University helps eco-friendly weed control business scale up
An eco-friendly weed-killing system which uses electricity instead of harmful chemicals to treat orchards and vineyards is set to go to market after support from Coventry University.
RootWave, founded by Andy Diprose and based in Kineton in South Warwickshire, applies an electrical current to weeds which causes their roots to heat up and die. It avoids the use of conventional herbicides which have a high carbon footprint and can damage the environment.
The inspiration for the company came from Andy’s father, Dr Mike Diprose, who has a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology in the 1970s – although the procedure was much more expensive at the time.
Andy took up his father’s mantle and developed the idea into a start-up, with the potential to revolutionise weed control on small and large scales. The firm had initial success with its hand-weeder ‘RootWave Pro’, which is used in parks and gardens across the UK and Europe to control unwanted plants.
Coventry University helped RootWave earn grants worth more than £30,000 to refine its hand-weeder products and purchase software to help it design systems for larger-scale weed control.
Andy said: “There are so many reasons why an alternative system of weed control is needed today.
“For example, weeds are becoming more resistant to herbicides through overuse, governments are recognising the harm that herbicides can cause, and consumers are also choosier about the provenance of their food, so the business case for farmers to switch is also stronger than ever.
“It’s been great to see how effective our hand-weeders have been in controlling Japanese knotweed – a notoriously persistent weed – across many parks and gardens in the UK and Europe, which has given us a great base to build on.”
Continued advice on scaling its products and accessing grant money from the university has seen RootWave grow its staff to 41 employees and develop a larger scale system for farming set to launch later this year.
The system is attached to the back of a tractor which drives between crops and has metal contacts which ‘zap’ any weeds growing near to vines or trees.
Andy added: “The initial support and the grants awarded to us through Coventry University were a hugely significant part of our growth as a company. All start-ups need money, so it was fantastic that they recognised our potential.
“The launch of our new system for orchards and vineyards will be an exciting new chapter for RootWave and we’re really positive about the future.”
Catherine Colby-Johnson, Business Delivery Manager at Coventry University, said: “When we first met Andy and heard about RootWave, it was clear it was an ambitious idea with a lot of promise. We encouraged Andy to apply for grant money in different pots and guided him through the application processes.
“It’s fantastic to see how much RootWave has grown and that it is close to launching its system for large scale agriculture.
“We’d encourage similar innovative start-ups to get in touch to see if they can benefit from our support.”