Growing the Agri-Tech Innovation Ecosystem

Dr Belinda Clarke, Agri-Tech East

Dr Belinda Clarke

Director, Agri-Tech East

Belinda has led the development and growth of Agri-Tech East from its conception and brings significant experience of science and its translation into business opportunities. Originally trained as a plant scientist, Belinda is a Nuffield Scholar, an Associate of The Royal Agricultural Societies, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and a Chartered Biologist.

Belinda has held senior positions in a number of innovation driven organisations including the role of Lead Technologist for Biosciences at Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board). She is a council member for the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and a trustee of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.

Her first degree was in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and her PhD was awarded from the John Innes Centre through the University of East Anglia.

Welcome and Introduction

Richard Anscombe, Fram Farmers

Richard Anscombe

Chief Executive Officer of FramFarmers, and Chair, Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group

Richard is chief executive of FramFarmers and is based at Framlingham.

FramFarmers is the UK’s leading farmer-owned cooperative for purchasing and grain marketing. It purchases more than £190m of products and services annually on behalf of more than 1,060 members who farm more than 275,000 hectares throughout the UK.

After studying at agricultural college, Richard began his career with Norsk Hydro Fertilisers before moving into the technology sector where he went on to co-found IT business Active Web Solutions.

Since joining what was then AtlasFram in 2010, he has developed a strategy to make FramFarmers the UK’s foremost farmer-owned purchasing and marketing co-operative.

Thinking beyond the conventional

Prof Jonathan Jones, Sainsbury Laboratory

Chair: Professor Jonathan Jones FRS

Group Leader, The Sainsbury Laboratory

Professor Jonathan Jones is a senior scientist at The Sainsbury Laboratory on Norwich Research Park. He investigates how plants resist disease, and how resistance is overcome by pathogens. Jonathan has isolated and characterised many resistance (R) genes that encode plant immune receptors, revealing how certain intracellular receptors recognise pathogen molecules and activate defence.

Before joining The Sainsbury Laboratory in 1988, Jonathan worked for a start-up agbiotech company, exploiting developments in molecular biology for crop improvement. He holds a BSc and PhD from the University of Cambridge and is a Professor at the University of East Anglia.

Maria Beatriz Giraudo

Keynote Speaker: María Beatriz Giraudo

Argentinian Farmer and Winner of the Kleckner Award 2016

REAP 2017’s keynote speaker, María ‘Pilu’ Giraudo, is the 10th winner of the annual Kleckner Award from the Global Farmer Network. The award is presented to a global farmer who exemplifies strong leadership, vision and resolve in advancing the rights of farmers to choose technology and tools that will improve the quality, quantity and availability of agricultural products around the world.

Ian Crute

Response by: Professor Ian Crute

Former Chief Scientist at AHDB

Professor Ian Crute has had an involvement in agricultural research since the early 1970s and was, until his recent retirement, Chief Scientist of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB); this position required him to take a high-level strategic overview of both crop and livestock production in the UK, from an industry perspective, including priorities for research, innovation and knowledge exchange.

Ian’s primary expertise is in plant pathology and genetics and he has a particular interest in the science of sustainability as applied to agricultural systems. Prior to joining AHDB in 2009, Ian was Director of Rothamsted Research for 10 years and this followed 25 years in Horticulture Research International (culminating in Directorship of the organisation's laboratory at Wellesbourne).

Ian’s scientific work is recorded in over 170 papers and he has contributed to the production of several influential publications concerning science strategy and the future direction of agriculture. These include: the Royal Society’s “Reaping the Benefits” report; the Foresight report on “Global Future of Food and Farming”; the EASAC report on “Opportunities and Challenges for Using Crop Genetic Improvement Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture”; and the UK government’s “Strategy for Agricultural Technologies”.

Ian is now a Non-Executive Director of AHDB and serves on several other Boards and Committees connected with science and innovation including: the Agri-Food Technology Council.

Start-Up Showcase

Calum Murray, Innovate UK

Chair: Calum Murray

Head of Agriculture and Food, Innovate UK

Calum Murray is Head of Agriculture and Food at Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency.

He represents Innovate UK within the UK Research Council’s “Global Food Security Initiative”, the LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) advisory board and the Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group and has been appointed to the N8 (group of Northern England Universities) AgriFood external advisory board. He was also a member of the X-Whitehall working group developing the “UK Strategy for Agricultural Technologies” and currently provides input to the AgriFood Technology Council.

Calum studied agriculture at Aberdeen University and started his career with the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food’s extension service “ADAS” in England in 1982. In 1995 he was appointed by Bank of Scotland as national agricultural specialist becoming a Regional Director of the joint venture NFU Mutual Finance in 2006.

Calum joined Innovate UK in February 2010.

Adding value with agri-tech

Ruth Bailey, AEA

Chair: Ruth Bailey

Director General/CEO, The Agricultural Engineers Association

Ruth Bailey was appointed Director General/CEO of The Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) in September 2014, with experience in the mining equipment supply sector.

She has a farming background from South Yorkshire, and holds a BA Honours degree in Modern Languages and Politics, studying Spanish and Russian at Wolverhampton Polytechnic and the University of Navarre, Spain and the Institute of Foreign Languages, Kiev, Ukraine

The Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) was established in 1875 to promote the technical, trade and commercial interests of British manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural machinery.

Philip Garford, Garford Farm Machinery

Philip Garford

Managing Director, Garford Farm Machinery

Garford Farm Machinery is a development, manufacturing and distribution company supplying high quality products to the UK and world agricultural market. Garford are recognised for their Robocrop Precision Guided Hoes and Robocrop Inter-Row Weeders.

Managing Director Philip Garford initially farmed on the Garford family farm, before establishing the machinery business in 1986. Garford Farm Machinery began by developing a sugar beet harvester, incorporating their skew bar topper (designed to achieve higher yield) and a Spiroll Cleaning System, removing clods of soil from sugar beet.

Matt O'Hagan, M&S

Matt O’Hagan

Senior Agronomist, Marks & Spencer

Matt O’Hagan is a Senior Agronomist at Marks and Spencers’ vegetable division. He graduated from Harper Adams University, before moving to Lincolnshire to work in the brassica industry. Matt was Technical Development Director at DPS Plc, where he helped develop its exotic fruit business. He was also Technical Director at Utopia/Total Exotics, importing exotic fruit and vegetables for major UK retailers and food processors.

Marks & Spencer is a major British multinational retailer, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It specialises in selling clothing, home products and luxury food products.

Sachin Schende, KisanHub

Sachin Shende

Co-founder and CEO, KisanHub

Sachin holds a Ph.D. in Computational Hydraulics from Loughborough University, and prior to founding KisanHub in 2012, managed the development of bond trading and research analytics platform for Barclays Global Investors and BlackRock.

KisanHub is a decision support system and data analytics tool for farmers. The core idea is to bring in disparate data sources which are external to the farm system and integrate with internal farm data to build an intelligent system which will assist farmers in decision making.

Emerging agri-tech

Poul Hoveson, Salle Farms

Chair: Poul Hoveson

Director of Farming, Salle Estate, and Vice-Chair, Agri-Tech East Stakeholder Group

The Holkham Estate on the north Norfolk coast is made up of approximately 7,000 hectares of tenanted land, plus 3,000 hectares that is farmed ‘in-hand’ by the Holkham Farming Company. Cropping is done on a six course rotation with sugar beet, salad potatoes, and oil seed rape with a combinable crop in between. The livestock enterprises consist of a herd of 190 suckler beef cattle, plus a herd of Belted Galloway grazing the nature reserve in an environmentally sensitive area.

Originally from Denmark, Poul moved to the UK in 1987 to become Farms & Estate Manager for Salle Farms Company and continues to hold this position in addition to becoming Director of Farming for Holkham Farming Company in 2011. He is a past Director of Aylsham Growers, Morley Research and The Arable Group and is currently a member of the local Catchment Sensitive Farming Steering Group.

An early adopter of precision farming technology, catchment sensitive farming techniques and environmental stewardship schemes, Poul believes that environmental practices can complement modern intensive agriculture.

In 2014 the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association awarded Poul the Sir Timothy Colman prize for “his outstanding contribution towards promoting the interests and understanding of food, farming and the countryside in Norfolk”. In the same year Poul was also awarded Arable Farmer and Farmer of the Year by Farmers Weekly.

Different perspectives, same goal

Phil Le Grice

Chair: Dr Phil Le Grice

Principal, Bicton College and Director of Rural Economy and Food, The Cornwall College Group

Dr Phil Le Grice is Director of Rural Economy and Food at the Cornwall College Group and Principal of Bicton and Duchy College. His vision is to inspire future generations to choose a career in farming and food.

Phil grew up on a farm in Morchard Bishop, Devon before undertaking a PhD at Seale-Hayne College, studying the impact of frost protection systems on potato crops. He joined the Agricultural Training Board, before becoming Director of Trials and Research at Duchy College. He is also a Member of the Board of Trustees for the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, Cornwall.

David Purdy, John Deere

David Purdy

Territory Manager, John Deere

Territory Manager David Purdy has been with John Deere for 28 years, communicating the benefits of precision farming, agronomics and technology.

John Deere is a NYSE-listed manufacturer of agricultural equipment, founded in 1837. John Deere UK & Ireland started trading from Langar, Nottinghamshire in 1966, celebrating its 50th anniversary last year.


Ben Rayner

Senior Advisor, Food Chain Innovation Team, Defra

Ben leads on “pre-farm gate” agri-tech innovation and works across several Government departments to ensure that current and future policy meets the needs of the UK agri-tech sector.

Prior to starting at Defra he spent several years working for the Environment Agency where he delivered Defra’s “Catchment Based Approach”. It involved worked closely with farmers, water companies and other stakeholders to develop novel solutions to elevated nitrate levels and other water quality issues in surface and ground waters due to diffuse agricultural pollution. He was also a Secretary of State appointed member of the Peak District National Park Authority (NPA) this involved ensuring that NPA plans and policy reflected the needs of businesses and residents. As part of this he worked with farmers to develop and promote funding schemes to enable farm business to diversify.

Andrew Blenkiron, Euston Estate

Andrew Blenkiron

Estate Director, Euston Estate

Suffolk’s Euston Estate has approximately 6,260 acres which are farmed ‘in-hand’ by Euston Farms, on which wheat, barley, oil seed rape, forage maize and sugar beet are grown, alongside the management of cattle and sheep. The land is also used for free-range pig and poultry farming, in addition to potato, onion, carrot and parsnip production by agreement with other producers.

Andrew Blenkiron became Estate Director in 2011, managing a total of 11,000 acres. He oversees all aspects of the Estate, including farming, let land, diverse enterprises, the historic house, shoot and woodland. Prior to this, he was Managing Director of Crichel Farms in Dorset. Andrew graduated from Harper Adams University in 1987.

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser

Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser

Director, Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge University

Director, Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS is Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory.

Ottoline’s research interests are in the genetics of plant development and the role of plant hormones in plant developmental plasticity. She made significant contributions to understanding the mechanism of action of the plant hormone ‘auxin’ as well as to the identification of a second group of plant hormones known as strigolactones.

She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to plant science, science in society, and equality and diversity in science. Her BA and PhD in Genetics were awarded by the University of Cambridge.