Phytoponics, a UK-based company that designs and deploys hydroponic farming systems, announced this week it had completed a £500,000 (~$627,352 USD) equity financing round. The round was led by existing shareholders with match funding provided by the Development Bank of Wales, according to a brief from AgFunder News.
The company designs and manufactures deep water culture hydroponic systems for commercial farmers growing plants in controlled environments. With the deep water culture growing methods, plants’ roots are suspended in “rafts” of nutrient-enriched water, eliminating the need for any soli during the grow process. Phytoponics has its own proprietary design of this method, which the company says is suitable for large scale commercial crop production.
Phytoponics CEO Andy Jones told AFN that one of the advantages of deep water culture is that it allows for “much more consistent control of the root zone” for plants, which helps avoid oxygen depletion and can in turn generate more plant growth.
Importantly, the company is also trialing its system for what Jones calls “energy-dense crops” such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. To date, indoor hydroponic farming is mostly used for growing leafy greens and herbs, which require less space and resources per plant to grow. That limitation, however, has long called into question the overall usefulness of hydroponic farming as a key part of the future food system. It’s all well and good to say that these controlled-environment farming systems will help feed the growing global population. But man cannot live by basil alone.
One metric that could be key to growing non-leafy-green crops is whether methods like deep water culture actually do save resources. Most companies, Phytoponics included, tout sustainability as a benefit. As yet, though, we have no extensive data about how much water and energy the method saves, nor how cost-effective it is to do at scale. If we want to grow more cucumbers indoors, we need more data about what works and what doesn’t.
Phytoponics currently has a few different controlled-environment farms where it is using its own deep water culture systems to test out growing more energy-dense crops. The company says it will use the funds for further trials of its technology.