Start a Grass, Lawn & Turf Business

A grass lawn and turf business grows and supplies pre-grown grass (sod) to residential, commercial, industrial, sports and recreational clients. In this context, we are talking about live, traditional or real grass as opposed to artificial grass which we looked at before.

Market Need
An attractive (and instant) lush lawn can make a drab piece of land look attractive without the time and effort took to grow it. This can be to a homeowner, property developer, business. Not only can it enhance the look but also increase its monetary value an unmaintained lawn can decrease the value of a property and make the whole place look unmaintained (and even give the buyer more cause to negotiate). In the case of turf, it has more functional uses which I speak of right at the end.

Real grass vs. artificial grass
Artificial grass is currently the “hotter” industry, it requires no maintenance, watering, mowing etc. but is also more expensive and many people prefer the real thing, also some artificial grass looks like a Christmas tree which is not nice at all. Artificial grass also gained from our water crises when people were being harassed for watering their lawn.

Do you grow or do you buy from a grower?
This industry has a lot of middlemen that is because the grass is grown in rural areas (where land is cheap) but the big demand is in cities. So you often see people selling from the back of bakkies, most of these guys just buy from the grower, add a markup and resell it. Your business model depends on where you find yourself. If you have unused land and a cheap supply of water growing might be something to look into. I personally think there might be a gap in the local wholesale market, if you have a truck that can move pallets (see below) especially if your trucking activities is not yielding sufficient profits. But you still need to find the retailers or sellers that will move the product fast enough to make it a profitable venture or maybe you can supply to landscapers.

How to “package” grass
In foreign markets, the sod is sold in various configurations, rolls, pallets, or in single square feet and square yards. In South Africa, we are used to buying or pricing flooring in square meters. Even if you selling rolls, you need to be able to say a roll will cover X square meters etc.

The pallet is usually packed to cover around 4 square meters is an easy way to package and transport the grass. Locally I have seen lawn sold in batches of 20m2 which is around five pellets or four if you can pack it tight enough.

What type of grass to sell
Traditionally the most popular type of pre-grown grass the average suburbanite was familiar with was “buffalo grass” but like any business, you need to familiarise yourself with the various species available as there are a few different sold these days, for one the north american buffalo grass (bouteloua dactyloides) differs from what we call buffalo grass (stenotaphrum secundatum). There are in total around 12000 species of grass. Another popular grass sold is kikuyu which is sometimes used for turf. But many other species are used depending on the use (a school field with use a different type than a professional sports field.

While many focus on the species, we have seen professional sports use more technologically advanced grass such as hybrid grass in which the natural grass is grown in a woven backing consisting of plastic fibres which make the natural grass stronger and more durable this creates an interwoven hybrid of natural and artificial fibre which has excellent drainage capacity.

Could you carve out a niche cultivating a grass better suited to our climate and circumstances (water is getting expensive). Is something to look into.

Where/How to sell
Small businesses have been advertising on online classifieds, social media and via websites. Grass suppliers used to be found in the yellow pages. It would be great if you could supply a retail outlet or sign up one as a sales channel that you can supply.

In Cape Town the bakkie guys roaming the suburbs selling grass got a bad reputation as there used to be scammers operating like this, I think the scammers were selling compost, but any people roaming in the suburbs these days are going to be stopped and questioned by armed response officers, it’s just how our dangerous society has evolved.

And then I have also seen foreigners selling rolls of sod on the side of the road. Which I always find strange because if South Africans do the same they get harassed for permits and are fined. It is very weird how foreigners just plop their wares down wherever and are not harassed by law enforcement the way the locals are.

Image credits: sodsultions, lawnchick