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Green Great Britain Week blog series: How ‘grown-up’ veg could prevent a food security crisis

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India Langley from LettUs Grow.

As part of Green Great Britain Week, we’re celebrating leadership and action in Bristol and the South West to tackle climate change and drive clean growth in the UK.

Tuesday’s theme is ‘Technologies of the future: Clean Growth and Innovation. We invited India Langley from LettUs Grow, a Bristol-based startup designing innovative aeroponic equipment for indoor and vertical farms, to share their story. Aeroponics is a way of growing crops indoors without the need for soil. The plant’s nutrients and water are delivered to the roots as a mist. The company have recently been awarded 100,000 euros by the Green Challenge for their innovative approach to farming. 

Photo: Roy Beusker

It’s been a rollercoaster few months for LettUs Grow. We’ve set up a new state-of-the-art aeroponic farm in Birmingham, been nominated as Startup of the Year in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and in August our Managing Director and Co-founder, Charlie Guy, attended a nail-biting week in Amsterdam competing in the Green Challenge, an international sustainability award, where the organisation was awarded 100,000 euros

It feels like only yesterday our three founders – Jack Farmer, Ben Crowther and Charlie Guy – founded LettUs Grow to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the planet. One-third of global carbon emissions can be traced back to our food production processes. As a result of an increasing global population, emissions are increasing even further and farmland is becoming scarce. It takes 1,000 years to generate just 3cm of topsoil, and at the current rate of degradation, all of the world’s topsoil could be gone in the next 60 years, leaving little space to feed the growing global population.

Indoor farming offers a solution. It can take the pressure off of our dwindling resources and enable us to grow food more sustainably anywhere in the world – from cities to deserts, to the South Pole. By combining our backgrounds in engineering and biology LettUs Grow has found innovative ways to help indoor farmers scale up their operations to compete with traditional agriculture. Our novel aeroponic technology addresses many of the issues which have been holding back indoor farming and breaks down barriers to entry. Our stacked cultivation layers can be used in anything from factory halls or empty office buildings to shipping containers, and our farm management system, Ostara®️, makes it easy for anyone to start growing aeroponically – no matter what their background. We’re planning to deliver on our first aeroponic single-plane greenhouse within the next year.

The incredible weather of 2018 has shown the need for this sort of technology. The UK was ravaged by storms and snow from February to March, scorched by months of temperatures exceeding 30°C during the summer and more snows are predicted before the end of the year. These extreme weather conditions put an enormous strain on farmers. They’re faced with the choice of swallowing their losses or increasing their prices – something tricky to do when at the mercy of supermarkets!

If you’re keen to see one of our aeroponic grow beds in action and learn how we can help feed the next generation, come visit us at the People’s Tech on Saturday 20th October in the Engine Shed. We’ll be there along with another agri-tech startup, the Small Robot Company, who’re replacing bulky inefficient tractors with small robots. Tickets start from as little as £3 and can be bought from here.

Bristol was a great city to launch our business, and we’re grateful for the support from Bristol Green Capital Partnership among others in the city. We received crowdfunding coaching thanks to the Partnership at a crucial early stage for the organisation and met lots of useful contacts through the network. Many thanks to everyone who has helped us get where we are!

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