I'm a third-generation tenant farmer with 30 years of experience of sustainability and innovation in land use. I am the regional chairman of the Forestry Commission, where I chair the Forestry and Woodlands Advisory Committee (FWAC). I also have a Masters in Entrepreneurship from Durham University Business School.
In Britain, deciduous trees need tree guards to protect them. I planted the equivalent of 24 football pitches of woodland 32 years ago and had to use tree guards that were made of oil products and unfortunately will exist until they eventually break down into micro plastics.
I saw the opportunity to replace oil-based plastics that break down into micro plastics with plant-based polymers that will biodegrade to carbon dioxide and water.
Chestnut is launching a number of products to replace single-use plastic – so far, that is a 3D printable cable tie, a tree guard and a weed-suppressing textile matting; more products are planned from our patentable material.
By having the tree guard, we help more trees to survive, therefore more encouraging more carbon sequestration. Our products also replace single-use plastic with a plant-based material that does not have the oil impact.
I am born and bred in the North East and we're very lucky. Our product's raw materials come from farms so the rural supply chain here has been very useful.
Having the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and its facilities, particularly in the formulations department, here in the North East made this a lot easier. The North Regional Technology Centre (RTC) was also very helpful with advice on patent protection.
Cash flow was a challenge for us because we are at the pre-sales stage. Although we have had some grant funding, the intervention rate is 70%, which was difficult.
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