A Newcastle-based food tech manufacturer is ramping up production of its pioneering sanitisation systems to meet a huge increase in demand with the support of Lloyds Bank.

Biofresh Group Ltd, which is headquartered in Stocksfield, Northumberland and has production facilities in Gateshead and Huddersfield, has seen orders for the equipment rise more than ten-fold since the beginning of March as public health organisations and businesses across the UK and Europe tackle the pandemic.

The products, designed to disinfect a range of internal settings from care homes, hospitals and ambulances to hotels, schools and public transport, emit a high concentration of ozone gas that decomposes to ordinary oxygen on release – a reaction which completely decontaminates the air and all surfaces.

The company was founded in 2003 to commercialise discoveries made by academics at Newcastle University’s School of Biology and employs 20 people.

Biofresh Group says the Covid-19 pandemic turned the firm on its head. Sales of products designed to keep food produce fresh, which previously constituted 90 per cent of the business, fell sharply and orders of its sanitisation systems rocketed.

The business sought the help of Lloyds Bank to secure a £160k Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan so it could shift its manufacturing model and acquire the raw materials to quickly ramp-up production of its Cubo3 sanitisation product, as cashflow dried up.

Jonathan Caisley, founder and managing director, Biofresh Group Ltd, said: “Our company changed completely, almost overnight. Our new customers from the UK and across Europe needed sanitisation systems quickly and there was simply no time for a period of readjustment. We had to respond immediately to be able to build the products and protect the future of our business.

“The problem we faced was this meant making fundamental changes to how we operate, from essentially building low volume, high value machines, to large numbers of lower cost products, much quicker. The Lloyds Bank team understood that a delay of a couple of weeks would have had a fatal impact for the business and were fantastic in working to get the funding through in a matter of days.”

Chris Middleton, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank, said: “When Jonathan and his team got in touch with us, we knew time was of the essence. Not only did the business need to buy-in the materials to guarantee supply to its customers, it had to be in a position to pay its suppliers quickly.

“These innovations will go a long way to helping organisations in the UK and across the continent keep people safe and we look forward to continue supporting the business as it makes a meaningful difference.”