As agri-tech start-up, Zayndu looks to scale up its Aurora chemical-free seed disinfectant system it has appointed Andrew Neil in the new role of Head of Engineering to lead product development. Andrew joins from Jaguar Land Rover where he headed up a team supporting the company’s ambitions for an electrified and autonomous future. His knowledge of digital twins – virtual representations of complex real-world systems – will bring new insights into the optimization and automation of Zayndu’s plasma technology.
Vertical farms and controlled environments offer the potential for intensive, year-round production of salads and other crops. As human contact is minimized and growing media sterilized, seeds become the main remaining vector for pathogens. Zayndu’s Aurora system addresses this by removing fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms from the seed using a plasma – air activated with an electrical current – this enables effective cleaning without the need for chemicals or water.
The company is seeing international interest in the technology and needs to ramp up production to meet customer needs.
Ralph Weir, CEO of Zayndu, a spinout from the University of Loughborough, says: “I’m delighted to be welcoming Andrew Neil to our team as Head of Engineering. Andrew is a veteran of the premium car industry and joins us from JLR, where his career saw him take responsibility for key systems in high-performance powertrains*, including leading the team responsible for delivering powertrain build and test operations for JLR’s recent prototype electric and hybrid vehicles.
“His experience in precision manufacturing and the demanding standards for quality and environment expected of the automotive industry will be key to driving Zayndu’s product development and manufacture.”
Andrew is exchanging management of a team of 150 automotive engineers for a smaller multidisciplinary team of physicists, software developers and engineers, and will be working alongside Zayndu’s biologists and plant scientists.
He comments: “The opportunity to work with this dedicated team to deliver a high-quality product that addresses an issue with impact across the agriculture industry, is inspirational.”
The Aurora system is currently available in two sizes: Z10 and Z25. Expanding the range to enable greater volumes of seed to be treated would significantly increase the market opportunities.
Additionally, remote management of the system would support further automation of controlled growing environments. Andrew’s knowledge of using digital twins to model and prototype complex control systems will accelerate new product development.
Andrew continues: “There is potential for significant growth through existing and new product offerings. My initial focus will be to work with the team to deliver a product that is robust and ready for the global market, including certification. To achieve this, we will be developing and deploying advanced data management tools to ensure the in-service reliability of the product and working closely with end-users to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction.
“Looking to the future, I see opportunities for collaboration with the wider engineering industry, and the scientific and academic communities, to advance understanding of plasma agriculture. This is a very exciting opportunity that I am proud to be part of; it links with my values and activates my creative interest.”