RedBud Software Focuses on Helping Greenhouses Bloom
Joan Leonard, chief product officer of RedBud Software, an OSU spinout, knows bushels about successful greenhouse management.
For more than three decades, Leonard was greenhouse manager of multiple teaching and research greenhouse facilities at The Ohio State University (OSU). Now retired, she is concentrating all that experience into building a company to help other greenhouse managers more efficiently and effectively manage operations.
“I know the pain points,” Leonard said. “When I was managing the greenhouses, I was always trying to find ways to run them more efficiently. There was no solution to turn to that helped us automate day-to-day operations more effectively, instead of manually, so we decided to develop our own, with the IT group at OSU. When I first started down this road, it was purely to help me and make my job easier.”
With support from key participants in the Ohio entrepreneurial ecosystem, the RedBud application software grew from there.
“The OSU Technology Commercialization Office (TCO) and the College of Arts and Sciences helped with the programming work,” Leonard said. “We also received an Accelerator Award from TCO and last month, a TVSF grant from Ohio Third Frontier that will help fund further product development from feedback from early beta customers.”
There are software products that serve other areas of the facility—accounting, inventory, or sales support—but they don’t deal with what growers are doing day-to-day.
“What we hear from them and from potential customers is how much RedBud helps them accurately record and track their activities,” said Leonard, “and how intuitive and easy to navigate the software is.”
From raising a seasonal crop of chrysanthemums to tracking and controlling pests, RedBud’s cloud-based SaaS application benefits front-line operations. The solution initially will target large commercial Ag growers in the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry, a $25 billion category projected to grow at 10 percent annually over the next five years. The solution is also adaptable to smaller greenhouse operations, vertical farms, growth chambers, and other controlled environment businesses.
Early Commitment to Market Validation and Customer Ease-of-Use
Space management is one of those industry pain points that Leonard talks about: Who is using the space? How long will the crops be growing there? What kinds of materials are needed? Is it a research crop or seedlings? What growing conditions will be employed?
Another source of pain—one that drives greenhouse management buggy—is, literally, the bugs—aphids, thrips, or spider mites, just to name a few. Pest management—tracking pests and the chemicals used to eradicate them—is a high priority for any facility.
To ensure worker safety, there are strict rules (EPA Worker Protection Standards—WPS) about tracking applications of pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides—anything under an EPA control label. Information (including date, time, and location, quantity and use of chemicals, and more) must be collected, maintained in reports, and posted in real time.
RedBud’s integrated platform captures this data and to help CEA companies comply with EPA reporting requirements, mitigating their risk. That’s a significant benefit, as the EPA can visit any facility and any time and immediately request all records, with hefty fines associated with non-compliance.
With RedBud, managing disease and pest issues is greatly simplified. Teams will be able to enter their observations and download automatic reports and trend analysis via an iPad.
“With a quick glance,” Leonard said, “they can see what’s going on without comparing manual notes or plowing through sometimes competing spreadsheets, with different people having different numbers.”
RedBud Is Looking to Bloom
As RedBud scales, Leonard is leveraging her myriad of connections in education and research as well as industry trade groups and associations, including AERCG and NCERA-101, the USDA working group on controlled environments, to reach decision-makers at targeted customers.
“I am in touch with a huge number of national and international members around the globe,” she said, “plus the Rev1 relationships are helping open more doors.”