Co-operative Awards winner: Delta T Devices

Delta T Devices is an environmental science co-operative which will next year celebrate 40 years of trading.

For any co-operative, that is quite an achievement. It is perhaps even more remarkable in the hi-tech industry which co-op member Chris Nicholl feels is a difficult sector for co-operatives to successfully operate in. 

“Maintaining a commitment to industrial democracy while working hard to ensure competitiveness can be quite a difficult circle to square,” he says.

The recognition of the Co-operative Awards proves the Cambridgeshire co-operative is certainly committed to democracy in the workplace, while the co-operative’s competitiveness can perhaps be measured by its recent record of growth of between ten and 15 per cent in each of the past five years. 

And while Delta-T Devices wouldn’t wish the effects of climate change on anyone, it is fair to say that they have benefited from concerns for the environment and climate.

The co-operative, which manufactures a range of equipment and instruments for environmental science, has been selling soil moisture sensors for around 20 years — but now there is growing interest and demand for such technology from climate change and irrigation researchers. 

And with climate change being a global issue it is perhaps not surprising that around 75 per cent of the co-operative’s sales are to the export market.

Prior to the increased interest in environmental research, the co-operative’s main markets were linked to agricultural research, something which was cut back dramatically in the 1980s. However with current concerns over food security and local produce, the co-operative is hopeful of a resurgence in this market.

Delta-T Devices’ sales policy recognises that not all scientific advances are positive: “We aim to manufacture and sell instruments for use in work beneficial to the environment and directly related to human and animal welfare,” it states. 

“As a matter of conscience, we reserve the right not to sell our instruments to people or institutions involved in military work, tobacco research, environmentally destructive practices and factory farming.” 

The co-operative has around 35 members, with at least one founder member still working. Last month it was able to recruit two new members of staff who, assuming they complete their six months probation period satisfactorily, will go on to join the co-operative as members — just in time for the 40th anniversary celebrations.

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