Tell us about Liberty Produce.
Liberty Produce is a business developing leading-edge vertical farming (VF) technologies that enable the growth of local produce year-round. Current global agricultural practices are not sustainable and cannot meet the demands of a growing population. Our vision is to drive innovations that will enable us to meet our global crop requirements without harming the planet. Liberty works collaboratively with a range of partners (including Innovate UK, CHAP, the Hutton) to create a culture of intrapreneurship to deliver cutting-edge technology, including the Future Farming Hub (FFH) R&D facility. Liberty products are on the market as individual offerings and full container farms. Liberty’s research facility, Future Farming Hub, has made contributions across the industry and delivering on one of our core values — education and knowledge-sharing.
When did you start your business?
What's been your biggest highlight?
The biggest highlight has been developing our Future Farming Hub (FFH) state-of-the-art fully contained and controlled vertical farming R&D facility. It is based at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland. The Future Farming Hub is the home of the next generation of AgTech and modern farming knowledge. The FFH enables the development of leading-edge food production technologies and knowledge sharing that will reduce barriers to adoption whilst working towards a sustainable, net-zero emissions future. The FFH has been pivotal in the development of our state-of-the-art lighting systems, control systems, groundbreaking nanobubble technology and a vertical farming school built to increase grower success rates. The FFH delivers a remote, resource-efficient and highly productive agricultural solution resilient to environmental change while offering significantly higher quality, more nutritious crops. The facility enables us to experiment and demonstrate the value of using VF for different crops. For example, the FFH has delivered some of the first ground-breaking and transformative research on blueberries; germination time (10 weeks in a glasshouse) was reduced to 21 days in the FFH.
What's been your biggest challenge?
There are several challenges which entrepreneurs may face when building a start-up which we have in common with a plethora of other start-ups. One of the most common challenges is choosing and understanding your priorities as a company and as a member of the team on a strategic level. Start-ups are often more leanly resourced and therefore simply do not have the capacity to complete every potential project and build every product — the greatest challenge is identifying which projects/products to invest your time in. For us, we have benefitted from working closely and collaboratively with customers and partners, which enables us to make informed decisions on where our priorities lie.
Advice for entrepreneurs starting out
We think it's worth spending some time reading about and educating yourself on lean enterprise and lean product development as well as how to start out in business. It's essential spending some time understanding your customers and their specific pain points before you build your product because this might change over time and end up different to your initial vision. It's worth considering which market you intend to enter first and the subsequent markets you plant to build out to. Simultaneously, be realistic of what you can expect of yourself and of others. When you start hiring, expanding and growing, spend some time thinking about HR and ensure that the way you recruit aligns with your company values and ethics.