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Discovering a fertile market in horticultural with Growflo management software
When it comes to horticultural business administration and management, growers of all sizes struggle to find a software solution that can effectively service their needs. And while many of these operations use modern technology in and around the nursery, they rely on older IT systems that are no longer fit for purpose.
Up until recently only a handful of business management systems dominated the horticultural scene; however many users claim they are hard to use, poorly supported and unavailable in the cloud. They required their clients to install the software on servers at their businesses, using expensive hardware and outsourced IT support.
Belfast based company Output Digital decided to take action to capitalise on the opportunity presented by this gap in the market and they resolved to modernise horticultural management with a cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which they could customise for their clients' needs.
They used the Innovation Framework to develop a new software platform called Growflo; a bespoke, scalable, and intuitive solution that responded to the specific needs of each horticulturalist’s operations. Growflo allows nurseries to manage sales, stock, orders, customers, production, transport, and finance - all in the cloud.
Following successfully entering the market and achieving significant sales, Output Digital is now a recognised Gold Level Innovator.
How did they get there?
After initially identifying the issue, Output Digital conducted extensive market research across the UK, Ireland and the USA. Alan Brown, Output’s Managing Director engaged with nurseries of all shapes and sizes and confirmed that the entire industry was struggling with their enterprise software.
Speaking to clients on the ground provided him with valuable insights into the challenges they were facing and the features they wanted. That narrowed down the possible solutions, but it became apparent early on that a bespoke, cloud-based platform was the way to go.
Throughout 2019, Output’s development team worked on a solution, periodically presenting a test model to focus groups consisting of prospective clients. Each round of feedback prompted improved versions of the software until the concept addressed the industry’s challenges.
Growflo software features a menu of extended features and functionality which customers can ‘bolt on’ as required – features include online ordering, electronic data interchange communication and vehicle and trolley management.
Deep collaboration with clients during the development and testing process provided a firm foundation for commercialisation; following participating in focus groups and trials, many horticulturalists were already looking forward to implementing the new software in their businesses.
A major influence on our sales strategy has been the fact that this product is bespoke – our approach to obtaining customer feedback and iterative development continues today, even as Growflo has achieved commercial success. “We take the time to assess clients’ operational challenges and analyse their daily business processes,” says Alan of his company’s ethos.
From the beginning of their innovation journey, Growflo had exporting ambitions; during ideation they researched their idea’s potential on a global basis, and as they prepared to commercialise, the developed an export market strategy. Today, Growflo has clients in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, and the USA; they have recently secured their biggest order to date with a large grower in Washington State, USA and now have the Canadian and Australian markets in their sights.
In recognition of this successful commercialisation, Innovate NI awarded Output with Gold Level Innovator recognition.
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