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Meet our 2019 Agri-Innovation Den judges

Sponsored by BASF and Farm419

As the Agri-Innovation Den judging day on November 21 looms ever closer, we ask our five judges
why the competition is important and what they will be looking for from our six finalists.

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Dr. Claus Hackman, Venture capital investment manager at BASF

Dr. Claus Hackman, Venture capital investment manager at BASF

Claus began working at BASF as an investment manager in 2010 and is now active in four boards. The related companies are based in the US, the UK, Switzerland and Germany. He joined BASF SE in 1994 and worked until 2003 in several functions in research, development and production.

  • Why do you think it is important to recognise and celebrate technology within the agricultural industry?

 

Sarah:

New technology is critical to farmers being able to add value and increase margins. It is important farmers have early sight of technological developments, as it helps shape long-term thinking around investment and business direction.

 

At a time of uncertainty, when people are taking stock of their current businesses and working out how best to proceed, technological improvements could hold critical parts of the puzzle.

 

Rupert:

The agricultural industry is at the forefront of many technological changes and is often overlooked.

 

In order to encourage new entrants into the sector, for students leaving universities and entrepreneurs looking to develop businesses, successes and amazing new technological developments in the agricultural industry must be highlighted.

 

Louis:

Agricultural technology plays a huge part in driving the all-important incremental gains in farm output.

 

Of equal importance is how technology can be used to manage business efficiency and environmental gains, such as staff and equipment management, including the precise targeting of inputs.

 

One other area increasingly fraught for farmers is accessing sufficient skilled and semi-skilled labour to pick, pack and operate machinery; while automation technology has its objectors linked to replacing people with machines, businesses cannot survive without reliability and timeliness, particularly when it comes to harvest.

Sarah Bell, Independent consultant, S.E. Bell Agri Food

Sarah Bell, Independent consultant, S.E. Bell Agri Food

Sarah runs her own consultancy business, S.E Bell Agri Food, driving and delivering positive change in food supply chains. She has worked closely with academia and business, developing practical solutions, incorporating data use and demonstrating sustainable farming.

  • What have been the key emerging trends in the sector of the last 10 years?

 

Luke:

 

Although there has been a significant focus on new hardware such as sensors that farmers can deploy in the field, the most emerging trends in recent years has been shifting from data collection to turning it into useful insights for farmers.

 

Specifically, use of data to enable farmers to ‘get more for less’ from innovations in decision management tools through to risk management and solutions that drive environmental sustainability.

 

Louis:

 

GPS, mobile internet connectivity and smartphones are three technologies which have had a transformative impact on farmers’ processes over the past decade.

 

They have driven resulting trends in farming; data capture and sharing from kit such as drills and sprayers, auto and precision input application and easier real-time business decision-making and management.

 

Fundamental to making these activities possible has been the ability for farmers to connect devices to each other and often manage them from apps and tools on their smartphones.

 

Claus:

 

Globally, precision farming has played a key part in the last decade. We have seen more targeted use of inputs through the use of technology, for example we no longer need to spray a whole area, we can be selective with our applications reducing cost and improving efficiency.

 

It is not just about technology; the knowledge of agronomists has grown and with it growers are saving time and having more confidence in their decisions.

 

Understanding what is happening in the field and a greater sense of transparency combined with a pro-active use of data has delivered innovative businesses.

Luke Halsey, Entrepreneur in residence at Farm491

Luke Halsey, Entrepreneur in residence at Farm491

Luke leads Farm491’s incubation work, supporting companies in the agri-food tech space to achieve their full growth potential, as well as building out partnerships and research initiatives to help grow the UK’s agritech ecosystem. Luke is also investment director for California-based fund AiiM Partners.

  • What are your prediction of trends looking to the next 10 years?

 

Sarah:

 

Over the last 10 years, new technology has generated huge amounts of data, which is often in many different parts of a farming business.

 

I think the game changer in the next 10 years will be getting data to be able to move across systems so farmers can easily manipulate it to really gain long-term value from the data to support them through policy shift which will come as Brexit progresses as and when we have to face into a new Agricultural Policy.

 

Luke:

 

The area I see a lot of promise in isdiversification combining traditional farming with alternative agricultural techniques, such as vertical farming.

 

There is also significant innovation happening aroundreducing the number of steps in the agri-food supply chain, for example technologies which enable consumers to be closer to and gain deeper insight into food provenance.

 

I also see more focus on changing skillsets focused around on-farm human machine interfaces, such as how farm workers interact with robotics on-farm.

 

Louis:

 

Key changes will be how technology will be used to manage reporting on regulation and compliance, such as proving which animal was treated with what and when.

 

The second is using these tools to demonstrate justification of inputs, allowing businesses to continuously monitor their financial outlay, ensuring efficiency, profitability and sustainability.

 

The third area will be connectivity and data flow between farmers, manufacturers and the supply chain, creating connections which improve the transparency and efficiency between suppliers and customers.

 

The last is a wider adoption of new technologies, driven by a stronger rural connectivity allowing more growers to benefit from remote access in the field and a greater desire to utilise tools due to early adopters demonstrating the benefits.

 

For example, variable fertiliser application is widely adopted and we are just at the start of this journey with plant protection products.

 

Claus:

 

I think we will see a greater accelerator of trends as a result of regulatory demand. Increasing restrictions will bring with them a change in the agricultural industry generating more opportunities and interesting technologies which need to adapt to comply.

 

I see new business and service models helping farmers become more efficient with tools in the field. Environment will also play an even greater role, generating lighter machinery and innovative technology which prioritise soil health, biodiversity and sustainability

Louis Wells, Solutions and services manager for agricultural solutions in the UK and Ireland at BASF

Louis Wells, Solutions and services manager for agricultural solutions in the UK and Ireland at BASF

Louis is responsible for scouting new technology, looking for opportunities to complement BASF’s portfolio. He has been instrumental in driving digital activities within the UK for the company, developing solutions for a more sustainable future in agriculture.

  • What will you be looking for at the judging day when assessing at this year’s Agri-Innovation Den finalists?

 

Luke:

 

There are lots of cool technologies out there. However, technologies are not in themselves products or businesses.

 

I will be particularly excited by ideas which not only have interesting technologies, but a thoughtful and scalable business model which empowers farmers, promotes environmental sustainability and is investable.

 

Rupert:

 

I will be looking for something really different which takes a problem and provides a solution that is different from any existing solution. Something which takes innovation and has a real practical value.

 

Claus:

 

We try to connect fast-moving disruptive start-ups with networking, marketing and production opportunities at BASF, so I will be looking for interesting technologies, good digital interfaces and finalists who understand agricultural industry demands.

 

I also look for a company which can demonstrate excellent staff management, is economically valuable and has a strong business plan which addresses industry challenges.

Rupert Levy, Chief financial officer at AgriBriefing

Rupert Levy, Chief financial officer at AgriBriefing

Rupert began his career at KPMG before joining Miller Freeman as finance director in 1998. He went on to hold senior financial director positions at WMRC, SEM Group, Haymarket exhibitions and Dods. He joined AgriBriefing in 2012 and, alongside his financial responsibility, he has a specific remit to oversee the company’s extensive exhibition portfolio.

Agri-Innovation Den 2019

What’s in the package?

 

  • Print and digital advertising to the value of £30,000 across Farmers Guardian, Dairy Farmer and Arable Farming
  • An innovative PR and marketing package, which includes the creation of bespoke content for your exclusive use, comprising a promotional video, article, press release and social media support
  • Two delegate packages to the Oxford Farming Conference 2020, including conference tickets, accommodation, dinner and Emerging Leaders Programme participation
  • Half-a-day of mentoring for the business in 2020
  • A 12-month membership of Farm491, including: one-to-one business support with the Farm491 team
  • Access to AgriTech knowledge network; funding advice and building a scalable funding strategy; access to hot-desking facilities and meeting rooms
  • Promotion on Farm491 site, newsletters and social media.

 

When is the judging day?

 

Finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at Farm491, Cirencester, on November 21, 2019.

 

Who are the Judges?

  • Sarah Bell, independent consultant at S.E. Bell Agri Food
  • Dr Claus Hackmann, venture capital investment manager at BASF
  • Luke Halsey, entrepreneur in residence at Farm491
  • Rupert Levy, chief financial officer at AgriBriefing
  • Louis Wells, solutions and services manager for agricultural solutions in the UK and Ireland at BASF

For more information, visit AgInnovationDen.com

Sponsored by BASF and Farm419
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