Growth Through Innovation Fund
Grants of £1,000 – £25,000 available
Animal bedding production company Bed-Down in Norfolk has developed special equine bedding out of wood fines with a New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership business grant.
For more than 65 years, the Harleston business has been forward-thinking and continues its entrepreneurial drive inventing new products. “We want to be the best now, and in the future,” says Managing Director James Foster-Clarke. The company’s ethos is to innovate, so it was a natural step for the team to look for a way to turn a discarded waste product into an opportunity.
Bed-Down specialises in the production of British premium animal bedding from locally-sourced wheat straw and softwood flakes for horses in all equestrian disciplines, retail outlets and wholesalers. Already during the bedding production, Bed-Down creates a by-product from the wood and straw fines using a pellet machine which converts the fines into 6mm pellets. These pellets are highly absorbent and sold to the poultry market as litter. Ultimately, the pellet breaks down and it turns back to waste fines.
Making great use of the production process, the team decided to develop pelleted, absorbent, dustless animal bedding suitable for the equine market. The next step was to create additives as an option to hold the particles together while retaining the high absorbency and building a prototype to test the technique and theory. For this part of the project, it secured a £22,000 grant through the LEP’s Growth Through Innovation Fund.
James says: “The initial testing started approximately two months into the project as we developed different combinations of additives to achieve both stability and absorption. Covid was the biggest challenge as it affected supply chains and working practices. However, with a flexible management structure and a fast-track development model, we managed to meet the set milestones and complete the project successfully.”
The first milestone was to produce several trial samples which could be rigorously tested in the laboratory and in the field. The entire innovation was done in-house. Over the years, the business has invested in laboratory equipment which has been a great resource to fast-track this innovation.
“We’ve completed the product development and are now at the stage of investing in scaling up the equipment and bringing the product to market. Our market research and consumer feedback have been extremely positive, so our expectation is that over the next two years our pellet sales could exceed 20% of our turnover,” comments James.
Bed-Down is now exploring investment options to fulfil the potential of this new product. James says: “Any innovation project is time consuming and needs an enthusiastic support team but the positive results have a synergistic effect on the business and its employees.
“Securing the grant and supportive business advice helped move the project forward and has given the company a potential competitive advantage. At the same time, it gave our team a positive project to focus on after the Covid pandemic. You need to be prepared to fail but see each failure as a step closer to success.”
Are you looking to innovate and seeking funding? The grant can pay up to 50% of the total eligible costs of your projects.