! I have even had fantails nesting in the mixed gardens :)

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

How about this for your garden :)

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Rajnesh Chandra 10 months ago

Hi Leigh love your gardens

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Becky Wilson 10 months ago

Kia ora Leigh

Thank you for sharing your idea in the Conservation Innovation Awards, it’s great you are using your business to enhance conservation in New Zealand.

Looking at your answer to how you would use the $25,000 grant from an Award I recommend that you have more of a think about this before the Awards close on Sunday.

We want to use these Awards to fund activities that directly support an innovation to get off the ground. Things that have been funded in the past include developing technology and refining prototypes, field tests and purchasing equipment needed for commercial scale production.

Good luck with the judges.

Becky Wilson
WWF Community Conservation Coordinator

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Leigh Nicholson 10 months ago

Hi Becky, thanks for that - if that is what the award would pay for we would be overjoyed. We spend a huge amount on R&D and we are refining prototypes and bringing them to the market continuously! We have just introduce a new Planter Garden for indoors and based on this we have a new design we would love to bring to market for large scale outdoors areas.
This would be a great use of funds for us - to bring this to market. Furthermore, we have just set up our new workshop with all the equipment required to mass produce our Living Walls for exterior applications. You may have seen our plans for the Epiphytum - see picture below (a joint Council Planning session is scheduled next week to plan this). The growing demand and scale of vertical gardens is surpassing expectations and we need to expand our team - which all means more equipment, more training, more trials, and more R&D. All very exciting and we could really do with a little boost! :) We would also like to get our solutions into the Australian Architectural database!!!

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Becky Wilson 10 months ago

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone

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