Scott Allshouse grew up Sarasota-based Earth Ally from the ground.
Allshouse, who is CEO and chairman of the organic gardening company, drew on his experience in the food industry working for giants like Pillsbury, Heinz and Campbell Soup. He went on to serve as CEO of the small South Florida organic snack business, Buddy Fruits, and was Employee # 1 at Earth’s Ally, a Sarasota-based company founded in 2018.
Earth’s Ally founder Bruce Cassidy was looking for products made with natural ingredients. The company partnered with suppliers who mainly sold insecticides and disease control products in bulk to large organic farms.
“We picked the best products out there that organic farmers use,” Allshouse said in a telephone interview from his Sarasota office. “We said to pack them in small packages and take them to home gardeners. We have introduced the term “Field tested, Farmer approved”. Some of our products are organically grown and a home gardener would never have access to them if we did not put them on the market.
Allshouse said the company couldn’t find an effective, non-toxic weed control product, so Earth’s Ally developed its own using ingredients found in kitchens, such as sea salt, soap and vinegar. The product has been extensively tested and promises to kill weeds and grasses right down to the root, providing a safer alternative to products made with the chemical glyphosate.
Earth’s Ally recently signed a nationwide distribution agreement with Lowe’s to sell the company’s non-toxic and bee-safe products nationwide in 500 retail stores. The range is also available online at HomeDepot.com and Amazon, as well as in some independent garden centers.
About the products
Earth’s Ally, the brand founded by Sarasota Green Group LLC, sells three products marketed as safe for pollinators, pets and children to home gardeners.
According to information provided by the company:
- Earth’s Ally Herbicide and Weed Killer kills weeds at the root with visible results within three hours. It leaves no harmful residue.
- Earth ally insect control is an insecticide, acaricide and repellant that can be used on houseplants and organic gardens. The product is made from botanical oils – rosemary, clove, and peppermint – for use in the control of mites and other soft-bodied insects.
- Earth Ally Disease Control uses food grade citric acid to treat and prevent powdery mildew, late blight, blight, canker and leaf spots on houseplants and in organic gardens.
The company is passionate about protecting bees, which disappear in colony collapses around the world. Beekeepers reported the loss of 105,240 colonies due to colony collapse in 2020, a 76% increase from last year and the highest total since 2016, according to a report by agriculture.com.
The USDA has been studying the disorder since 2009, in which worker bees leave behind a beehive and queen with plenty of food. Although the cause has not been identified, a combination of factors have been cited, including “parasites and parasites, pathogens, poor nutrition and sublethal exposure to pesticides,” according to planetbee.org.
Total bee colonies fell to 2.59 million in 2016, the same year that 114,000 colonies collapsed, the greatest loss due to colony collapse disorder during the relatively short period of time the USDA compiled the bee report, agriculture.com reported.
“Bees are responsible for about 40% of our food supply,” Allshouse said. “They pollinate so many different things. Without the bees we would all have a lot of problems pretty quickly. We were very passionate from the start that we had to come up with products that wouldn’t harm bees, harm pollinators, and be safe for humans. Our slogan or mantra is “safe for humans, animals and the planet”.
The products are bottled at a factory near Fort Wayne, Indiana, a central location that allows convenient shipping across the country, Allshouse said.
Manatee County uses some of the products in parks that attract many families and pets. After the devastating 2018 red tide in the Gulf of Mexico, water quality advocates lobbied to eliminate harmful runoff from pesticides and other pollutants.
The biggest obstacle
The biggest misconception the company faces is that natural based products are ineffective.
“There’s this stigma that if it’s safe it probably won’t work very well. It’s the thing we fight the most every day, ”Allshouse said, adding that some of the early products in the industry were not performing as advertised. “You don’t have to decide, do I want it to be safe for my family or do I want it to work? Our products do both. We won’t launch something that doesn’t work just because it’s safe. We measure our products against all competitors, including harmful synthetics. We think they should work just as well or better.
The startup employs six people in an office near the Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch border. Allshouse said the company has tapped into local talent and hopes to employ more as the business continues to grow.
During the coronavirus pandemic, many families and people confined to the house decided to try gardening to deal with food shortages as closures start. The nationwide phenomenon has resulted in a shortage of fruit and vegetable seeds and a demand for chickens, United States today and NPR reported.
Company research shows 16 million people tried gardening for the first time last year, Allshouse said. Many of them won’t keep the habit of gardening during a pandemic, but those who do will look for products that are both safe and effective.
“We know that when people try to garden, they see the benefits. It’s exercise. It’s therapy. It’s a way to clear your mind, ”he said. “We know that many new gardeners are coming and we know that an overwhelming number of these gardeners are looking for safe products. We know the trend is one-sided.
“We never see the category go back to ‘OK, we are okay with things that are harmful and unsafe to use. “”