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18/07/2018 – News / Sustainability / Environment / Innovation / Green Business / UK / Global

3 UK start-ups in the running to win €500,000 in green business competition

A total of 25 start-ups that have made it through the first stage of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge – a major international competition supporting green entrepreneurs. The 25 innovative companies, including three from the UK, have been chosen by a panel of experts from 845 applications to be considered for the top prize of €500,000 to develop their sustainable business.


The international competition saw applications from over 100 countries from all over the world. The diverse group includes plans to stop plastic reaching the sea, to make storage of renewable energy more efficient, and to combat water scarcity around the world. They show the broad range of ways businesses can make a positive impact on the planet, while also being successful.


The UK is represented by three promising start-ups competing to secure the prize. BioCarbon Engineering has come up with a method of tree-planting to combat deforestation, and both Phytoponics and LettUs Grow have both developed new ways of growing food to reduce its carbon footprint. Below we take a more in-depth look at those UK contenders.

BioCarbon Engineering

Lauren Fletcher, BioCarbon Engineering

Annually, about 15 million hectares of forest are cut down worldwide. This is an estimated 26 billion trees, of which only a part is replanted. Growing trees is the most cost-effective method of natural CO2 sequestration, yet achieving global restoration targets with slow and expensive hand-planting methods alone will be impossible.


Ecosystem restoration company BioCarbon Engineering is going to counter this industrial-scale deforestation using industrial-scale reforestation. The start-up provides integrated data and planting solutions for large-scale ecosystem restoration projects.


The company has developed a system to plant trees with drones with the core objective to plant 500 billion trees by 2060. The system uses satellite and drone data to determine the best location to plant each tree. The planting drones shoot a biodegradable seedpod at each predetermined position at a speed of 120 per minute. Two operators equipped with 10 drones will plant 400,000 trees per day.


Adam Dixon, Phytoponics

Phytoponics offers a smart, controllable growing platform, which enhances fresh produce quality and yields for commercial growers. The hydroponic growing system has the potential to transform commercial agriculture and increase the abundance of fresh produce. Capable of delivering high returns on investment at an affordable price, the invention will give huge benefits to the commercial grower at half the cost of current offerings.


Phytoponics is a hydroponic growing system based around the use of inflatable deep-water grow bags that fit inside greenhouses in long 40 metre rows. Served by a central nutrient and irrigation system, Phytoponics can scale to fit both large and small commercial greenhouses, with sensor data capture and automation capabilities.


Phytoponics offers the chance to grow food 12 months of the year, in any climate – and it hugely reduces the quantity of water, fertilisers and energy used to produce food.

LettUs Grow

Charles Guy, LettUs-Grow

Launched in 2015 in Bristol, LettUs Grow wants to bring affordable food growing to the modern city with integrated farm management software. The start-up designs efficient irrigation and farm control systems for indoor farms. Those systems deliver higher crop yields, reduce production costs and make farmers’ lives easier.


The technology uses the methodology of soil-free aeroponics, where nutrients and water are delivered to plant roots as a mist. Not only does this allow greater oxygenation of the roots, delivering better flavour and faster growth, but it also uses up to 95 per cent less water than traditional agriculture.


Plants are grown within aeroponic grow beds and all data gets uploaded to the Ostara™ software platform, which reduces unnecessary labour and optimises conditions for each individual plant species within the farm. LettUs Grow’s novel technology represents a step-change in efficiency in this fast growing global market, predicted to be worth over US$13bn by 2024.

“Revolutionary” contenders

The five finalists will be announced in mid-August, and will then present their pitches to a jury on 13 September in Amsterdam, where the winner will be announced. Along with the grand prize of €500,000 for the winner, there will be a €200,000 prize for the runner up and €100,000 up for grabs for each of the other finalists. In addition to the prize money, all finalists will receive over six months of expert coaching to optimise their business opportunities.


Jacquelien Bunt, Deputy Head of Charities at the Dutch Postcode Lottery and chair of the preliminary jury, said: “I am incredibly impressed with the top 25 – some are really revolutionary, and some show how feasibility and scalability can make all the difference. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey with them.”


Last year, Rwandan start-up EarthEnable won the competition with its idea to produce sustainable, affordable, clean, and waterproof earthen flooring. This means people in developing countries can move away from unhygienic dirt floors without relying on the expensive and unsustainable alternative of cement.


For more information on full list of innovative start-ups in the competition, visit:

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