Brandon Smith spotted a flowering plant he liked that was growing in the landscaping outside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and wondered what it was. He thought the plant would look good in the yard of his Greenville home. So he pulled out his phone and took a picture of it.
“I stared at the photo for a moment and thought, ‘now what am I going to do with this?’” He imagined the time he would waste at nurseries looking at hundreds of plants trying to find one that looked just like the picture.
Then it occurred to Smith, who completed an economic degree at East Carolina University in 2010, how handy it would be to have an app on his phone that could identify a plant from a photo. He searched online but didn’t find any apps that were useful.
Later, Smith mentioned this incident to his friend and fellow ECU alumnus Brooks Dixon. Dixon was working for Red Shark Digital, a Greenville company that does web design and develops apps. Red Shark is owned by another ECU alumnus, Chris Rupp, who Smith had classes with as an undergraduate.
Rupp liked Smith’s idea and agreed to create such an app.
“The app has been out for a month and so far we’ve had 350 downloads,” Smith said. “And that’s with absolutely no marketing at all, just word of mouth, and it’s only available so far for Android phones.”
The app, called Greenthumb, is based on object recognition technology. Many flowering plants look alike, so the app also uses GPS location data to determine the one that is most likely growing in that location.
“We think the app will be beneficial to the weekend gardener and even landscapers,” Smith said. “Maybe they see a picture of a plant they like in a magazine, or see something they like growing in a neighbor’s yard. They can just snap a picture, open the app and go to their local nursery knowing exactly what they’re looking for and not waste a lot of time.”
The app can be downloaded for free at http://greenthumbapp.com/.
Smith said Red Shark is planning a marketing campaign for Greenthumb. He said an Apple version of the app also is in the works.
“I think there are all kinds of applications for this technology,” Smith said. “Like, if you go fishing and catch a fish and you aren’t sure what kind of fish it is, just take its picture and you’ll know.”
– Steve Tuttle