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Lockdown allowed Gro for Good to realise innovative lifelong ambition

Published 07/04/2021 by Gillian Galloway 4 min read

Arial of Gro for Goods garden

Meeting up and chatting face to face isn’t as easy as it once was, so Gillian Galloway, our Head of Innovation, has launched a new series where she shares a virtual cup of coffee with an inspirational business to learn about how they have recently innovated. 

Here, Gillian shares a virtual coffee with Founder and Managing Director of Gro For Good, a community interest company based in Sutherland, to hear how he turned a long-held ambition into reality during lockdown.

A really inspiring example of a community interest company using innovation in local food production. Hugh describes here how he adopts circular economy practices to sustainably produce food, reduce their carbon foot print, provide training opportunities and benefit the local community.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Gro For Good has embarked on a mission to become leaders in using aquaponics to provide high quality food and training opportunities to rural and inner-city communities.

Aquaponics is a triple impact food growing technology which combines elements of aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (horticulture without soil) in an efficient system that produces fish, herbs and vegetables sustainably with minimal effort. It embodies the circular economy with waste produced by the fish used to feed the plants which return clean water for the fish to live in, growing food in an organic way without chemical inputs.

Aquaponics provides a unique response to climate change issues, employment and youth education while simultaneously addressing mental wellbeing.

What support did you get from the Innovation team at HIE?

I worked with Rowan Norrie from True North Innovation, HIE Innovation’s business innovation support partner. They have been instrumental in helping Gro For Good access support to get the vision off the ground. Rowan helped hone the pitch and reviewed grant applications, even introducing me to one of our new team members, Amber Johnston, a Civil Engineer and Project Manager.

COVID-19 has presented many challenges, how did this impact Gro For Good?

One of Gro For Good’s main aims is to use aquaponics to negate real problems and consequences, many associated with COVID.

Relying on local supply chains was something the pandemic brought to the forefront when disruptions to longer supply chains resulted in food shortages in shops. Sustainable ecosystems help communities to flourish by going back to basics and becoming more self-sufficient. While community gardens provide a unique response to climate change issues by providing food security, food sovereignty, reducing food miles and carbon emissions.

Did you innovate or diversify to overcome challenges and turn these into advantages?

As a relatively new entrant with a small team we quickly identified the power of collaboration to help us achieve our mission. As such, we’ve recently partnered with another Scottish community interest company, Farmer Jones Academy, which offers accredited training programmes to help students build a sustainable future within communities.

Did the time and space afforded by lockdown bring any new business ideas to explore?

Lockdown gave us the opportunity to gain the interest of Dr Francis Murray, a renowned global aquaculture consultant whose consulting services have been eagerly sought worldwide. Much to our delight, he will take up the role of our Technical Director.

It feels like the perfect time for aquaponics to raise its profile as COVID has forced people to stop and think about the consequences of their actions. With fewer people travelling and the pace of life slowed down, the environment benefitted. As such, we believe there is more of a captive audience now than ever before in this field.

What’s on the horizon for Gro For Good?

A recent donation by Samsung has allowed us to project manage the building of a new Willow Aquaponic Training Centre at the Alladale Wilderness Reserve which we are very excited about. Thanks to Samsung technology, we plan to stream content from this centre to schools, offering educational programmes designed and delivered by Farmer Jones Academy.

We want to establish more community gardens across a range of rural and inner-city locations, and we are speaking with city councils about disused plots – watch this space!

Looking back, what one piece of advice would you give to yourself when establishing Gro For Good?

Ensuring you know where to access the support you need is critical when you are kickstarting a new venture. I understand the corporate world and how it operates. I have a long record of writing business plans and presenting but I needed support to access funding available and True North Innovation made this much easier.

Until next time, Gillian. 

 

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