A University of Bristol spin-out company has secured £500,000 to develop technology which it says could boost food production in commercial greenhouses.
Albotherm, founded by Molly Allington and Sian Fussell who met as researchers at the university, has produced a temperature responsive glass coating.
The coating is designed to remain transparent in cold weather and then automatically convert to opaque in hot weather to provide “on-demand” shade and reduce solar overheating.
The business has now been awarded the grant funding from Innovate UK to spearhead a Government-backed, “groundbreaking” project which is aiming to find sustainable solutions in horticulture to maximise energy efficiency while reducing environmental impact.
Albotherm is collaborating with glass manufacturer Pilkington, and two of the UK’s leading soft fruit and culinary herb growers. Flavourfresh and Vitacress. Albotherm’s coatings will be retro-fitted to commercial greenhouses for testing next Spring.
The company is also working with Pilkington to develop a glass coating for a new greenhouse construction, which is designed to have a longer lifetime and could open up new markets in industrial glazing.
Albotherm has estimated that its coatings could be able to increase crop yield by around a third when compared to standard shading approaches.
Ms Allington, Albotherm’s chief executive, said: "We are excited to receive the Innovate UK grant and to collaborate with leaders in the UK horticulture industry. We are honoured to have the support of Flavourfresh, Vitacress, and Pilkington on this ground-breaking project and we look forward to contributing to a more sustainable future for the horticultural industry."
Andy Roe, production manager at Flavourfresh, added: “This Albotherm project is exactly why British horticulture is number one in the world. Flavourfresh are so excited to be partnering with Albotherm on such an incredible and innovative concept.
The outcome of this work will be so beneficial to all growers across the sector. It's projects like this that make our jobs so stimulating and exciting for future challenges.”
In addition to the project funding from Innovate UK, Albotherm said it has received growth support from Innovate UK EDGE, delivered by innovation and growth specialist, Marc Rambaud.