16 Nov 2017 Press release Technology

Young British inventor wins top UN Environmental award

  • Adam Dixon wins Young Champion of the Earth prize for his horticultural innovation to tackle food insecurity and habitat loss
  • Dixon one of six inaugural winners from around the world to be announced throughout November
  • Winners receive US15,000 seed funding, intensive training, and tailored mentorship to help them bring their big environmental ideas to life

16 November 2017 – Young British entrepreneur and inventor Adam Dixon was today announced as a United Nations Young Champion of the Earth for his hydroponic technology that supports the growth of plants using 10 times less land and water than conventional horticulture.

Dixon, 25, is one of six young winners each representing a region of the world, awarded the prize from the United Nations Environment Programme and Covestro aimed at identifying, supporting and celebrating outstanding individuals between the ages of 18 and 30 with big ideas to protect or restore the environment.

Dixon’s Phytoponics technology enables food crops to grow in water encased in a 100 percent recyclable polymer film, improving irrigation efficiency and reducing the amount of land use needed for horticulture. In just one year, Dixon, together with a skilled team under his leadership, has built his company up to the value of $2.6 million and is supplying Europe's second largest producer of rocket salad.

“An important motivator for me has been witnessing the extent of deforestation and habitat loss around the globe to feed our growing population. I think it’s a tragedy that as a species we’ve had to use half our planet for our own needs,” Dixon said. “Gaining the acknowledgement and support from the Young Champion of the Earth prize is a huge boost for me, which will help me achieve my vision for sustainability and food security.”

What began as an appreciation of gardening from joining his mother while she pottered in the backyard became a fascination with plant growth and a drive for innovation. Dixon is exploring the possibility of working with the World Food Programme in refugee camps to deploy his cost-effective product to support the supply of fresh produce to thousands of people in what are often uncultivable, barren locations.

Dixon’s immediate focus is on designing hydroponic solutions for greenhouses, where the majority of the fresh produce we eat is grown, as well as creating efficient, productive farms on the outskirts of cities so that the majority of the calories needed by a city’s population can be supplied locally. His ultimate vision, however, is that by 2050 the world will be using just 10 percent of its land for agriculture.

"From boosting food crops in Kiribati to sustainable fashion solutions in Canada, it's a delight to announce the first Young Champions of the Earth," said UN Environment head Erik Solheim.

"The breadth of innovation and ambition shown by the inaugural winners is nothing short of exceptional, and proof that we must continue to channel support to the world's younger generation for the solutions we need to secure a sustainable future."

Patrick Thomas, Covestro CEO, remarked: “At Covestro, we feel strongly about giving young people opportunities to make positive changes which directly affect them and their own communities. Young Champions of the Earth has allowed this to happen via some amazing and exceptionally diverse ideas which help the environment and benefit the world we live in.

“Our employees have also embraced the competition by becoming mentors to our Young Champions which tells us that securing a sustainable future is highly important for them personally and professionally. We are really pushing boundaries with this and will continue to support the great work of UN Environment.”

About Young Champions of the Earth

For the first time in 2017, UN Environment, together with Covestro, has introduced the Young Champions of the Earth competition. Running alongside the established Champions of the Earth award, which recognizes outstanding environmental leaders from government, civil society and the private sector, the new competition recognizes the importance of supporting the innovation of the world’s younger generation to find lasting environmental solutions. 

Selected from more than 600 applicants, the six inaugural Young Champions represent each global region (Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America, and West Asia). Regional winners will be announced throughout November.   

What do the Young Champions receive?

Each winner receives the following: 

  • US$15,000 in seed funding;
  • Attendance at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, December 2017, and the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 2018;
  • An introduction to the world’s environment ministers at the Champions of the Earth Gala Dinner in Nairobi, December 2017;
  • Publicity and recognition through online and global media;
  • Access to high-profile mentors and customized training in communications, project planning, financial management and more.
  • Participation in an intensive, one-week entrepreneurship course in Europe in the first quarter of 2018.


  • Young Champions of the Earth website:
  • Please click here for hi-res images of Adam Dixon
  • Please click here for a dropbox video link of Adam’s story (2min53sec)

About UN Environment
UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Covestro
With 2016 sales of EUR 11.9 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, electrical and electronics, construction and sports and leisure industries. Covestro, formerly Bayer MaterialScience, has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 15,600 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2016.

For more information, please contact:
Robert Few, Head of News and Media, UN Environment, +254 715 618 081, unepnewsdesk[at]unep.org