Some of the most inventive young minds across Wales are turning their attention to solving the pressing environmental issues of our era – with their ideas fuelling a generation of eco-focused start ups.
Two of these have just been shortlisted for the prestigious Shell Livewire Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, with both of those businesses having received support in those important early stages from Welsh enterprise support specialists, Business in Focus via the Big Ideas Wales and Business Wales programmes of support. The winner of the award will receive £25,000 to move their business opportunity forward. This the first time two Welsh businesses have featured in the final six for the award and the winner will be announced on the 10th May.
25-year-old Adam Dixon, a mechanical engineering graduate from Cardiff University, is the co-founder of Phytoponics, a company which is spearheading sustainable food production for the UK and Wales with a new type of farm. Having developed award winning new growing technology that can deliver versatile, low cost set-up and low cost, high yield fruit and vegetable production, Phytoponics is planning to launch its first farm in 2019. In his vision, fruit and vegetables are produced closer to where they are eaten, thanks to Phytoponics technology; using 90 percent less fresh water, 90 percent less land, and minimal pesticide to produce a variety of nutritious produce from aubergine to tomato.
Adam’s venture has already won £5000 via the Shell Livewire Smarter Future Award and this impressive young man has been named UN Young Champion of the Earth (Europe).
“I am very pleased to be a finalist for this Shell Livewire Young Entrepreneur award, particularly since the field is full of great people and innovations. My project, Phytoponics, is focused upon safeguarding the planet and advancing the UN’s sustainable development goals by making agriculture more productive, efficient and less damaging to the environment, also feeding people in a difficult 21st century with rising populations and climate change. While I have always been confident that my project was going to succeed and deliver impact, it was invaluable to me to get the kind of support on offer from the Big Ideas Wales programme, in the fledgling period of Phytoponics, to help me lay the right groundwork for success. And the ongoing contact and advice I received from Mark Adams at Big Ideas Wales proved useful to me.”
Adam is joined on the Shell Livewire shortlist by Karina Sudenyte and Maciek Kacprzyk, whose fruitful venture, Get Wonky, has seen the pair put their creative juices into a sustainable drinks company that use misshapen fruit that cannot otherwise be easily sold. Get Wonky was backed in its seedling stage by the Big Ideas Wales service and with a Business in Focus Start Up Loan.
Karina, aged 23, says:
“Maciek and I have been very pleased that our Get Wonky brand has been so well received. At least a third of produce grown globally is thrown away because of its size or shape, and overproduction leads to further increases in the level of food waste, even though half of that wasted food is edible.
“Get Wonky aims to tackle food waste, reduce plastic waste and help orchards that can’t shift wonky produce, by squeezing the wonky produce and creating juices. We are on a mission to create the most sustainable juice brand in Europe. Get Wonky is carefully packaged so it doesn’t use plastic bottles, and the duo have signed a supply agreement with more than 100 university and staff canteens as well as with trendy Wales-based burger chain, The Grazing Shed.
Karina adds: “Some people have asked us why we chose to stay in Wales after our studies to set up business. The reason is simply; that start-ups need support and we feel the entrepreneurial eco-system here in Wales is so established. I don’t believe we could have achieved such growth if we had launched outside Wales and we’re proud to have been established here.”
Matthew Roberts, from the Business in Focus Start Up Loans team, says: “I am delighted to see these inspiring Business in Focus clients being recognised for their ingenuity and hard work. It is a privilege to see so many bright young minds coming up with inventive solutions to some of the big issues of the day and it has been great to work closely with Maciek and Karina, and giving them the support they need to take their first steps towards business success.
“Longevity is important for all start ups and one of the things we are very focused upon is offering long term support. We provide support for a year after the initial Start Up Loan, to help businesses get through any early teething problems. I would encourage any entrepreneur to opt for this kind of longer-term help, to give their cherished business the best chance of survival and success.”
For more details about funding options via Business in Focus, please go to: www.businessinfocus.co.uk/en/funding