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Deep water culture hydroponics start-up secures £500,000 to scale commercial trials

The Phytoponics' Deep Water Culture solutions are configured around grow modules which enable fully controlled soilless growing conditions without the need for additional substrates such as rockwool or coconut coir, but with the additional ability to apply unique root zone management to the crop. "We have developed a range of Deep Water Culture hydroponic growing solutions that are suitable for large scale commercial crop production, tested and refined to deliver high quality taste and yields for vine tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, with recent trials on soft fruits", the teams says. Now they've completed a £500,000 equity financing round and announce their first project on commercial scale.

The £500,000 investment comes from a number of existing shareholders with match funding provided by the Development Bank of Wales as the company’s first institutional investor. Established in October 2016, Phytoponics is headquartered in Abersytwyth and currently has a technical R&D facility in Yorkshire at Stockbridge Technology Centre, the renowned horticultural research and agriculture innovation hub.

Dubbo variety tomatoes hydroponically grown at Stockbridge Technology Centre

Phytoponics has taken an ancient hydroponic method and we have adapted and evolved it for use at scale by designing a range of Deep Water Culture (DWC) growing modules containing nutrient solutions which are kept oxygenated by built in aerators. "Plants are located in the growing module and the roots of the plant are suspended in the water which has the crop specific nutrient recipe and the correct amount of dissolved oxygen", they explain. "The growing modules are serviced by a computerised nutrient control system that maintains the nutrient and pH at optimum levels whilst also irrigating the rootzone of the plants according to a carefully designed inlet and drain duty cycles."

Phytoponics has a number of controlled-environment glasshouses equipped with various configurations of its Deep Water Culture hydroponics technology growing different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, snack peppers and strawberries in additional to other experimental crops.

The company is also working closely with Edward Baarda Limited, a major produce grower who is the first commercial grower in the UK to deploy Phytoponics technology at scale growing tomatoes hydroponically without a rockwool substrate.

Tomatoes growing at Edward Baarda Limited using Phytoponics hydroponic substrate-less system

Phytoponics Co-Founder Adam Dixon said: "We’re thrilled to have secured this funding which provides us with the necessary operating cash to scale up trials of our technology whilst enabling us to further innovate as we move closer to realising the commercial potential of what we’ve developed. I’m excited for the future as we move a step closer to achieving our mission to deliver the sustainable benefits of hydroponic agriculture at scale through the global deployment of our substrate-less Deep Water Culture growing solutions”.

CEO, Andy Jones commented: “I joined Phytoponics last summer and I’m extremely proud of the progress we’ve made over the last nine months. The results achieved in our Stockbridge glasshouses have led to significant commercial interest from some large industry players and generated a high degree of confidence from investors wishing to fund the next phase of the business.”

David Blake, Investment Executive with the Development Bank of Wales added: “As the first institutional investor in Phytoponics, we are delighted to support the scaling up and commercialisation of the technology. The potential reach for this exciting new solution is global with UK wide and international opportunities already evident and we wish the team every success.”

Mark Hindmarsh, Phytoponics Chairman added: “I’ve backed many start-ups over the years and have seen very few that have got to the point Phytoponics has with so little resource, in comparison to some of their sector peers. Not only have we enhanced and broadened our technology offering since the early experimental trials with the support of Aberystwyth University, but we’ve successfully proven that it works across a number of crop types. To close any level of funding in these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic is no mean feat and I therefore would like to personally thank our new investors and existing shareholders for their continued support and belief in the future potential of the business.”

The Phytoponics investment process was managed internally and supported by the company’s legal representative, Acuity Law and Blake Morgan on behalf of the Development Bank of Wales.

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