Suffolk food tech firm could transform farming in Kenya

PUBLISHED: 17:00 06 April 2016 | UPDATED: 17:05 06 April 2016

Jason Hawkins-Row from Aponic with a new vertical sustainable growing system. He is set to travel to Kenya to show farmers how to develop the technology

Jason Hawkins-Row from Aponic with a new vertical sustainable growing system. He is set to travel to Kenya to show farmers how to develop the technology

An entrepreneur’s pioneering food growing technology could be set to take root in Africa in the wake of interest among government officials in Kenya.

Jason Hawkins-Row, founder of Suffolk-based Aponic is heading to Kenya later this month after receiving an invitation from parliamentary officials to install his vertical soilless growing systems on two state-owned farms.

The invite follows a recent reception at the country’s High Commission in London, and the proposed partnership will see him help create an education programme for Kenyan farmers to help them take advantage of the technology.

The Aponic systems mean that huge yields of herbs, salad crops, fruit and vegetables can be grown using little water and carbon, with the potential of revolutionising farming techniques in countries where resources are stretched.

Meanwhile, officials from South Africa, Egypt, India, and Pakistan as well as the Falkland Islands, have also expressed an interest in adopting the systems which the firm was able to develop commercially after receiving funding from Agri-Tech East.

Mr Hawkins-Row said: “They are quite determined and want to put this into Kenya in a fairly large fashion. I can’t get out there fast enough for them. We will set up an initial site on two farms in Nairobi and once that’s established we will go out there and run courses. We will create a university course for the local farmers to learn about it.”

The Green 100 firm has also received interest closer to home in the technology and is working on a project with Nottingham University as well as with a Yorkshire firm looking at pop-up farms.

Mr Hawkins-Row said a number of farm shops in the region were also starting to stock the products and he has recently celebrated a double award win at the Creating 
the Greenest County awards in Suffolk.

“We are expanding at a rate way beyond anything I put in my original business plan,” he added. “I am still doing everything myself, but I would like to take on a PA and some staff to help with the fulfilment side.

“I personally believe that individuals looking to grow their own food is going to be the way ahead, but quite a lot of people are looking at it and saying we can grow an awful lot of food without using lots of water and space.”

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