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Scotts Miracle-Gro Pioneers The "Connected Yard"

The lawn care company is building an Internet of Things platform for connected lawn care and gardening devices.

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Scotts Miracle-Gro wants to bring your yard into the digital age.

The giant of lawn and garden care is set to release an Internet of Things platform called Connected Yard that will give consumers plant care guidance through a smartphone app called Gro, which will make recommendations based on data about local weather conditions and input from connected sensors and water controllers.

"The app is great without any devices, but if you add devices to it, it just gets that much smarter," says Patti Ziegler, the company’s chief digital and marketing services officer.

While developing a digital platform may seem like a departure for a company that got its start in 1868, Ziegler says Scotts Miracle-Gro is merely responding to shifting consumer tastes. Research shows many younger consumers spent less time doing yard work than previous generations, and the company hopes the app’s guidance will give them the confidence to get invested in their lawns and gardens, she says.

"Society is changing, and Scotts needs to change with it," she says. "Consumers appreciate digital solutions, and we want to provide the inspiration and education, the means to get them active in the category."

The company announced the app, expected to be available to consumers in April, at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, encouraging companies working in the outdoor arena to join the platform.

"We created it as an open platform hoping to create an environment where entrepreneurs and all kinds of smart device manufacturers want to partner with us," says Ziegler.

The company’s already working with industry partners including smart irrigation-controller makers Blossom, Lono, and GreenIQ and smart water-sensor makers PlantLink and Parrot. In the future, Ziegler anticipates that consumers will be able to control their sprinklers directly through the Gro app. Additional devices will likely come on board as well, integrating through the Connected Yard platform’s API, she says.

At launch, the app will be able to make watering and other recommendations based on data about moisture and watering schedules available through the smart devices.

Combined with the app’s weather information, that will help consumers avoid overwatering—a particular concern in drought-riddled areas in California, where some utilities are even subsidizing smart lawn technology.

"We want to do away with the situations where the sprinkler’s going on when it’s raining, or the sprinkler’s on today even though there’s a big rainstorm coming tomorrow," says Ziegler.

The app will provide more than just watering information, she says. It will also make recommendations about what to plant and where to plant it, such as advising users not to make common mistakes like planting bulbs too close to a fence, she says.

The information will help consumers who want to grow their own vegetables or those who just aren’t sure what plants would work best in their gardens, says Ziegler.

"It’ll recommend things that are more likely to succeed in your environment," she says. "A garden planted in New Mexico is going to look very different from one in New England."

The company’s also working on developing some sensors of its own and looking into pulling in information from other types of devices, such as cameras, to give consumers additional guidance. That could help give users the inspiration and early successes needed to turn them into lifelong gardeners, she says.

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