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Up to the Challenge: Meet our Business Sustainability Challenge winners

Up to the Challenge: Meet our Business Sustainability Challenge winners

In spring 2023, Growing Kent & Medway launched the Business Sustainability Challenge. We invited businesses with innovative ideas to bid for grant funding, worth between £10,000 to £50,000.

Their project ideas had to support sustainable production, products, or packaging in horticulture or the plant-based food and drink sector.

Our judging panel was particularly interested in collaborative projects that could create circular economies in the Kent and Medway region.

We have now awarded the seven winning businesses a share of over £262,000.

About the winning projects

Nim’s Fruit Ltd

Re-purposing Fruit & Vegetable Powders

Nim’s Fruit Ltd make natural plant-based crisps, teas, garnishes, and botanicals using innovative air-drying techniques. They sell their products to restaurants, hotels, and via subscription boxes, as well as high-street retailers.

Having achieved their goal of zero food waste at their Sittingbourne production facility, they now want to help consumers reduce their own food waste. They are using their grant to develop new products that are innovative, affordable, convenient, and nutritious. The products will be made from rescued fresh fruit and vegetables. Their exclusive method of air-drying will enhance the flavour of the product while retaining most of the nutritional content of the original fresh product.

Grant award: £22,501

GrowUp Farms

Boosting water efficiencies of high-care controlled environment horticulture in Kent using new innovative British technology

GrowUp Farms is passionate about creating a more sustainable food system. At their vertical farm in Sandwich, Kent, they produce longer-lasting leafy greens with a low environmental footprint. Their ‘Unbeleafable’ and ‘Fresh Leaf Co’ salad brands are sold in large UK supermarkets.

GrowUp is committed to using fewer resources to produce more food. They are particularly focused on how much water they use. This project will investigate how they can improve their water efficiency, using next-generation technology. It will focus on recovering and reusing their waste water to see if they can take better advantage of using rainwater collected from their roof.

Grant award: £29,259

Canterbury Brewers & Distillers at The Foundry

From whiskey to mushrooms

Canterbury Brewers & Distillers at The Foundry produce beers and spirits within the historic walls of Canterbury in Kent. The enterprise includes The Foundry, a BrewPub on-site, and they offer tours and tasting days.

They have recently designed and built a system that captures the waste heat from their distillation process to heat their restaurant and bar area. With a planned move to another facility to expand their whiskey production, the team wanted to find an innovative use for the waste that will be created in the distillation process. Their grant will be used to trial the production of speciality mushrooms, using the waste grain, water, C0², and energy generated by the whiskey production. This will create a new revenue stream.

Grant award: £13,810

Totally Natural Solutions Limited

Development of sustainable CO2 natural liquid hop extracts with high-impact ester profiles and functional benefits to beverages.

Totally Natural Solutions produce liquid hop extracts, for major brewers and microbreweries. Their hop oil product is an alternative to dry hop pellets and cones, used in the brewing process.

The aim of their grant project is to develop new, more sustainable hop products that will help brewers to create no- and low- alcohol beers with improved sensory characteristics.

Their innovative patented green-technology process keeps the quality of aroma and flavour from hop cones, without using chemical solvents or additives. The grant will be used to develop the technology to make the production methods of hop-based botanical extracts more sustainable. They are aiming to reduce the amount of water and carbon used in the process. As well as find new uses for waste products created in the process that can also be used in drink production.

Grant award: £49,930

Tensei Ltd

Application of Agri-Residues (second harvest) as bio-fillers in injection moulded plastic blends for use in fresh produce packaging.

Tensei specialises in natural fibres to produce innovative materials, using bio- and agricultural waste. They focus on the use of ‘Second Harvest’, any agri-residues that are left over from primary food crop harvests.

Traditionally these residues have provided very low-income revenue streams or have even had no use at all. At Tensei, they incorporate ‘Second Harvest’ into injection moulded polymers to reduce the need for virgin and recycled plastics. This could create a new revenue stream for growers and farmers.

Their grant project will trial new locally sourced agri-waste products. They will be working to find the right blends for polymer compounds to replace plastic and improve the mechanical properties of the final product.

Grant award: £50,000


A novel method of seed delivery for vertical farming

Evogro make personal vertical farms for hospitality operators and homes. They use the same technologies as industrial vertical farms, but scaled down to appliance size. Based in East Malling, Kent, the business provides an integrated system and support service so their customers can grow high-quality crops without needing horticultural expertise.

The goal of this project is to develop a novel method of seed delivery suitable to produce microgreens, salad leaves and herbs in vertical farms.

Grant award: £47,626

AC Hulme and Sons 

Managing energy usage in apple cold storage in Kent

AC Hulme is a mixed-farm based in Canterbury. As well as beef cattle, they grow cereals, potatoes, asparagus and tree fruit, including apples. They also import fruit to offer customers a year-round supply.

Growing apples is a resource-intensive operation that needs lots of energy to cultivate, harvest and store fruit so we can have a near year-round supply of British apples.

This project will look at ways to improve the energy efficiency of the apple cold stores, without compromising the quality of the fruit. It will adjust the temperatures of refrigeration processes to reduce peaks in use and synchronise energy use with when on-site renewables are available. It will also help to use electricity when it is cheaper.

Several partners will contribute to this project. GridDuck will provide sensors to measure energy use and temperatures. Stemy Energy will provide artificial intelligence and electronic devices that will be able to improve energy efficiency and assist with balancing the electricity grid. 

The Produce Quality Centre test the impact of changing air temperature in the stores on the fruit quality. Growers will also be consulted on their interest in new technology for cold storage through British Apples and Pears.

Grant award: £49,653

For further information about our latest grant opportunities, visit our grant funding page