The first step for innovation is to understand the problem. The issues faced by agriculture are common to other markets, so it is reasonable to think that solutions proven to work elsewhere could also be adopted here to create quick wins for the industry.
This month we are looking worldwide for the best ideas and inviting thought-leaders to the REAP conference to share their experiences with our farmers and technologists.
The importance of the Agri-Tech East cluster in stimulating innovation was highlighted in a government report launched this month which stressed the benefit of creating an ecosystem to support early stage businesses and communicate the latest thinking.
Setting up in the UK
We were particularly proud to be invited to the CropWorld conference in Amsterdam to be showcased as a case-study of how to help agri-innovation thrive. The conference was opened by Bayer’s Head of R&D, Adrian Percy, who argued that innovation in the agriculture industry has never been more critical.
We have seen first-hand the benefits that small businesses can be offered by being part of an agri-tech cluster. Two of our members, Arlabion (Latvia) and FarmScan (Australia), have specifically chosen the UK as their strategic HQ for international growth, being keen to partner with the innovative growers, breeders and manufacturers that will help them succeed.
South America is a major global agricultural market, and we are looking forward to welcoming the winning team of the “hackathonAGRO” competition organised by the British Embassy in Montevideo, who offered an all-expenses paid trip to our REAP conference as the prize.
Taking technology global
The global benefits from last year’s REAP are already being realised by one of the Start-Ups we showcased – a representative from the British Deputy High Commission in Hyderabad who joined us for Agri-Tech Week 2015 has since been working with the company to help them access the wider market in India, having spotted the potential for their innovative technology for Indian growers.
This year for the first time at REAP we have technology demonstrations, and we are delighted to be welcoming some US-based early stage companies – our members Mavrx will be joining us, as well as Arable, a spin-out from Princeton University. Arable are combining sensors with meteorological data to improve yield forecasting. Their pilot projects include strawberry farms and vineyards and they are ‘super keen’ to talk to UK producers of salad crops.
Inspiration from different worlds
Our speakers also bring disruptive ideas from other geographies and industries, such as defence and logistics. Keynote speaker Gary Zimmer from the Mid West is a pioneer in biological farming; he has been in such demand that we have managed to shoehorn a number of visits across the region into his tight schedule. At REAP he will be part of panel of scientists and farmers creating a lively debate.
So what of the future? While the UK seeks to establish its new position on the global political stage, we want to continue to capitalise on the reputation, research and resilience of our farmers and innovators. 2017 will see us developing stronger international relationships – seeking to develop strategic relationships with overseas partners and continuing to work with the UK’s Department for International Trade’s Agri-Tech Organisation.
Through our member Austrade we will be building closer links with agri-investors Down Under, as well as exploring the possibilities for overseas visits to key partners in Europe for our members.
Join the revolution
Agri-Tech Week is nearly upon us – a reason for the world to book a ticket to come to the UK, attracted by the welcoming, highly productive and research-intensive gateway of the east of England.
We hope to see you at some, if not all, of the Week’s activities – see you on the other side!