6 minute read

The magic behind RocketGro

Toby Thomas and Tim Roe, the two friends behind RocketGro.

T h e m a gi c b eh in d

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Join us as we go behind the scenes at RocketGro, one of the most exciting new peat-free companies in the industry, to discover more about its magic homegrown ingredient and the process that goes into making its game-changing products.

The Covid pandemic was an extremely difficult period for many industries but, for some, it also provided opportunities and the chance to start something new. RocketGro was one such success story – a business born out of a time of unprecedented change and one that is already making waves in the growing media category.

Established in 2020 and brought to market in 2021, RocketGro was forged by two old friends, Tim Roe and Toby Thomas, inspired by the Roe family’s agricultural background and a gap in the market for sustainable, peat-free bio-active gardening products that really make a difference. Toby explains: “Having to stop and take stock gave us the time and space we needed for more creative thinking. Tim’s family has been farming in Somerset for over 100 years and also started a biogas generation plant on the site two decades ago. In 2020, Tim approached me with the idea of selling digestate fibre in bags to garden centres and that’s where it all began. It started with an idea and just one potential product but it has grown significantly and developed into an exciting company, a brand with a portfolio of 12 products and a multi-million-pound investment!”

Peat-free and proud

As a start-up business, looking at future opportunities in the horticulture industry, RocketGro was sure from the get-go that it would steer clear of using peat in its products. “Although our business is based in Somerset, where peat extraction has been happening for decades, Tim’s farm never had any dealings with peat,” says Toby. “This, combined with the chance we had to fashion an entire business from scratch, enabled us to make a firm decision to not work with peat. The environmental reasons for not harvesting peat are very clear and, with the direction of travel of Government intervention, using peat in RocketGro products was never considered.”

This also gives RocketGro a point of difference in the market. “Most of our competitors have been born from the selling of peat as growing media,” says Toby, “so it sets us apart.”

Rocket fuel

A proud British producer, RocketGro keenly celebrates that the process of bringing its products to market takes place entirely in Somerset. “From start to finish – the ingredients, the growing, harvesting, sourcing, and manufacturing – it’s all done in Somerset,” says Toby.

So, just what is that process? Those familiar with RocketGro may have heard of the showstopping core ingredient in its range; a nutrient-rich digestate fibre affectionately dubbed ‘Rocket Fuel’ by local farmers because of its potency. But, what many may not know is that this key component is actually the by-product of renewable energy production at the farm.

The beauty of this sustainable resource is that,

unlike other products on the market, RocketGro’s range is not reliant on a bought-in benefit. As a result, the company’s approach to circular economy production and usage ensures its range is uniquely different and unmatched in the category.

Bio-digesters on RocketGro’s beautiful Swang farm are fed with maize, rye and grass all grown on site. The organic material is broken down to produce biogas, a smokeless blue-flame gas used to power 8,000 homes with renewable green energy. The by-product of this incredible process is digestate. Toby explains further: “Before we launched RocketGro, this digestate would be used entirely on the farm and spread on our 5,500 acres to grow the next crop of maize, rye and grass. It actually earned the nickname ‘Rocket Fuel’ amongst farmers in the region because it is such a good fertiliser.” However, it was Tim’s brainwave to make this wonder product accessible to the average gardener that heralded the start of RocketGro’s journey.

Blended to perfection

It is a time-consuming and exact process to create the end result. Digestate fibre is laid out to mature with various substrates in long lines on the farm. The lines are turned every day for months until they are ready for bagging, forming the basis for RocketGro’s updated and improved range of composts, soil improving, soil conditioning and natural fertiliser products.

RocketGro formulations are tweaked every few months to create better and more effective blends. For example, its new ericaceous compost available in 2023 has been made without the fresh maize that was used to successfully lower compost pH in 2022 but gave the product a smell that users weren’t keen on. For 2023, a longer maturation of the digestate – coupled with the inclusion of new substrates, such as wood chip, bark fines and John Innes – means these new additions will offer some of the best results on the market today. “The confidence we have in our new blends for 2023 and the level of testing and product development that has gone into the business in the second half of 2022 will ensure a product range that gets customers coming back for more. The eco story, price point, and branding, all combine to make our products a range that will add significant sales volume for garden centres,” says Toby.

The personal touch

The RocketGro team has also increased, with 40 people on site at Swang Farm, now employed and responsible for everything from harvesting the maize, rye and grass that to go into the digestors, to sorting and packing.

The two founders still have plenty to keep them busy! Among his long list of responsibilities Tim is in charge of infrastructure, product development, growing trials, overseeing the production team, substrate sourcing, testing, and the bio-gas plant itself. Toby’s role includes product design, branding, marketing, RocketGro’s online presence, client relationships, strategy, and more. Their hands-on approach and personable

team enable RocketGro to provide a service they believe large corporations just can’t match. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this small business can’t compete in the big leagues. “RocketGro is not a big corporate,” says Toby, “but it is backed by a very successful business that enables the company to operate at the same scale, ensuring our commitments for the 2023 season will be comfortably met. We can operate at scale and at speed, enabling us to get product to garden centres when others may well let them down. We believe this is a personal touch that big corporates cannot provide.”

Successful growth

In a few short years, RocketGro’s range of just two products has expanded significantly. For the 2023 season RocketGro will be offering 12 products in 19 different sizes to more than 200 outlets and counting. It is growth the team is particularly proud of and already there are plans for new launches in 2024 and a desire to really solidify what they have achieved so far. To learn more about “RocketGro is at an

RocketGro or to discuss adding advanced stage in its it into your 2023 offering, please contact Toby Thomas. Email: hello@rocketgro.co.uk or journey to become t leading independent he call 07936 928981. To discover more producer of peat-free visit: www.rocketgro.co.uk compost in the UK,” Toby says confidentiality. “We see our position as the natural choice for garden centres to work with, over and above the two market leaders (by volume). This will see us take greater market share and expand throughout 2023. “The mission right now is to educate the market about our progress, develop enduring relationships with garden centres that last, provide exceptional personal service, and help take peat-free growing media to the next level.”