Across Europe in large cities where allotment areas are scarce, the waiting list to obtain a plot can be lengthy, sometimes taking years for individuals to plant their first vegetables. Recognizing this challenge, a couple of young entrepreneurs from Norway decided that the best way to make that waiting time a lot shorter was to launch Nabohage, an Airbnb-style rental platform for gardens.

Entrepreneur Daniel Engvig, from Norway, stumbled upon the gardening trend almost by accident. “It all began when my grandmother found herself with a large garden space that she could no longer use due to her age, and a friend named Simon who wanted space to grow in the city but faced excessively long waiting times for allotment gardens,” says Engvig, who originally came up with the idea back in 2018 after winning a Norwegian pitching contest. However, the startup shutdown in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic prompting widespread closures.

From city dwellers seeking to rent allotments to reconnect with nature and grow their own fresh produce, to families using it as a tool to teach children about gardening and sustainability, there are several reasons why urban citizens are increasingly looking for areas to plant.

Network engineer Mohamed Abdirisak, who grew up in Drammen, a city outside of Oslo, Norway, is the co-founder of the startup. Recently, they won a circular pitching competition, organized as a side event of the annual Polar Bear Pitching in Oulu, Finland.

“The idea is simple: we want to make urban farming and renting your own garden easier. Currently, queues for allotment plots can take up to 20 years, and we want to provide a solution to this problem,” says Abdirisak, who is bringing his technical background to the project.

In areas of Europe such as the UK, demand for allotments increased by 12% in 2023. Research by consumables supplier GTSE revealed that in some parts of the country, 25% of local councils had one or more closed waitlists, while only 14 (39%) had plots immediately available. Part of the problem arises from the increasing popularity of allotments contrasted with a significant decrease in available areas. A study conducted by the University of Sheffield indicates that between the 1950s and the present day, there has been a 65% reduction in allotment land in the United Kingdom.

Daniel and Mohamed, founders of Nabohage: allotments attract a diverse range of people who share common interests in gardening | Photo: Marcio Delgado

“We have been testing the platform to make it is user-friendly before the official launch. To kickstart the journey, we are offering a growing package for a one-time fee of 50 Euros, which includes ecological soil and seeds sourced from local farms. The starter pack also includes ecological fertilizer and a growing box made from recycled materials. Free delivery and installation are also part of the deal,” Daniel explains about the initiative, which offers a 3-tier subscription menu.

For the entrepreneurs, however, the business model goes beyond simply exchanging land for money temporarily.

“Allotments attract a diverse range of people who share common interests in gardening. It fosters a sense of community. It also provides an opportunity for older generations to socialize with younger gardeners and enjoy its therapeutic benefits,” says Engvig.

The company, which matches aspiring growers with garden owners willing to rent out their unused outdoor spaces, is set to launch in Oslo in early April. Monthly memberships start at 20 Euros per 1 square meter of allotment.