“The future is here already – it is just not evenly distributed,” Michael Lee, Managing Director of Syngenta Ventures, quoted at the final of GROW, the UK’s first national agri-tech business plan competition. He was describing how exciting business concepts are emerging internationally but as the six finalists of GROW presented, it quickly became clear that the future is concentrated here, with most of the major global trends he had identified present in the room.
GROW has been developed by Agri-Tech East to encourage entrepreneurship in agri-food industry. Director Dr Belinda Clarke says: “Agri-Tech East’s vision is to be a globally recognised catalyst of open innovation and agri-entrepreneurship. Through GROW we are rapidly establishing a vehicle to find and support these new agri-businesses and by harnessing the power and diversity of our expert network we can also greatly increase their chances of success.”
This year’s competition attracted entrants from across the country and many of the finalists already have international aspirations.
The GROW finalists are:
- Pinpoint Phenomics, allows growers and breeders to know ‘what a plant is thinking’ by using the plant’s own messaging system to see its response to environmental stress;
- Aponic, a soil less growing system which allows crops to be grown vertically fed by a fine mist of water and nutrients. Suitable for urban warehouse farming, it produces 30 per cent more yield with 90 per cent less water;
- Smartbell, which by using the ‘Internet-of-Cows’ to detect changes in animal behaviour brings the expertise of an experienced herdsman to an automated dairy system;
- Softharvest, a gentle robotic harvester that uses visual recognition to allow just-in-time picking of lettuces without damage to delicate plants.
- Aerial Crop Technologies which offers a pay-as-you-go drone-based monitoring system delivered in a box;
- Share Your Foods, a food sharing platform to allow those with a surplus to reach potential consumers directly;
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, explains GROW was devised to identify and support those UK agri-entrepreneurs with ideas to help agriculture and horticulture. By leveraging the highly supportive environment in the east of England Agri-Tech East will help these new agri-business grow into fully fledged companies that can bring real benefits to the industry.