An innovative garden tech business launches successfully in Cardigan, with support from Business Wales.
Introduction to business
Founded by two avid growers, Chris Tanner and Rik Sellwood, in Cardigan, West Wales, Harvst offers smart, growing systems that help people grow more, all year round.
The sensor-based, self-watering, climate-controlled mini-greenhouses keep plants nourished and cool in the summer, and use heaters and grow lights to keep them warm in winter, instilling growers with confidence to grow more.
Business Wales support
- Successfully started.
- Created 4 jobs.
- Secured a £2,544 Ceredigion County Council grant.
- Won £12,000 worth of new sales.
- Signed up to the Green Growth and Equality Pledges.
Directors Rik Sellwood and Chris Tanner approached the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service for help to get their garden tech business off the ground. Relationship Manager Steve Maggs provided advice on innovation, investment and sourcing finance, enabling the successful launch of Harvst and the creation of four jobs.
Steve helped the company secure a Ceredigion Council grant towards relocating to new, bigger premises to accommodate the rapid growth of the start-up, with £12,000 of sales already secured.
Harvst also signed up to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge, committing to using sustainable packaging and considering the use and end-of-life of products and resources.
How did the idea of Harvst come about?
Harvst is about getting more people to grow more for many reasons including social, physical and mental health benefits, as well as the promotion and active contribution to a more sustainable life. Both Chris and Rik as founding directors of Harvst are passionate amateur gardeners and have been for some time, seeing the benefits of growing for themselves and for their families.
We caught up with Rik to find out more about their innovative idea:
Why did you decide to set up the business?
“Whilst we are both avid vegetable gardeners, we do also grow flowers and other plants. We believe that if we can get more people to grow, they, and all of us, will benefit in the short, medium and long-term.
To achieve that goal, we know that we need to lower barriers and make it easier for people to grow all year round, making their space as productive as possible. The Harvst mini-greenhouse systems do just that by providing controlled growing environments that are configurable, automated and sensor-controlled.”
What challenges did you face?
“We have had to start from the beginning with the technology, the product, the business and all elements of what we do. In a few cases, we have even had to design and build our own specialised tooling.
None of what we wanted to make and use existed, so we designed and built the whole system from first principles. The first problem was how to create a sensor-based watering system that gives the plants just enough water: too much and roots rot, too little and plants wither and die. So, we designed our own control system for managing the water flow going through multiple iterations of sensors, control, pumps, sprayers and irrigation piping to find the perfect solution.
This is just one of many subsystems that the Harvst mini-greenhouses have. All of the components of the systems are designed and assembled here in Wales, and we source as much of the components and sub-assembly manufacturing as possible from suppliers in the UK. We have had to design bespoke packaging systems, our own management systems and have developed the website and all of the marketing collateral, brand and sales tools ourselves.
It’s been a huge undertaking and we are now successfully selling our Harvst mini-greenhouse systems and all of the accessories to retail and business customers all over the UK, from Dundee to Padstow.”
What would you say about the support you have received from your Business Wales advisers?
“Business Wales have been very helpful. We have worked with a team of advisers led by our Relationship Manager Steve Maggs. Whether it has been advice about properties, sustainability, Kickstarter campaigns or marketing, the Business Wales team have been extremely helpful with practical and relevant advice.
Most recently, they alerted us to and assisted in the application for a Welsh Government-backed Ceredigion Council Capital Grant fund, which has helped us expand into our new premises and take on two new members of staff.
Whilst both of us are very experienced business people and engineers who have led previous start-up businesses, it has been really helpful to engage with the knowledgeable advisers. Their practical advice and networks has helped us get issues and problems resolved quickly.”
Future plans and ambitions
“Right now, we are focussing on year one of our business plan which involves consolidation of our two core products (the Yard and Terrace Mini greenhouse systems), the development and launch of two further exciting products and occupying our new premises.
Whilst we have come a long way in a short period of time, we have some way to go to achieve our ambition for this year. Our second year already includes further product development, launches and the expansion of our production capacity – with plans beyond year two in the pipeline. We are moving at pace whilst providing a very competitive premium product range, so we need to expand swiftly and then consolidate our position.
All of this is wrapped by some core values in a small company that aims to help people ‘Grow More’ by providing excellent products, sustainably and using the best technology.”
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.