A toolbox for caring for trees
You love trees.
That's why we're creating treCare. It's an app that gives ordinary citizens all the information and tools they need, on their phones, to work with their local councils in caring for trees.
When would people use the app?
"A big branch has come down in last night's storm and it's blocking the lane."
Imagine if you could tap a button on your phone and automatically send a report to exactly the right person in your council with the precise coordinates of the tree in question, with a photo attached of the damage!
No searching the web for a phone number.
No emails bouncing around within council offices.
No wondering if your information ever reached the right person.
Just one simple app that gets the message through.
"Someone's about to cut down the big old tree at the corner. Surely it's protected?"
Imagine if you could tap on a tree on your phone and find out in seconds if it's registered in the ATI (Ancient Tree Inventory) or if it has a TPO (Tree Preservation Order) on it. Imagine if you could immediately send alerts to the council about suspected illegal removals. Imagine if you could even submit suggestions for putting a TPO on a valuable tree that isn't yet protected?
No digging on sites to try to find information on the tree in question.
No trying to explain to the council what you want to find out.
No wasted time requesting a TPO on a tree when there's already one in place.
Just one simple app that tells you if a tree is protected.
"Don't those young trees in the park need maintenance? Does the council have a plan for all this? And what if I want to help?"
Imagine if you could tap on your phone's screen and get the whole story on the council's maintenance plans, written in layman's language, for each individual tree in your park or neighbourhood!
No wondering if anyone is caring for trees.
No wondering what maintenance the council is going to do next.
Just one simple app that tells you exactly what's planned and when they plan to do it.
And one simple app that lets you know what jobs you could do to help.
"What tree is that, there in the park? It can't be native to our area. What's the story behind it? * "
Imagine if you could tap on your phone's screen and bring up "the whole story" on a species: where it originated, how and when it was brought to the area, why it's named as it is, the background on this particular tree and how it came to be in the park or garden.
No more wandering through parks, wondering what trees we're looking at.
No searching the Internet for information and still not really knowing if it applies to this tree.
Just one simple app that gives you all the details for each tree you tap on, on the map.
One simple app that turns a visit to the park into a fascinating tree discovery.
(* It's a Monkey Puzzle tree, or Araucaria Araucana, native to Chile. It was brought to Cornwall as seeds in the pocket of Archibald Menzies in 1795. And, it was named "the Monkey Puzzle" because of a fluke comment by a dinner guest one evening, in Pencarrow, Cornwall. Would you have known that if we hadn't told you?! Our treCare app will "tell the story!")
"The Ash on our street is definitely showing signs of Ash Dieback. I wonder if anyone knows about it?"
Imagine if you could report suspected signs of disease and actually make a difference in stopping the spread of disease? Imagine if you could even see, right on your phone, a map of all of the trees in your area that already have the disease (and its just as important to know which ones are healthy, too!) and how the council plans to care for them?
Imagine if people could do all that in one simple app, right on their phones, without a single email or telephone call or endless searching for information on the web?
We do need an app for this.
So what exact functionalities will the app include?
We're pulling together a whole set of really practical tools, features and information to build our app.
When it's developed, treCare will give anyone in the community access to information, like:
- maps of precise locations of all the trees in their area;
- information panes on each tree, with species, genus, unique attributes, photos, history and cultural and historical background on any tree;
- online ATI and TPO tree protection information that's usually buried in council data servers or hard-to-find webpages;
- council maintenance plans and updates for individual trees.
And our treCare app will let people in the community report things to their councils, in seconds, like:
- real-time, up-to-date information on fallen limbs and trees
- alerts about illegal removals and cuttings
- disease sightings
- notifications about limbs touching wires and structures
Our treCare app will also let councils send out alerts to the community via the app:
- friendly reminders about weeding, removal of stakes and guards for new plantings; watering in hot weather for specific trees in the neighbourhood. Our app will let people do some of these simple jobs and then "tick off the task" on their phones so everyone (including the council) knows they're done!
- real-time advance warnings about impending storms, frost alerts (great for those who have fruit trees!) and prompts to alert the council if something needs attending to, post-storm;
- news about tree planting in the area and planned maintenance work in the community.
Who is it mostly for, then? Councils or the community?
Both. Truly, we think our app will be one-of-it's-kind. Because behind the scenes, it'll integrate with existing complex urban forestry management systems and do all it needs to do for councils. But it's also going to have a super simple interface that lets the ordinary person in the community join in without getting lost in tech. We want it to be cheerful and fun to use. Think "Waze for trees!"
treCare will be for purchase by councils. But we want it to be free for download for the community. We see it as a "cross-over" or a "bridge" between councils and the community.
Where are we at, so far, with the app?
Agritech Cornwall invested alongside our founders and got us going nicely. We've now been a year in development and have a super, stable, functioning app to show for it. The base app lets you geo-position a tree (like this lovely Monterey Cypress in Penzance, below) using your phone and then see it on a map. You can click on the tree's marker and that brings up a window with some more information.
We've had some excellent commitment on our platform from botanical gardens, arboreta, orchards, tree-planters and councils all around the globe. The Eden Project, right here in Cornwall, UK recently took on our app to map their outdoor living landscape collections. That's certainly a strong vote of confidence by an early adopter. We know our idea has legs. And others clearly do, too.
Who are we, exactly?
We're a small and dynamic startup team. Jonathon Jones OBE is the founder of Tremap. He's well known in the UK as the man who managed to grow a sustainable crop of tea for the first time in history, right here on English soil at Tregothnan Estate, Cornwall. He's successfully developed the crop and exports this most British of English teas to the world He's no stranger to trees he was head gardener at Tregothnan for years, before taking over his role as Director of Trading) and no stranger to entrepreneurial startups.(he got his OBE for services to international trade and commerce) The idea of mapping and digitally labelling a tree on your phone was Jonathon's. Richard Maxwell is COO and has a background in IT and tech development. Before joining Tremap Ltd in 2021 though, he spent decades organising seminars and teaching programmes, mixing with people of all kinds of backgrounds and cultures in 10 different countries around the globe. Armed with a wealth of communications skills and a savvy technical background, he's just as at home talking to programmers about APIs and error handling routines as he is in talking to tree wardens about ATIs and TPOs. Or stay at home parents about the Pine tree in the yard that looks like it's dying.
Our headquarters are at Nanpean, Cornwall, UK, in the enormous clay-mine land reclamation project. They're busy planting trees all over the hillsides around us and we love it!
Our technical development team is based in Cornwall, too. We have a fantastic team of data service specialists and app front end people that have, in the space of just one year, produced a working app that's already been purchased and is in use by some really high profile clients.
Our team does get the job done and we're grateful to them.
Is there an actual council that's helping us to develop the app?
Very much so. We're delighted to have the support of Falmouth Town Council, here in Cornwall. They've agreed to let us tap into their wealth of expertise in caring for parks and gardens and also their experience in community relations. We need their "council point of view" in designing the app and we're glad to have a great workgroup of councillors on board to ensure we get the app design right.
And, Falmouth Town Council has agreed to run our test programme, too, when we're ready. It's a pilot project setting just made to order for us: a small, enthusiastic council - the ideal development crucible for treCare. We plan to get this right, here at home here in Cornwall. And then we're taking it to councils all over the UK and around the globe.
One more thing that makes our app absolutely unique...
We're going to involve the community in development.
We really, really want this to be an "app by the people, for the people." So we're going to open up the design process, even if it slows us down a little. We need to know how people would use our app. We need to know what they think it should do and not do. We need their creativity. Lots of app developers have failed to first listen before they created and we refuse to do that. We'll create an online forum where people can submit their ideas. We'll post updates on what we're doing. And we'll give the app to beta testers in the community and wait for their frank evaluation before we go to market with the app. It has to work for councils. And it has to work for the average person out in the community.
We're planning to run a competition for the kids of Cornwall, to design the set of icons we'll use in the app. We think it's pretty cool for a school kid to get to have their icons incorporated in a tree care app that will get used around the globe!
And, we're planning an art competition on the theme "Caring for our Trees." We'll embed the winners' works in the startup screen of our app for a while when we launch the app on the app stores. We think that's pretty cool for kids too!
Most of all, we want the people in our community to be invested in our app - because they've had a say in how it should work and because they've contributed their creative content to the app.
At the risk of labouring the point: we want this to be "the app by the people, for the people."
Is anyone else involved?
Yes. The Cornwall International Male Choir Festival has agreed to sponsor the planting of 1,000 trees this year, one for each visiting singer and their followers who are coming to their festival. It's their commitment to trying to offset the carbon cost of travel to their event. And as one of the very first things we'll do with treCare when its ready, we'll map all of those 1,000 trees, digitally label them with the choir's names and logos and preserve the memory of the festival for years to come (not to mention helping to preserve the trees, themselves, by mapping them!)
Also, we're talking to the Kernow Weather Team, a local volunteer weather reporting group, right here in our backyard in Cornwall. Their real-time, locally accurate weather reports are followed by tens of thousands of people in the communities around Cornwall every day. We're considering integrating automatic storm alert feeds into our app to warn people about extreme weather events that might affect trees and KWT would be the perfect partner to develop this with. We think it'd be a great feature to add to our app!
Hidden Valley Gardens in Treesmill, Cornwall has also very generously agreed to help us by making a 20% discount on plant sales available to our £ 10 pledgers. This reward is a perfect fit for those who care for nature!
UK acclaimed local Cornwall artist Katy Stoneman has agreed to join us in promoting treCare. She's creating a painting of Cornwall's iconic "Nearly Home Trees" - the much-loved copse of beech trees visible from A30 as you "come home to Cornwall" - just for the launch of treCare. We'll be offering 50 of her signed, limited edition prints as well as the original painting as part of our rewards scheme. The "Nearly Home Trees" are such a perfect fit for the treCare app ("tre" means "home" in Cornish) and we're delighted to have Katy's support!
So what do we need?
We're on the cusp of an exciting "next phase" in our development.
We've successfully developed a Minimum Viable Product.
That MVP has already been purchased and our first customers are already using tremap.
We have a development team in place. They have a proven track record and are ready to take our platform to the next level.
We have a local council willing and available to help create treCare with us, this year.
We have three more councils around the UK asking for information, already.
The app is needed. Councils tell us that. People on the streets tell us that.
And we think people will be excited about getting to participate in the design.
All round, we think we have a great idea that absolutely has legs!
What we don't have, right now, is the funding to push us over the hump into this next phase.
And so we're crowdfunding to pay for app development. The funds will go towards development costs, in particular:
- development of a user registration and authentication module in our database server and app front end, so that people can register the app to their device;
- development of the info screen for individual trees that will let councils display the information they track;
- implementation of a system of icons to denote tree status (like "Fallen Tree" or "Diseased Tree" or "Broken Branch") and integration of those into our map interface;
- integration of datasets from the ATI (Ancient Tree Inventory) and local councils so that people can see in our app's map existing data for the thousands of trees that have been geo-located over the years;
- development of an internal, in-app reporting system so that the app will send email notifications to addresses the council has chosen, for tree care related alerts;
- development of functionality to send alerts to the app from a council website dashboard.
- enhancements to our database system so we can display large numbers of trees in "heat map" style on our map;
We have places to go and things to do. And costs to be covered.
But we're crowdfunding, not just because we need an injection of funds. We're crowdfunding because it fits with the very spirit of our app. treCare is "an app by the people, for the people" including how it's funded.
Please join our project. We know some people will support us partly for the love of trees and the environment. We realise, though, that recognition for your pledges means something, too. So we're offering some great rewards. And for those pledging at top tiers, we're making some rewards available that actually let you participate in our project in some way.
Because treCare is an app by the people, for the people (did we just say that again?)