£1.2m for robot farmers as The Big Exchange gets bigger: Good With Money news brief

Written by Lori Campbell on 28th Jan 2019

A British start-up has raised £1.2 million to fund robots that can ‘plant, feed and weed’ on sustainable farms, and a wood recycling project aims to raise £430,000 through crowdfunding. Meanwhile, revolutionary impact investment platform The Big Exchange announces new backers as the amount paid into ethical banks has risen 21 per cent in 12 months, Aldi hits carbon-neutral status and Tommy Hilfiger has unveiled the ‘world’s first’ fully recycled luxury jeans. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week. 


£1.2 million for sustainable farming by robots

A British start-up has raised £1.2 million through crowdfunding to use intelligent robots for sustainable farming.

The Small Robot Company smashed its initial target of £500,000 within minutes of its launch in mid-December. It has attracted 1,200 investors, mostly from the farming community. Google AI’s principle designer Matt Jones has also invested.

The agri-tech business harnesses the power and precision of robots and artificial intelligence to improve the way that food is produced and minimise chemical usage.

It sets out to make farms more profitable, and increase yield and efficiency, through using small robots instead of tractors. Its farm bots Tom, Dick and Harry will plant, feed and weed arable crops autonomously, with minimal waste.

Waitrose has already committed to putting food farmed by the robots on its shelves.

Meanwhile, Amazon is trialling a fleet of six-wheeled delivery robots in the US.

The Big Issue Big Exchange announces new partners

The Big Exchange, a revolutionary investment platform planned by iconic homeless charity and publisher The Big Issue, has announced a new round of backers.

Leading sustainable investment manager and long-time Good With Money collaborator WHEB Asset Management has signed up alongside Pictet Asset Management, Quilter, Stewart Investors, and Tortoise. They all join a cross-industry partnership working to help make the blockchain backed impact investment platform a reality.

The Big Issue Exchange aims to be the UK’s first impact only investment platform and has already attracted a host of industry heavyweights, including Aberdeen Standard, who along with Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Alliance Bernstein and Alquity have helped to develop the platform.

Entirely app based, the Big Issue Exchange aims to ‘democratise impact investment’, allowing anyone with a phone to invest in funds that have a positive impact on the planet and society, with the ability to see how each measures up against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

In later roll outs the platform also expects to be able to offer banking and cash savings accounts.

Wood recycling project seeks £430,000 in crowdfunding offer

A wood recycling project aims to raise £430,000 through a new crowdfunding offer.

The Bristol Wood Recycling Project is offering investors the chance to support its future by buying bonds through Triodos Bank’s crowdfunding platform.

With an estimated five million tonnes of wood waste generated in the UK each year, BWRP aims to reduce the amount going to landfill. The social enterprise has around 40 volunteers (including long-term unemployed, those with substance abuse or mental health problems, and people with a learning disability) who collect, repurpose and sell wood that would otherwise go to waste.

It has saved over 500 tonnes of wood from going to landfill every year. The waste wood is either transformed for re-sale, used to make bespoke custom furniture or sustainably recycled and used for heat reclamation at power stations, replacing coal for electricity production.

The funds raised will be used to acquire BWRP’s current home in Bristol’s St Philips area and grow the business for future generations.

You can invest through the Triodos crowdfunding site and will pay interest of 4 per cent gross per year. The minimum investment is £50.


Money paid into ethical banks has risen 21 per cent in 12 months

The amount of money paid into ethical banks in 12 months has risen 21 per cent from £2.077 billion to £2.518 billion, according to analysis by Ethical Consumer.

Typically, ethical banks – including Triodos Bank, Charity Bank, Reliance Bank, Ecology Building Society and The Co-operative Bank – do not invest in, or lend to, companies involved in commodities such as weapons, alcohol, tobacco and fur.

Instead, they lend to companies which have a positive impact on the world, such as community projects or renewable energy, and hand out mortgages to people building sustainable homes.

Triodos Bank has seen its customer numbers rise by 13 per cent in the past year from 52,200 to 58,800.


Aldi hits ‘carbon-neutral’ status

Supermarket Aldi has announced it is now a ‘carbon neutral business’ in the UK and Ireland.

The German retailer pledged last year to both cut and offset CO2 emissions from its 900 stores and 11 distribution centres in the UK and Ireland.

It has now hit its target and in 2019 it will offset the equivalent of 160,000 tonnes of CO2, both through its own carbon reduction work and support for offset projects globally.

Aldi has installed almost 400 solar panel systems since 2012 and invested £20 million in upgrading its fridges, freezers, and other appliances with more efficient, greener equipment.

Within its own operations, Aldi said it has now cut greenhouse gas emissions per square metre of its sales floor by 53 per cent since 2012, spurred on by purchasing 100 per cent green electricity and implementing an ISO 50001 certified energy management system business-wide.

The move comes amid rapid growth for Aldi, which plans to open another 65 UK and Ireland stores this year, building up to a total of 1,200 supermarkets by 2025. All the new stores, it said, will have the same latest efficient green equipment installed.


Tommy Hilfiger unveils ‘world’s first’ fully recycled luxury jeans

Global fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger has unveiled plans to launch a range of 100 per cent recycled jeans this spring, in a first for the luxury fashion sector. 

The innovative jeans are made using cotton offcuts from factories, which are taken apart using a mechanical separation process before being woven into new material. The thread used to sew the jeans is spun from recycled plastic bottles and buttons, while recycled metal will be used to create the buttons and zips.

To ensure the entire manufacturing process is energy-efficient and low-carbon, the garments will be finished using laser technology, rather than by hand.

The jeans will be fitted with 100 per cent recyclable paper tags and displayed on aluminium hangers, to ensure the entire process is free from single-use plastic. The jeans will be launched in Tommy Hilfiger’s spring/summer 2019 collection.



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