Terraseed’s organic global solution for weed control

Terraseed

Oxford Innovation connected us with a UK based agriculture specialist to deliver

The company

Weed control has become a serious issue to farmers and growers as more herbicides lose their approval and are withdrawn.

According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the impact of agrochemical withdrawals could cost UK farmers and growers anywhere between €100m and up to €1bn a year across Europe in addition to making it difficult to grow crops such as onions, carrots and leafy salads on an industrial scale.

Founded by David Holloway in 1999, Terraseed Ltd, based near Basingstoke, has been developing a chemical-free and organic method of weed control that is set to provide a cost effective solution for a wide range of horticultural crops on a global scale.

The challenge

The first generation of Terraseed’s seedmat products were created using expensive air-laid paper, bonded with artificial adhesives. Although successful its own right, the products were not commercially viable on a larger scale, largely due to the synthetic adhesive used in the paper preventing organic registration.

David Holloway explains:

“We licenced a very large grower in Denmark, Yding Gront, to manufacture and distribute our seedmat products. We developed the machinery and have benefitted from manufacturing royalties, but have not yet realised the potential for more licences, because of the availability of alternative and low cost chemical weed control for conventional crops, and lack of registration for use in organic crops.”

The Terraseed team needed to overcome the product’s limitations, especially with the news that key herbicides were being withdrawn, creating a market demand for a new cost effective solution.

The solution

Terraseed needed funding to help with product development and was first introduced to Oxford Innovation after winning a Horizon 2020 feasibility study (SME-I Phase 1) to develop and commercialise its seedmat products for organic farming. The business coaching provided by Oxford Innovation, was free of charge as part of the Horizon 2020 grant.

Oxford Innovation continued to provide Terraseed with support via the Innovate to Success programme, including helping with the completion of the SME-I Phase 1 grant, winning additional funding for an IPO audit and with the preparation of a Phase 2 application.

David Holloway comments:

“Oxford Innovation connected us with a UK based agriculture specialist to deliver the first phase of our business coaching. Since then, we’ve worked closely with Oxford Innovation’s Innovation Advisor, Jakub Rakoczy,

It was through our business coaching sessions with Jakub that an IP Audit was suggested. This process generated lots more ideas of how to move our product forwards in addition to making our design process more robust. It unearthed the need to apply for two new patents to ensure we are protected globally.

Jakub has brought an insight and enthusiasm into the whole process. It has been great to have someone who understands Terraseed who we can talk to about business strategy and also to ensure that higher-level people within the company are sharing their experiences and are on the same track. Oxford Innovation has made that possible.”

The future

Terraseed has since developed a novel solution known as a BioSeedMat, a biodegradable paper seedmat using starch based adhesives that can be combined with a unique gel that resolves technical and cost limitations.

The company is currently working towards making BioSeedMat commercially viable, which needs to include approval from the Soil Association to confirm crops produced from the product can be registered as organic.

David Holloway concludes:

“We have found a paper mill partner who is keen to develop an organic paper with us and are ready to start feasibility studies in the spring both in the UK and in Denmark. We anticipate an additional round of adjustments to the product and expect to go to market in six months time. We are at a very exciting stage!

As a small private equity funded company, we have limited resources to fully exploit the massive world-wide market potential of our products. Therefore we seek corporate partners to help us increase the company’s value and provide an opportunity for a profitable exit for our shareholders”

Oxford Innovation delivers Enterprise Europe Network services in the South East that connect innovators with manufacturers, distributors, co-developers and suppliers overseas. Our experts advise those looking to commercialise new ideas and succeed in new markets.