British lettuce grower Jepco will be expanding their growth season thanks to a GBP900,000 funding package provided by the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) Debt Finance, managed by Maven Capital Partners (Maven). With the money, they will acquire the hydroponic technology and equipment needed to expand production all year round.
The finance package will also create 14 new jobs in the region. This is the second MEIF loan made to the Jepco Group.
Two distinct opportunities have arisen for Jepco. The first is to help protect crop growers in the UK, affected by Fusarium, a soil fungi that destroys crops. The second is the introduction of an all year-round supply of salads from UK growers for the retail sector, which have now started to trial in a major UK supermarket.
The firm’s new hydroponic production facility will help to avoid Fusarium due to the process not involving soil. It will also allow all-year-round production at the same time as significantly reducing the impact on the environment with the process requiring 10 per cent or less water than traditional outdoor growing methods.
Now in its third generation, the family-run company is led by CEO, Stuart Piccaver, the grandson of John E Piccaver, who founded the business in 1946.
Stuart Piccaver, CEO at Jepco (Marketing), says: “We look forward to investing in our hydroponic solution, offering our customers a high yielding alternative for the future. Our new systems will provide great advantages across our supply chain, providing benefits for the consumer, retailers and growers in the UK and Ireland.”
The high cost of purchasing and installing hydroponic systems has been a significant barrier for growers. Jepco has identified soilless growing systems that are affordable and will retro-fit these to existing protected structures such as greenhouses.
Richard Altoft, Investment Director at Maven Capital Partners, says: “We are very pleased to be working with another company from the Jepco Group - helping fund an innovative hydroponics project. This separate facility will provide a sustainable offering to Jepco’s customers and deliver a solution to protected crop growers in Ireland and the UK.”
Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank, says: “The Midlands Engine Investment Fund has been set up to provide finance to firms across the entire region. Maven Capital Partners will now support additional growth in this innovative Lincolnshire business. We would encourage other businesses looking to scale up and grow to check out the options available through MEIF.”