An enterprising University of Liverpool scientist has received the prestigious Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Award.
Dr Paul Myers co-founded Farm Urban, an eco start-up company that aims to link leading scientific research with local food production, while studying for his PhD in epigenetics two years ago.
The awards are presented to students who have displayed remarkable entrepreneurship while at University. Finalists from 19 universities from across the North attended the 2016 awards ceremony at the University of Huddersfield where the Duke of York presented them with certificates.
A selection of the finalists were also nominated to give 60-second pitches describing their businesses, and an audience vote chose Paul’s Farm Urban pitch as the winner.
Farm Urban develops and tests the most efficient ways to grow food in urban environments, focusing primarily on aquaponics systems, which grow fish and vegetables simultaneously in a closed-loop ecosystem.
Farm Urban was formed in 2014 with the help of a £5,000 grant from Liverpool Guild of Students’ Green Guild project (funding made possible because of the Students Green Fund award from the NUS/HEFCE) followed by an £8,000 grant from the Friends of the University. It has since gone from strength to strength. Over the past two years, the team has developed several sites around Liverpool, ranging from smaller, experimental, community-based sites, to larger more commercially-focused enterprises.
Installations include an urban farm on the roof of the Guild, which showcases the latest in sustainable growing techniques and renewable energy technologies, and three state-of-the-art aquaponic systems at the new Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, which provide a focal point for patients, parents, staff and visitors.
Striving for change
Paul, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology, said: “By taking science fresh from the lab and implementing it in the heart of urban communities, we aim to change both how we do science and how we farm our food. Winning the award shows that what we have been doing as a social enterprise has been recognised and has value.”
Project mentor Dr Iain Young, who now has a non-executive director role at the company, said: “This is a well-deserved affirmation of the efforts of Paul and the Farm Urban team, who are an excellent example for future student entrepreneurs. I am very proud to have been able to support them and look forward to seeing them go on to further success.”
The team is currently focusing on their aquaponics education programme for schools, and also have plans to take their compact commercial systems into cafes and restaurants.
Image shows Dr Paul Myers with the Duke of York.