Peat-free growing innovators target international growth with Santander funding

  • Manchester-based Cocogreen® – producer of a high-performance, professional compost alternative – has received £7.5m funding from Santander UK
  • Cocogreen® plans to grow sales to fresh fruit brands in South America, Europe, the US, Canada, Africa, and Australasia
  • Santander is also supporting Cocogreen® to grow overseas by providing it with a Santander Navigator subscription.

Santander UK is helping Manchester-based Clean Tech leaders Cocogreen® (UK) to grow internationally with a £7.5m funding package, overseas bank accounts, and a Santander Navigator subscription – the bank’s platform that supports UK companies with international growth. The company produces an environmentally sustainable compost alternative, referred to as Cocogreen® substrate, from coconut husks, a renewable raw material.

What is Cocogreen® substrate? A substrate is to plants as rocket fuel would be to a spaceship. Cocogreen® substrate acts as the engine room that transposes essential nutrients and water to the plants’ roots, allowing them to thrive and achieve yield and food quality beyond the capabilities of traditional farming practices.

Cocogreen® is a leading enterprise in the emerging Clean Tech space thanks to its circular business model in practice, and its world-first substrate innovation: Moisture Control Technology (MCT®). MCT® makes the plant’s fuel (water and fertiliser) more efficient by optimising the root zone environment. This allows roots to use up to 95% of the substrate to transport fertilisers applied by the grower, with a 20-30% reduction in waste. This is compared to an average of 50-60% substrate usage from the closest competitor.

MCT® is a transformative innovation for the agriculture industry, stimulating greater plant health to increase yield volumes by up to 150% compared to traditional farming, and up to 40% in comparison to other hi-tech farming practices. It also enables crop growers to make significant savings of up to 30% on water and fertiliser, reducing pollution and optimising the production of food products over less land mass. More significantly, it elevates the product as a highly sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional, peat-based substrates. This is doubly important as the use of peat-based compost will be banned from 2030 in the UK, a trend mirrored across the EU and more globally; tackling a practice that accounts for almost 5% of global carbon emissions4. The impact Cocogreen® is having, by replacing carbon-emitting peat, is huge.

Cocogreen’s® business is entirely circular, with full control of its end-to-end supply chain. In Sri Lanka, the company owns 11 sites that grow, process and engineer coconuts into the final product, with operations now growing outside of Sri Lanka to meet the needs of a client base spread across the six continents. In the UK, the company also leverages the Kent-based Water Efficient Technology Centre, of which it is a founding partner.

More than half of Cocogreen’s® business is already conducted outside of the UK, and Santander UK’s funding is set to accelerate this continued international expansion to boost trade with new and existing clients in the Americas, Australasia, Europe, and Africa. The funding package includes a term loan to refinance existing debt as well as invoice finance and trade loans to support the business to grow international sales which are increasingly diverse and complex over many territories. Santander’s support provides a simple form to empower the management team of Cocogreen® to grow and be flexible in international trade.

Cocogreen® has taken out a subscription with Santander Navigator, the bank’s digital platform that supports UK companies with international growth, which will play a key role in its expansion into overseas markets by connecting it with third parties, such as solicitors, that will help it set up in-country entities, as well as support with streamlining international shipping.

Santander has also provided Cocogreen® with bank accounts in Mexico and Spain, a digital platform to manage its Santander accounts across the world, and full day to day banking services in the UK.

The business’s global team includes a staff of more than 600, including 20 in its Manchester head office. Investment in its team will see the business expand activities in brand and marketing, ESG impact and operations, as well as achieving broader coverage in key markets abroad with strategically placed sales professionals, logistics, finance and other support and technical roles.

Cocogreen® (UK) was founded in 2010 by Dr Sudesh Fernando and Thomas Ogden and has experienced accelerated growth in recent years. It is targeting – and on track for – a forecasted £40m (consolidated) turnover in 2025. Circularity Capital, specialists in circular economy impact investments, provided a cash injection into the business in 2022, enabling Cocogreen® to further capitalise on increased global demand for peat-free, low carbon, and technologically advanced substrates with a positive environmental and social impact.

The business has won awards including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade1. As early as 2014 it was ahead of the curve as the first company with commercial interests in Sri Lanka to receive social certification standards for corporate social responsibility (SA8000), based on the conventions of the United Nations and the International Labor Organization2. Cocogreen® also holds ECOCERT, an international standard for traceable, organic products3. The business has consistently acted ahead of market trends, setting standards for best practice in agriculture supply chains.

The group is a founding member of The Water Efficient Technology Centre, in East Malling, Kent, which was set up to support the development of new technologies and best practice within the horticultural and agricultural sectors. It helps ensure growers optimise the effect of Cocogreen® technologies, enabling them to have a huge impact on their own growing practices, profitability, and social and environmental footprint.  The company has a similar site in Mexico, where Cocogreen® operates.

In 2022 the company documented its direct impact on agriculture was equal to billions of litres of water and fertiliser savings, with significant pollution reduced both in the UK and internationally, mainly in rural farming areas.

Thomas Ogden, Chief Commercial Officer and Co-Founder, Cocogreen® said: “Santander invest the time into their relationship with Cocogreen®. They make an effort to come and see us face to face and that is so important to us. We have established businesses in every continent in the world now, and relationships are key, so we needed a truly global partner to sit side by side with us to achieve our objectives.”

Luke Rowbotham, Relationship Director at Santander UK, said: “We are delighted to help Cocogreen® to achieve its growth aspirations by providing it with this funding package and our international support. Santander UK is proud to support businesses, such as Cocogreen®, with a strong sustainability ethos, to grow.”

Santander Navigator is a digital subscription platform that supports UK companies with international growth. It provides expertise and knowledge collated by Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking’s international team to help UK businesses overcome international trade-related obstacles and understand the attributes of doing business in a new market. Businesses can subscribe to access a personalised service, based on their individual needs, and to help achieve their international expansion strategy. Find out more about Santander Navigator here:

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