Pioneer

An idea to save the rainforest

Adam Dixon, Aberystwyth, Wales

With the world’s population expected to rise to more than 8.5 billion by 2030, huge demands are going to be placed on agriculture and water supplies. Could the solution lie in a greenhouse in Aberystwyth, overseen by a recent graduate?

Adam Dixon hopes so. The 26-year-old CEO of Phytoponics has developed a radical hydroponics system for growing fruit and veg that “could save an area of land the size of Brazil from deforestation”.

“I realised I wanted to do some good in the world”

Adam, a Cardiff University graduate in mechanical engineering from Yorkshire, has long been fascinated by nature. “I always liked plants, hydroponics, going out in the woods, creepy crawlies – as well as being interested in engineering,” he says. “So this project was a perfect meeting of the two. I’d done some work for an agrochemical company, but that made me realise I wanted to do some real good in the world.  I had an idea about hydroponics systems using a real deep-water culture. It is essentially a hydroponic grow bag. What this means for farms commercially is that they don’t need to rely on soil quality. You can grow things faster and healthier, and you can make 10 times the yield with the same land.”

“It’s great for people –
but also for the planet”

Phytoponics proves the point with its greenhouse packed with beautifully grown Welsh tomatoes, currently being enjoyed in Welsh restaurants. They’re about to upscale to a 1,500sq m facility in Yorkshire, and take some of their crop to the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Adam says: “We need to make this affordable and profitable for agriculture to really roll it out. It is a solution for sustainability, because you use less land to grow more with less impact on the soil, using less water. It’s great for people – but also for the planet.” On a personal level it feels pretty good, too. “I love using the skills I’ve developed, in an area I enjoy,” says Adam. “I want to make an impact on the world and the challenges we are facing. It’s been a steep learning curve but I’ve grown so much as a person doing this.”

Photography by Nicholas White