Cardiff graduate wins UN Young Champion of the Earth prize
20 November 2017
Young British inventor Adam Dixon has won the UK’s inaugural Young Champion of the Earth prize for his horticultural innovation to tackle food insecurity and habitat loss.
Adam, 25, who graduated from Cardiff University’s School of Engineering in 2015, has developed Phytoponics – a hydroponic growing system that supports the growth of plants using 10 times less land and water than conventional horticulture.
His win secures £11,300 ($15,000) in seed funding, intensive training and a tailored mentorship to help develop his idea, which has been described as a ‘jacuzzi in a bag.’
Dixon, 25, is one of six young winners each representing a region of the world. The prize is awarded by the United Nations Environment Programme and sponsored by Covestro, one of the world’s leading polymer companies.
It is aimed at identifying, supporting and celebrating outstanding individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 with big ideas to protect or restore the environment.
Dixon’s Phytoponics technology enables food crops to grow in water encased in a 100 percent recyclable polymer film, improving irrigation efficiency and reducing the amount of land use needed for horticulture.
In just one year, Dixon has built his company up to the value of $2.6m and is supplying Europe’s second largest producer of salad.
Adam said: “An important motivator for me has been witnessing the extent of deforestation and habitat loss around the globe to feed our growing population. I think it’s a tragedy that as a species we’ve had to use half our planet for our own needs. Gaining the acknowledgement and support from the Young Champion of the Earth prize is a huge boost for me, which will help me achieve my vision for sustainability and food security.”
What began as an appreciation of gardening from joining his mother while she pottered in the backyard became a fascination with plant growth and a drive for innovation. Dixon’s cost-effective, rapidly deployable product is now being piloted by the World Food Programme in refugee camps to support the supply of fresh produce to thousands of people in what are often uncultivable, barren locations.
Dixon’s immediate focus is on designing hydroponic solutions for greenhouses, where the majority of the fresh produce we eat is grown, as well as creating efficient, productive farms on the outskirts of cities so that the majority of the calories needed by a city’s population can be supplied locally. His ultimate vision, however, is that by 2050 the world will be using just 10 percent of its land for agriculture.
“From boosting food crops in Kiribati to sustainable fashion solutions in Canada, it’s a delight to announce the first Young Champions of the Earth,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim.
“The breadth of innovation and ambition shown by the inaugural winners is nothing short of exceptional, and proof that we must continue to channel support to the world’s younger generation for the solutions we need to secure a sustainable future.”