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Development of a growing and delivery process for mass producing sphagnum moss for peatland restoration and cultivation as an economical and sustainable growing media

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MataMoss (Development of a growing and delivery process for mass producing sphagnum moss for peatland restoration and cultivation as an economical and sustainable growing media)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-01-31

Micropropagation Services have developed a range of products to support the largescale re-introduction of Sphagnum Mosses in degraded bogs and peatlands. The family of products is called BeadaMoss®. This work has been on-going for the last 15 years, initially working closely with Moors For The Future Partnership who are a body supported by land owners, The National Trust, utility companies, Local Authorities and Government. They are working to restore swathes of the Derbyshire Peak District to fully functioning peat forming blanket bog. Initially Micropropagation Services supplied Moors For The Future Partnership with a range of Micropagated Moorland plants. They were then approached to find a scalable method to produce and re-introduce Sphagnum into open moor. This presented a significant challenge. Firstly, sphagnum is an unusual plant, it has no roots and irregular and unpredictable sporeing patterns. When spores are released, they are also too small to collect. For this reason, the successful propagation and production of Sphagnum had always failed. With no method for producing Sphagnum moss, the historical alternative has been to ‘harvest’ Spahgnum from intact bogs. The result of this has been the extensive destruction and damage to bogs and wetland habitats that have been plundered for the purpose of translocating their living Sphagnum Moss. This practice is not sustainable, and in the case of the Peat District and many other wetland locations is not an option, as there is no living Sphagnum left to harvest. It was all killed off by Sulphur Dioxide released in the industrial revolution, over grazing, burning to maintain grouse shooting conditions or wild fires.
Micropropagation Services realised that if a cost effective, scalable method for the production of Sphagnum Moss could be realised, then this would solve the on-going issue for peatland restoration programmes in sourcing a sustainable and limitless source of Sphagnum. Dr Neal Wright pioneered a sterile method of producing Sphagnum from tiny donor samples via Micropropagation (plant tissue culture). This ensures that genetically pure species are maintained with no damage to natural peatland habitats. Having achieved this, he then looked for methods to “seed” reintroduce that sphagnum to the wild. The first of these methods was BeadaMoss® whereby tiny plantlets of Sphagnum are encased in a protective media gel bead. (hence the name BeadaMoss®) These small beads of moss are then easily broadcast from the air, or by hand into the degraded bogs. Following this innovative and successful breakthrough, other distribution methods have been developed including BeadaGel™ and BeadaHumok™. These have found their own niches and the restoration market for BeadaMoss® products in the UK is slowly growing as increased success is realised by the techniques and products of BeadaMoss®.
The Opportunity:
With a potential basis for large-scale production of Sphagnum Moss defined, Micropropagation Services are looking to develop and exploit new markets with the supply of Sphagnum Moss using their developmental MataMoss and FastStart techniques.
With large scale sustainable production of Sphagnum now possible, three potential market areas for BeadaMoss® sphagnum exist:

a) For the expanding restoration market
b) To displace markets where Sphagnum is used a commodity (all currently harvested from the wild) and to supply new markets, that will exist as a result of sustainable commercial Sphagnum supply being achieved.
c) Carbon Capture / Carbon Banking – Carbon mitigation to prevent climate change.
During Autumn and Winter 2017/18, Micropropagation Services undertook a market appraisal study, market validation and benchmarking work, to support the formulation of a business plan to fully exploit the opportunity afforded by the Innovation of BeadaMoss® and the potential of Matamoss techniques. This report contains the results of that work. 
Task 1: Validation of customer demand. COMPLETED
Carry out detailed competitive products review, including application and performance assessments
Quantify market opportunities and end-user requirements
Assess volume potential and price point
Benchmark MataMoss against existing approaches and identify key selection criteria for business to business and business to customer end-users
Undertake voice of customer work existing and new customers or trial users
Output: A market report detailing market needs, market opportunities, and price levels for inclusion in the Phase 2 Proposal. Feedback from end users to refine and validate the product

Task 2: Identify key stakeholders. COMPLETED
Engage with land owners to refine the value proposition to them
Engage with horticultural engineering companies required for the development of automated Mat seeding
Engage B2B distribution partners and customers in key European markets to develop long-term partnerships in terms of delivery of the product and market development
Engage with government agencies in Europe responsible for environmental and rural affairs
Output: Key stakeholders and subcontractors identified to build the necessary project skills

Task 3: Detailed project plan for commercial scale up and Phase 2. COMPLETED
Review technical feasibility and produce a detailed product specification
To plan the technical requirements needed to accommodate a large increase in demand including production capacity and delivery
Undertake full project planning for the Phase 2 project
Output: Detailed, fully costed project plan to take MataMoss from current position to market ready

Task 4: Intellectual property and commercialisation strategy. COMPLETED
Conduct an IP assessment of proposed developments including a freedom to operate search.
Examine MPS’s existing patents to determine opportunities for development.
Determine novel and patentable features of Sphagnum Accelerator and opportunities for exploitation.
Develop exploitation and commercialisation strategy for the first 5 years of sales.
Output: A report detailing the IP position and commercialisation strategy for MataMoss

Task 5: Business Plan elaboration. COMPLETED
The senior management of MPS will use the results from Tasks 1-4 to elaborate a comprehensive business plan. This will detail the necessary levels of investment, resource, distribution channels and key product offering and strong financial and investor plan to progress from traction, to growth, to scale and global penetration
Output: A detailed business plan with a 5-year forecast detailing commercialisation strategy.
The technology and IP associated with BeadaMoss® has been developed to service an initial and growing UK demand for Sphagnum moss in for peatland restoration projects. This part of the business has seen steady growth servicing a narrow market base. As both UK and EU government bodies increasingly look to improved management of peatlands to support climate change mitigation targets, (as well as reducing flood risks, the provision of clean drinking water and prevention of land mass as sea level rises,) BeadaMoss® must grow this peatland restoration area of business as a priority. In doing so the capital generated can also be used, alongside grant funding, to support growth in to the high risk proceeding volume Sphagnum commodity markets.

The following market analysis further quantifies and priorities our marketing and sales strategy for increasing our UK and European Restoration Market. We have spoken to over 50 organisations. The demand for Sphagnum for the restoration market is such, that in order to prioritise and define our sales strategy, we have scored and ranked our next steps restoration potential customers. We already have some significant leads with the higher scoring potential customers (score of 9 or above). A number of these organisations have indicated that they are keen to now trial our product looking to place orders for the next planting season, Spring 2019. We also now have some sites where we have an invitation to carry out paid trials.

To exploit the UK restoration market further, we will need to expand our sales staff. As a result of this study, we are now training another key member of the BeadaMoss® team to support the sales and marketing director.