The Plant Runner: putting waste to work

26th November 2021 | Eativity editors

The horticulturalists and best mates behind Melbourne-based The Plant Runner have gone from establishing Australia’s first mobile greenhouse in 2017 to building a successful, all-encompassing plant care and lifestyle hub. With a mission to make it easier and more beautiful for people to keep their plants thriving, Dominic Hooghuis and Duncan Hilder also have a strong commitment to sustainability. The business minimises plastics, uses recyclable packaging, sources locally and is a proud 1% for the Planet member. And now they’ve launched a carbon-negative fertiliser made from Melbourne food waste.

A new addition to the company’s custom plant food range, The Plant Runner’s Soil & Microbe Booster combines the unique combo of biochar and frass to help support and enhance soil health, improve water-holding capacity and encourage plant growth.

Black soldier fly
This little black soldier fly is pooping its way to a more sustainable future.

What is frass?

We’re so glad you asked. Frass is basically insect poo. Yuh-huh. Bardee, a Melbourne-based start-up, produces the frass from black soldier flies that are fed the literal tonnes of food waste that come in from local cafes, restaurants and markets. It’s not some kind of fly free-for-all, though. This is done in a series of climate-controlled labs. Every kilo of Bardee’s frass offsets more than 7 kilos of CO2 emissions by diverting food waste from landfill.

Frass is also an all-natural soil additive that holds up to 200 times more nutrients than worm castings or compost, with a greater diversity of microbes. It contains soil nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, and trace elements like copper, zinc and iron.

But wait, there’s more. This powerful pot of poop is also rich in chitin. Insects like black soldier flies have an exoskeleton that contains chitin. The exoskeleton is shed into the frass and breaks down, releasing the chitin. And here’s where it gets really good: studies have found that chitin is toxic to plant pests and can stimulate the growth of good bacteria.

The Plant Runner co-founders Dominic Hooghuis and Duncan Hilder
The Plant Runner co-founders Duncan Hilder and Dominic Hooghuis.

Good for plants and the planet

Since launching four years ago, The Plant Runner has expanded at an average rate of 130 percent, year-on-year. The business has also amassed almost 40,000 Instagram followers and sold more than 250,000 bottles of its signature Indoor Plant Food. All while helping hundreds of thousands of people propagate their plant dreams.

“Living and breathing horticulture every day, Dunc and I wanted to create a plant care hub with everything plant-lovers need,” Hooghuis says. “Combining our knowledge and experience, we’ve designed our range of potting mixes and plant food to focus on soil health. We’re dedicated to making products that are good for plants and for Earth.”

The Plant Runner Truck is fast becoming a staple at Victorian markets, from Moonee Ponds to the Mornington Peninsula. At each site, Hooghuis and Hildershare share helpful advice and bask in good plant vibes with new and familiar faces. The pair also run an educational blog in which they use their combined 25+ years of horticultural experience to offer advice on everything from basic plant care and pest control to Pilea peperomioides.

To find out more about The Plant Runner and to check out the range, click here.