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Arrow Success Stories

FYTO Ltd is a Newcastle based start-up that uses hydroponic vertical farming to bring an ultra-local supply of low-carbon food. Their business is built on the belief that there is no reason why food should travel further than it has to.

FYTO got in touch with Arrow when they realised they needed specialist advice to take their business further. Read on to find out more. 

The Project

FYTO has two objectives. One concentrates on the development of hydroponic systems for food production, and the second aims to supply growing units to help customers grow their own fresh produce.

But bringing food production closer to the consumer in a way that’s sustainable and ecologically friendly is a complex task, which proved all the more challenging once the FYTO team realised that there were gaps in their knowledge and online opinions were conflicting.

“The Arrow project exceeded our expectations, providing in-depth and broad expertise in our areas of interest.” – Greg Short, Director – FYTO Ltd

Specifically, they needed a specialist to explore the intricacies of plant-light interactions, and how to measure associated plant phenotype characteristics.

What Arrow provided

The aim of the Arrow programme is to match North East SMEs with Newcastle University experts, who can provide knowledge and expertise to help them innovate.

For this project, Arrow connected FYTO with two academics from the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (SNES), Dr Ankush Prashar and Dr Dave George. Specialising in agriculture, Ankush has an in-depth understanding of imaging systems for crop monitoring and Dave has experience of lighting requirements for vertical farming.

“Working with the associates and researchers was an excellent experience. They were all professional and personable, able to quickly draw out what was critical to us and to the project, and to pull in other individuals and sources where needed.” – Greg Short, Director – FYTO Ltd

The project involved looking at what research has been done on lighting system recipes for optimal plant quality, and how imaging can be used to identify when plants are stressed.  FYTO could then apply these learnings to improve their custom system. Arrow gave FYTO rare access to incredibly specialist academic knowledge which was both fully funded and easy to access.

The Arrow programme also provided a Senior Innovation Associate with a scientific background (Dr Rebecca Hanna) to manage the project, conduct the literature research, and facilitate conversations through meetings and field trips. As it can be a struggle to find the time and resources to focus on innovation around day-to-day operations, this made the project much easier for all involved.

Greg Short, Director of FYTO Ltd says “We concluded the project with all the information we needed and a range of additional resources to investigate.”

The outcomes

By combining the expertise of both Dr Ankush Prashar and Dr Dave George, FYTO received:

  • an extensive report on light-plant interactions
  • on-going consultancy and guidance in the form of meetings
  • validation of designs and decisions regarding broad spectrum horticulture lighting

But that’s not all. Following the success of the Arrow project, funding has been secured to continue this collaboration as they begin initial experiments which will hopefully lead to larger funded projects. As well as research, Ankush and Dave are involved in university teaching and there are plans to link FYTO to student projects and placements.

The FYTO team have also been introduced to other academics to broaden their local network, as well as additional opportunities to collaborate with Newcastle University. An example of this is that FYTO will be working with a team of marketing students from Newcastle University Business School (NUBS) to learn more about building a social media presence, and creating a content and engagement strategy.

“When we visited FYTO the thing I found most exciting was that they are producing a unit I can actually see working in a home kitchen, which is quite different to a lot of the work I’ve been involved in previously. It’s great to see FYTO have got the growing rooms filled up and plants are growing.” – Dr Dave George, Newcastle University