Innovation Exchange challenge: Modular Hydrogel Reactors for Sustainable Horticulture: A Peat Alternative

The Net Zero Catalyst Fund seeks a solution provider to design, manufacture, and deploy a pilot-scale hydrogel reactor system.

Opportunity Details


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Up to £25,000 per solution provider, plus support from Innovate UK Business Connect, invitations to attend or present at Innovate UK Business Connect events, and more.


Innovate UK Business Connect

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A forward-looking startup is using cross-sector open innovation to support its work in driving low carbon horticulture. Specifically, the company is looking for a solution provider to design, manufacture, and deploy a pilot-scale hydrogel reactor system. The reactor will need to be able to mix bioreagents, fertilisers, antimicrobial agents and water in a heated reaction vessel, with the capacity to subsequently pour the product into a mould.

The challenge is to design and build a pilot-scale hydrogel reactor that can produce bio-compatible/degradable plugs to be locally produced by the end-user. This “substrate as a service” model would focus on developing a user-friendly, manufacturing unit for synthetic substrates, enabling on-site production by horticulturalists without specialized expertise. The reactor should also be suitable for deployment in a modular fashion to allow scale up.

The challenge holder would require the solution provider to deliver three key phases as part of the project: design, manufacture, and deploy the modular and renewably powered (solar/wind/battery) hydrogel reactor system. This phased approach would need to validate the feasibility of on-site hydrogel production, paving the way for widespread adoption across the horticulture industry.

The challenge holder is looking for expertise in mechanical, chemical, electrical and process engineering to bring forth open innovation to support the automated production of this polymer within its application as a replacement for peat in the agricultural industry.  It is thought that the skills required to address this challenge might come from sectors including Food, Agri-Tech, Chemicals or similar, although proposals from other areas are welcome.

Entrants to this competition must be small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), UK based/UK registered, which have not exceeded their Minimum Financial Assistance limit (or De Minimis, where relevant).

For full functional and technical requirements, visit the Innovation Exchange site at the link below.


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