press release
Published: 09 September 2021

Surrey’s soilless feedstocks project receives BEIS funding

The University of Surrey is to develop a cultivation method that can quickly grow crops for biomass energy without the use of soil.  

The innovative project, which has recently won £200k funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BIES), will investigate the environmental opportunities and challenges for growing willow bioenergy crops without the use of soil.  

The project, led by Dr Zoe M Harris from the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), follows previous research which found that willow grew faster and significantly larger biomass in soilless conditions.  

Dr Harris and her team will work with UK Urban AgriTech (UKUAT) on the new project. 

Dr Zoe M Harris said: “We are confident that our soilless cultivation method can play a role in helping the UK build a greener energy mix, with biomass energy at the centre of that strategy. At the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, nursing the planet back to health is a key priority, and we believe biomass will be key to reaching our global energy and climate targets.”   

Professor David Sampson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, at the University of Surrey, said:  “Zoe’s project is exactly the sort of lateral creative, purposeful thinking we need to meet the environmental challenges of our times – and represents one of many contributions we make as a university to the global sustainability agenda. Our Centre for Environment and Sustainability is at the heart of our efforts to support businesses like UK Urban AgriTech to make green innovations, and I applaud the Centre’s efforts.” 

Mark Horler, chair of UKUAT, said: “UK Urban AgriTech (UKUAT) is delighted to be part of this project. We see enormous potential to make progress on challenging crops in CEA systems, allowing for diversification and expansion of viable business models for CEA.  This would be of great benefit both to our industry members and to the wider cause of sustainability in biomass production.” 

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