UK: City Farm Systems a finalist in the UK’s largest search for new ‘green’ innovation

RBS has selected City Farm Systems as a finalist in the Innovation Gateway; a major international search for new ways of reducing energy, water and waste.

Launched in March this year, the RBS Innovation Gateway attracted more than 140 submissions in just 40 days, from brand new concepts through to market-ready products and services, from innovators and small businesses (SMEs) around Britain and the world, from Perth in Scotland to Perth in Western Australia.

The best ideas will be tested on the RBS estate of 2,500 buildings and branches across the UK.

The idea submitted by City Farm Systems is their patent pending 3D farming technology that allows the most perishable and hardest to transport produce to be grown at the point of need.

Jonathan Lodge, CEO at City Farm Systems said: “We are enormously proud to have been selected as finalists in the RBS Innovation Gateway. To be recognised as having the potential to play a part in improving the Triple Bottom Line of a business the size of RBS is a real honour. We have long believed we have a brilliant cost cutting and waste saving concept – to have RBS and their expert panellists lend their endorsement has already increased our visibility and should certainly open a few more doors for us - as well as a gateway! We hope this will be the start of a long and fruitful growing relationship.”

Over the last six months an independent panel of experts from academia and business has worked with RBS to analyse each submission, to assess the positive impact they could make in driving resource efficiency if the innovation was installed on the RBS estate.

Announcing the Finalists, Marcela Navarro, Head of Customer Innovation at RBS, who is leading the Innovation Gateway initiative, said: “Everyone connected with the RBS Innovation Gateway has been blown away by the innovators’ creativity and dedication to resource efficiency. The quality and the range of ideas have been phenomenal.”

“Our world-class panel of subject-matter experts have brought their knowledge and passion to the Gateway, carefully assessing each submission. We are delighted to say that 97% of all submissions were reviewed by at least five experts in the Innovation Panel.”

Being named as a finalist takes City Farm Systems just one step away from seeing their innovation installed by RBS. The company will now travel to RBS’ London headquarters on 10 November where, alongside the other finalists, they will present their sales demonstration unit for the first time.

Successful, market ready ideas will be tested in RBS buildings. All successful concepts will be given a £3,000 grant, to develop their idea further before any possible test on the RBS estate.

The bank’s property portfolio in the UK includes over 300 large offices (40 with staff restaurants), 42 industrial sites and 5 data centres. As a major bank with 17 million UK customers, 115,000 employees and a large estate of new and historical buildings, RBS’ footprint is significant.

Jonathan Lodge said: “Our technology is all about creating the most economical and environmentally sustainable facilities for growing fresh herbs, salads and small vegetables at the point of retail or major consumption. Over the last five years we have observed and analysed as competitors developed their offerings. Along the way I have met many of them from around the world such as Jack Ng from Singapore, Paul Herdej of Farmed Here and Caleb Harper from MITCityFarm. We found that they had all started with a concrete base, most with a warehouse building and then started thinking. We then compared them to the needs of potential customers. Looking around we saw a huge number of retail sheds with little on their rooftops but heat exchangers dumping heat energy. Why would we want to pay for an expensive building, heat, light and CO2 when our ideal customers are paying to dump heat and CO2 and light can be free? Our development path has all been about building on my cost cutting and efficiency background to find a way to cut expensive links out of supply chains.

“Our patent pending technology allows us to automate the transfer of growing crops to and from a wide variety of rooftops. Rather than work at roof level our staff can monitor the growing crops from floor level where they also harvest and process produce that can be with a consumer within minutes. Traditional growers can use three days for bagged salads to reach the retail shelf. With a leading supermarket saying 60% of bagged salads end up wasted we would like to give those three days to the consumer.

“Whilst competitor systems have replaced the motorway element of their transport needs with high overheads we can do away with the need for any transport and related packaging. This allows us to help towards reducing city centre congestion and pollution.

“Our innovation is less about saving energy in a building but about doing far more with the same amount of energy and reducing costs in the supply chain. We aim to reduce the amount of unnecessary packing reaching a customer and to use rainwater harvesting to deliver better quality produce.”

RBS recognises that companies like City Farm Systems can play a major role in addressing the bank’s challenges around resource efficiency. Like all major companies, RBS is now focused on reducing how much its spend on lighting, heating, cooling and paper use for example. But the bank’s knows there are limits to what it can achieve using today’s technology. By offering its estate as a giant test bed and by using the bank’s vast corporate network RBS wants to help leverage innovation and fast track progress.

Prof. Doug Crawford-Brown from Cambridge University’s Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research, who sits on the RBS Innovation Gateway panel which selected City Farm Systems as a Finalist, confirmed the importance of innovation for people and the planet: “While there are solutions to a low carbon world available, many remain costly and ineffective. Innovation in materials and energy are therefore crucial to the world's sustainability goals.”

Jonathan Lodge said: “When RBS set out their ambitious plan to find innovative ways to cut their overheads they expected, and found, boffins with a broad array of LED lighting controls and monitoring systems. We at City Farm Systems like to think we stretched their expectations to another field. It has impressed us enormously that RBS has made the effort to put together such a high calibre team of industry and academic specialists. To have done so in such a short space of time is a remarkable effort.
“Yet this was not enough for Marcela Navarro – she persuaded the panellists to share their knowledge with members of the gateway. For many of us this has proven to be a valuable learning experience and has enabled us to appreciate more about some of the processes needed to make the most of our innovations. Many of the savings and improvements we offer are easy to believe but much harder to quantify. Thanks to the Innovation Gateway we are better placed to do this.”
RBS calculated that the products and services currently on the market would only help us reach around 25% of our goals. This led RBS to reach out to innovators and SMEs like City Farm Systems around the UK in search of brand new ideas to test and install on their buildings and branches.

The RBS Innovation Gateway has three aims; as well as helping RBS save more energy, water and waste, the project is designed to cultivate unique and awe-inspiring innovations and help local inventors accelerate their access to market.

The RBS Innovation Gateway is an ongoing scheme. For information and details on how to apply please visit:

For more information:
City Farm Systems Ltd
T: +44(0) 1184 403 435

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