Jun 11, 2019
LettUs Grow Is Using Aeroponics To Build Farms Of The Future
What is LettUs Grow, and how did it begin?
The company was founded back in 2015 by the aptly named Jack Farmer, alongside Ben Crowther and Charlie Guy, all graduates from the University of Bristol, UK, who are passionate about sustainability and agriculture. Charlie’s background was in renewable energy, Jack was working in startup and business consultancy and Ben came from a mechanical systems engineering background. They joined forces whilst doing their finals by successfully overfunding a crowdfunding campaign (raising >150% of their original target) to launch the company.
LettUs Grow was founded to tackle the global problems of food waste and supply chain inefficiency after the team learned that around 50% of bagged salad bought in the UK ends up being thrown in the bin. Over the past three years, we have developed an extremely efficient way of growing plants in completely controlled environments. We control all the inputs to growth with a unique aeroponic system, which has been shown to massively increase the growth rate of plants.
Tell us more about your aeroponic technology, its applications, and how it helps deliver consistently higher yields.
The distinction between our technology and traditional hydroponics is that our plants grow with their roots hanging in a fine mist, which is where they get their nutrients and water. This allows them greater access to oxygen and carbon dioxide with less restricted root growth, resulting in crops growing much faster. We have shown an average 70% increase in growth rate compared with hydroponics in babyleaf greens and herbs, with some of our microleaf products harvested after just four days. This leads to a substantial increase in return on investment for farmers.
Most other aeroponic companies use high-pressure aeroponics (HPA). This relies on the nutrient-rich water being forced through nozzles to create an aerosol. This is problematic as in an HPA system the nozzles are prone to clogging and breaking due to nutrient build-up or plant debris. This makes them difficult to scale commercially. We’ve done away with the nozzles completely so there is nothing to clog and break. This makes our system wipe-clean and easy to operate. It’s the simplicity of a hydroponic system with all the incredible biological benefits of aeroponics.
Alongside this, we’ve also developed our own software, Ostara, which controls, automates and can optimize growing. It is breaking down barriers to entry for indoor farming and aeroponics. Aeroponic technology has historically been seen as complex and difficult to implement. Our integrated products make aeroponics easy, making your next harvest just the push of a button away. Alongside our ongoing operational and technical support, this makes the learning journey smooth and efficient for new users. The inherent versatility of the Ostara platform means that it has the ability to control, collect data from and optimize any growing operation, from vertical farms to orchard irrigation, to greenhouse production. We are expecting considerable growth in these areas over the coming years.
What is your vision for LettUs Grow 5-10 years from now?
Our vision for LettUs Grow is to be a leading supplier to the rapidly-growing, global indoor farming industry. Our technology has benefits in both completely controlled environment vertical farms and in single-plane greenhouses and we are looking to accelerate deployment of products into this well established market to increase productivity for farmers around the world. We aim to play an important role in making climate-resilient, resource-efficient growing accessible to a wider audience, whilst helping to educate people about the value of food and how it is produced.
With a background in renewable energy consultancy, Charlie is a proponent of tech-for-good and passionate about all manners of sustainability, whether in food, energy, resource efficiency, waste valorisation or the circular economy. Charlie has helped LettUs Grow to win a place on the global Oracle Start-up Cloud Accelerator, been an international finalist in the 2018 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge sustainability award and has won numerous additional awards in the sustainability and tech-for-good space, including multi-category winners at the 2018 UK Tech Founder of the Year Awards.