Anyone well acquainted with Bristol will recognise the sign at the entrance to Stokes Croft. It’s an alarmingly apocalyptic countdown to the last harvest, and we don’t seem to have many years left of the clock. Humanity must increase food production by 70% to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050. We must achieve this with 25% less farmland, degraded soils and in an ever more unstable climate. Our existing methods of agriculture will not be enough to feed ourselves. Additionally, the majority of our ‘fresh’ produce is imported out of season, often travelling hundreds of miles to reach our plates. Lengthy supply chains result in a colossal environmental impact – every year 900,000 tonnes of food is wasted in supply chains in the UK alone, before even reaching our plates.
LettUs Grow was founded in 2015 to tackle some of these challenges. Indoor farming can address this systemic problem by establishing localised farms in and around cities, improving local food security and reducing food waste. However, the industry has been having difficulty scaling to compete with traditional agriculture. That’s where we come in…
Our novel technology represents a step-change for indoor farms. We design modular, aeroponic irrigation and intelligent control technology to improve the efficiency, sustainability, and ROI of indoor farming. Our systems are nozzle free, easy to clean, completely automatable and can be run without the need for pesticides. This patent-pending system dramatically reduces the operational cost of indoor agriculture, whilst delivering an average of a 70% increase in growth rate across a range of crop species compared to hydroponics (the current method used in indoor farming). Our technology enables indoor farms, of any size, to reach profitability that would not have been previously viable – enabling this environmentally efficient industry to scale globally.
A WORD FROM THE FOUNDERS
Charlie Guy, Co-founder and Managing Director of LettUs Grow said: “We are providing technology that allows us to grow more with less impact on the soil so we don’t have to farm the soil in an industrial way. We want to take the pressure off the ecosystem so we can farm traditionally in a more sustainable way as well, not just driven by supermarket prices and overreaching targets. We want to be able to provide a predictable, resilient supply of produce that means we don’t over-farm or overproduce, but allow sustainable farmers to work with the land.”
Ben Crowther, Co-founder and CTO of LettUs Grow said “We don’t think it should replace hectares of fields. Indoor farming, greenhouse and open field farming each have their different roles. If you can grow it in a field, then grow it in a field – it makes much more sense. But in many places, it’s just not possible as it uses too much water, pesticides, or the soil is degrading quite rapidly.”
GROWING UP IN BRISTOL
Bristol is a brilliant place to be a startup. It has a long-standing connection with aerospace firms and expertise in robotics – so it’s the perfect place for a company like ours. Because of its history of innovation, there is a well-trodden path and heaps of support for new businesses. We were lucky enough to cut our teeth in the Engine Shed in Bristol. It is a hub, run by Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, where businesses, entrepreneurs, academics, social innovators and corporates can collaborate. That’s where we met SETSquared.
Guy said, “We joined SETsquared to access their experienced mentorship, world-class training, and extensive founder and investor networks. As first-time entrepreneurs, this was an invaluable resource in our early years and continues to be a fantastically effective way to provide training to all of our staff, whilst exposing the whole company to the thriving Bristol tech ecosystem. The Engine Shed and SETsquared are a core part of this.”
There is also a thriving ecosystem of startups, SMEs and talented mentors to draw upon in Bristol. If you’re in a bind, you know you can always find someone who’s been through something similar to talk to.