Permaculture Ltd

Permaculture Ltd was established to assist people living in urban areas to grow their own food in small spaces.

After 15 years of growing experience within an urban environment, the “Whirligro” was invented by company founder, Iain Findlay.

It is an innovative product aimed at satisfying demand within the burgeoning market for growing your own food.

It is based on a double helix structure in which plants are grown in tubes that spiral toward the ground around a central post. The product enables people to grow food vertically instead of horizontally, which means it is possible to grow more plants in any given area.

It is aimed at people who face numerous barriers to growing food, e.g. physical restrictions due to age or illness, insecure tenure, poor quality soil, or space limitations.

Challenge

After inventing the Whirligro and developing a number of prototypes, Iain was struggling to find a partner who could manufacture his product. Sustainability is central to the ethos of Permaculture Ltd so it was important to find a locally based manufacturer, willing to utilise locally sourced materials. The company was hamstrung by certain design characteristics that made the product prohibitively expensive to send by post and an improved design would help to remove this barrier. Improved design to ease manufacture using simple equipment would also make the product easier to license for production in lower income countries where the need for growing food is crucial.

Solution

Iain approached Interface and was put in touch with the programme of Product Design, Edinburgh College of Art. Using £5,000 of initial Innovation Voucher funding, Ian was able to work with member of Product Design staff, Ingo Aurin, and two designers in residence in the Product Design department to refine the design of the product.

Working with the designers in residence helped Iain to discover that manufacturing the Whirligro would require special moulds to be created, which was not financially viable for the company at that time. The initial funding secured through SFC has helped the company to acquire further investment, including crowdfunding through Bloom VC, which was used to support additional product development work.

As a result of the collaboration, Permaculture ltd has started supplying products to the market. Iain has also received enquiries about the product from various countries around the world and hopes to be able to license production elsewhere in the world in the future.

Business benefits

  • Two additional jobs projected
     
  • £10 - £15K additional sales projected
     
  • Expansion to new markets
     
  • Employability benefits for ECA designers in residence
     
  • Product contributes to global efforts to combat food poverty

"Although Whirligro was my idea, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of Interface. The business wasn’t really going anywhere when I approached Interface so the impacts I expect to realise are almost entirely attributable to them.”

"Gaining access to the academics has been very useful in terms of making progress with the project in physical terms. However, encouragement and confirmation of a shared opinion that the product/s are a marketable idea has also been useful.”
Iain Findlay, Director, Permaculture ltd 

Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.