Bideford startup wins £50,000 Innovate UK grant

Lottie Hawkins of Early Biochar | Business Action | North Devon business news | North Devon business magazine

Bideford-based Earthly Biochar has been awarded a £50,000 Innovate UK grant as part of the Young Innovators Next Steps Awards.

Founded by two innovators in their 20s in 2018, Earthly Biochar helps farmers and gardeners to use less water and feed, and grow bigger, healthier plants using an organic soil supplement that also sequesters carbon.

Earthly Biochar will use the grant to develop more novel biochar products that will help establish the foundations for a carbon negative economy.

Innovate UK’s Young Innovators Next Steps Awards recognises trailblazing young entrepreneurs who have previously been recipients of the Young Innovator Awards.

“We’re so proud to have been recognised once again by Innovate UK,” says Lottie Hawkins, co-founder of Earthly Biochar. “With a growing team behind us and access to funding, we can now deliver on our mission to scale up carbon capture and focus on adapting to climate change.”

Earthly Biochar delivers climate benefits by gathering waste wood and other biomass and capturing the carbon that would otherwise be released if it was rotted or incinerated.

By burning this organic waste at high temperatures in pyrolysis kilns with little or no oxygen present, the company creates a black stable material known as biochar. The biochar captures 50% of the wood’s carbon within crystalline structures that do not biodegrade, meaning they will remain locked into the product for many thousands of years to come. 

Earthly Biochar’s research indicates that, when added to soil, biochar increases plant health and growth by 10-200% and reduces the need for water and fertiliser by 15-40%, depending on existing soil quality. 

The company’s biochar kilns are handmade to order in the Welsh countryside to support rural communities and every part of the kiln is manufactured in the UK.

Since winning the Young Innovators Award in 2021, Earthly Biochar has benefited from a bespoke package of mentoring and growth support from Innovate UK EDGE, focused on business strategy, marketing and investment readiness.

Commenting on the support received from Innovate UK EDGE, Lottie says: “the outstanding support has helped us to achieve a series of major milestones over the past year. We’ve expanded our team, completed product development, and launched our hero product; biochar kilns for gardeners. 

“We are now in a strong position to scale and secure further funding and investment.”

In a message to other young, innovative entrepreneurs, Lottie says: “applications for the next Young Innovators Awards are now open. What if one of the 2022 / 23 awardees was you? If you have a business idea, or even a problem you think is worth solving, I really urge you to apply. It was game-changing for us. Dream bigger.”

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to offer close mentorship and guidance as the business helps tackles global climate, waste management and food production challenges. 

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