A SMART student has made it to the final of a social enterprise competition thanks to her “dating site for gardening”.

Fi Thorburn, who studies complementary therapy at Ayrshire College, entered the Social Innovators Challenge and has made it to the final seven across the country.

Entrants were tasked to generate an idea that could lead to a start-up business and tie into themes including climate change.

Fi’s idea is to tackle social isolation and poor mental health by bringing people together through a gardening app called ‘The Yellow Barrow’.

She said: “I wanted to do something that impacted in a social way and I’ve got a huge concern for social isolation and mental health.

“Through my own mental health issues I have found that tinkering about in the garden is very therapeutic. It gives you a wee task every day. I wanted people to connect who would never have found each other and be friends.

“The app is almost like a dating site for gardeners!"

The app asks users to register and answer a few questions before finding like-minded gardeners who are also looking to socialise.

Fi explains: “If you don’t have your own garden then you could find somebody who could lend you their garden, in effect the person that needs to get out and socialise is meeting this other person who needs to do the same.

“They can then socialise together while the garden gets done."

The app would also have a ‘plant it forward’ element, where those who grow surplus could get in touch with others who cannot normally afford fresh food.

Fi, who has suffered from poor mental health in the past, believes that the idea can bring people together who are socially anxious.

She said: “It’s something that I’ve always thought of, I’ve isolated myself in the past for mental and physical health reasons.

“I’m very different from that now but I know what it’s like and it is hard."

Fi is one of the organisers of the West Kilbride coronavirus support group, which has been looking out for vulnerable residents in the village by picking up prescriptions and assisting with other everyday tasks.

She says that her idea is something which could be possible in a small village like hers in the future.

She said: “People love helping and they love doing things for each other.

“Already in West Kilbride there is a plan to put a community orchard together in the glen, which could provide people with fresh apples and other fruits.

“It would be a community project so already that’s social gardening being planned.

“It seems that all our ideas are going to come together in a lot of ways, its been a catalyst for making connections."

Fi and the six other finalists will be judged by a panel of business experts at the Impact Summit, an online business event, on May 20.

The ultimate winner will receive £500 to develop their idea, feature in The Herald newspaper and a mentorship from a number of Scottish entrepreneurs.

Fi said: “It’s really confidence building and although I come across as confident, I don’t have as much in myself as I would like.

“At 41 I’ve never been a finalist in anything, so it’s been good to have a go.”

More information and tickets for the Impact Summit can be found at https://www.impact-summit.org