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Many sectors are working hard to be as sustainable as possible, but the construction industry is one that continues to use non-eco products on the whole, with concerns that sustainable building materials are hard to source and expensive, so unpractical for their projects.

That viewpoint is now being challenged by Edinburgh company IndiNature, which will open the UK’s first dedicated natural fibre insulation facility to produce IndiBreathe® hemp insulation in 2022.

IndiNature’s high-capacity production facility in the Scottish Borders will provide insulation for the UK construction sector at scale, meaning homes can be built and retrofitted affordably but they can be increasingly free of toxins and with a lower carbon footprint.

The company has been able to achieve this incredible ambition partly through loans secured from UMi Debt Finance Scotland, supported under the Scottish Growth Scheme which exists to help Scottish businesses innovate, grow and diversify.

IndiBreathe® hemp insulation captures a net amount of carbon and results in zero waste. The product is durable and soft, healthy to build with, and provides passive regulation of temperature and humidity for added indoor comfort and health.

Established by Scott Simpson, Sam Baumber and their cofounders, IndiNature is on a mission to innovate and manufacture bio-based construction systems. The cleantech innovators set up IndiNature in 2016, raising grants and with support from accelerators such as Unlocking Ambition, Scottish Edge and Climate KIC.

Sam explains: “We received fantastic support for our ideas over the first four years, which gave us the ability to do rigorous R&D and testing – and that process helped design IndiNature as a manufacturing and materials innovation company, and to develop supply chains for a sustainable future.

 “Hemp is a traditional crop and very durable – it’s really a wonder plant and the thermal properties are brilliant. It’s also a great rotation crop and can go into land that’s been overused as part of a refreshed approach to regenerative agriculture, so we’re talking to lots of interested farmers about increasing hemp production in the UK.”

So why the need for UMi financial support? IndiNature were in the closing weeks of a £500,000 seed raise in March 2020, when the pandemic struck.

Sam explains: “That’s when we first engaged UMi, with a £69,000 loan which helped us manage cash flow to keep the business going as we closed the seed investment round.”

Throughout 2020, the company focused on raising the £3-4 million finance needed for the manufacturing side of their project, and again turned to UMi for support in Summer 2021.

Sam adds: “We’d stayed in touch with UMi, even though we’d paid off the first loan quickly. The relationship was in place and we were able to discuss and consider our needs, resulting in a further £50,000 to ensure we could close the vital major capital investment raise without business disruption.

“UMi were very helpful and flexible as the situation changed.” The company were then able to secure a £3 million investment from the Scottish National Investment Bank, which unlocked grant funding from Zero Waste Scotland and South of Scotland Enterprise.

Sam and the team found UMi’s process was incredibly smooth, with a very supportive team and few obstacles.

He says: “Everyone at UMi was friendly to engage with and could talk knowledgably about our various options.

“It was a really human experience, which helped guide us and make sure that what we were planning was appropriate. The diligence and scrutiny were appropriate, and not overly time consuming either, and the speed and pace were amazing, considering our tight timelines.”

Tom Brock, UMI Debt Finance Scotland Fund Director, said IndiNature and its products were easy to like.

“Globally we’re all actively looking for ways in which we can become more sustainable faster. Sam and Scott’s passion for sustainability in construction has completely overhauled the old way of doing business in that sector, and their natural fibre insulation proves that a lower carbon footprint does not equate to higher building costs – something the industry is really starting to take notice of,” he says.   

The first machines are now being assembled in the new Jedburgh facility, and Sam and Scott, with their expanding team, will launch IndiTherm flexible batt insulation at high capacity off the line in summer 2022.

For now, the company is focused on demonstrating its insulation in various locations from new house building to retrofit, modular building and historic conservation. For example, they are testing performance with Renfrewshire Council, helping to reduce carbon footprint by reducing embodied carbon (from making materials) as well as operational carbon (heating of homes) by using IndiNature insulation products.

Sam says: “Regulations for energy efficiency in houses are changing, and we currently have some of the most poorly insulated homes in Europe. By using IndiNature insulation, we can help achieve warmer homes and a cooler planet, saving as much as four tonnes of carbon off the build of a new house.”

IndiNature’s cleantech innovations are now helping to lead the growth of the circular bio-economy to reverse climate change at scale.

Sam concludes: “It’s been an action packed few years, and UMi Debt Finance Scotland has supported us to keep going at crucial moments. Tom and the team gave us the confidence that we were taking out the right amount of money and in the right way.”

Key takeaways:

IndiNature are an Edinburgh-based cleantech company that produces sustainable hemp-based insulation for use in the UK construction sector. 

Following investment from UMi Debt Finance Scotland, the business is preparing to open the UK’s first dedicated natural fibre insulation facility to produce IndiBreathe® hemp insulation.

For more information on UMi Debt Finance and the range of flexible loans it offer, check out the website.  

Richard Dawson
Article by Richard Dawson
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