Our R&D

Our commitment to research and development

When Gary, our founder and MD, began to develop a new tree shelter, he set three criteria the shelters would have to meet:

  1. Their performance would be as good as, or better than, plastic tree shelters
  2. They would be environmentally friendly, leaving no toxic residue in the location in which they were installed
  3. They would be cost-effective over the lifecycle of the tree shelter when compared to plastic tree shelters

Gary spent four years working closely with foresters, landowners and industry experts, researching the best materials for our tree shelters and developing their design. The result of this painstaking research is a tree shelter that:

  • leaves no persistent, toxic or bioaccumulative materials in the environment
  • breaks down into CO2, H2O and nitrogen
  • has a high renewable material content, most of which is considered waste or a by-product of an existing industry
  • creates a nourishing micro-environment for saplings
  • lets in the right level and spectrum of light to promote healthy plants and strong controlled growth
  • protects young plants from grazing and gnawing animals and harmful herbicide sprays
  • is proven to last five years (depending on location, tree canopy, soil and microbes)
  • needs no collection
  • supports mosses and lichens that attach themselves to the shelters to help create and sustain rich biodiversity
  • changes colour over time to blend into the natural environment, with no loss of performance

We will continue to research and develop new materials and new uses for our material technology to help reduce the use of plastic and support the global fight against climate change.

Sheep grazing in an open field with NexGen Tree Shelters planted behind them

Why we use the materials we do

Our extensive research and development identified wool, cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) and castor oil, along with an innovative custom polymer, as the most environmentally friendly, sustainable and effective materials for our tree shelters, protecting the trees for 5 years.

Why wool?

Gary explored several materials when he was developing the NexGen shelter. He chose wool because, as well as supporting an amazing natural product and an important part of the UK farming community, wool is:

  • 100% biodegradable
  • Sustainable, renewable and biodegradable
  • Durable, flexible, flame and water-resistant
  • Readily available in the UK
  • Provides the catalyst for the biodegradation process

We use lighter coloured wool in our tree shelters, shrub shelters and hedging guards but can use darker wool in our vole guards. Because we use wool of a lower grade than that used by clothing manufacturers, we’re providing British sheep farmers with a new market for fleeces that they typically bury, burn or dump.

Around 20% of wool produced in the UK doesn’t make it to market. We hope to change that.  In full production we’ll be using 156,000 square metres of British wool every month making NexGen the fourth largest user of British wool in the UK.

Why cashew nutshell liquid?

Cashew nutshell liquid (CNSL) is a natural, annually renewable, non-food biomaterial. It’s an agricultural by-product of the cashew nut industry defined as waste or processing residue. Due to its distinct properties, versatility and availability, CNSL is increasingly used in polymer-based industries to replace fossil-based raw materials.

For example, CNSL provides a more environmentally friendly alternative to mineral oil-based industrial and marine coatings, brake linings, paints, varnishes, laminates and resins. It is replacing palm oil in B7 road diesel. And research is finding potential new uses for CNSL in medicine. This increase in use is giving cashew nut producers more markets and the opportunity to use the whole nut. However, only 20% of waste cashew nut shells are currently turned into alternative products.

We use a derivative of CNSL called cardanol, the clearest, most refined (and most expensive) CNSL to make sure our range of products let in the right amount of light. All the CNSL we us is form shells where the nuts have been mechanically extracted.

Our supplier is EcoVardis accredited, which reflects the high quality of its sustainability management system. It is also certified by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certificate (ISCC), as are its key suppliers. Gary, and NexGen’s technical sales manager, Tim Oliver, have visited and inspected both their plant and also some of their farmers and processors to ensure the CNSL we use comes from ethical sources.

Because we use CNSL as one of the ingredients in our polyol, we can be sure our tree shelters are:

  • Fully degradable
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Durable enough to withstand the extremes of British weather

Last year, some NexGen tree shelters were supplied to a colleague of mine and I was asked to trial them with one of my clients. I just wanted to give you an update and say that we are very happy with how they’ve stood up to the weather conditions and can see no change in structural integrity over the last year.”

Laura Tedstone, Durham Wildlife Trust

Why castor oil?

The other main ingredient we use in our polyol is castor oil which is a vegetable oil made from pressed castor beans. These come from the Ricinus or castor oil plant that grows widely across tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Castor oil is a natural, renewable and non-food biodegradable material used as an alternative to petrochemicals in a wide range of applications and markets.

Castor beans can thrive in areas where food crops can’t grow, and therefore castor oil does not compete with food crops.

We will never ‘greenwash’

We make every effort to ensure that we only buy from ethical producers.

That said, and in the interests of full transparency, we recognise that both CNSL and castor oil production have historically had poor reputations in some parts of the world. However, the situation is improving, in part as more global industries seek ethically sourced alternatives to petrochemicals and the market for each product grows.

We will continue to take every step available to make sure our suppliers have ethical practices in place and our products meet the high ethical standards both we and our customers demand.

Our ethos

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Our story

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Our team

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NexGen. Protect your young trees. Protect the environment.

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