Last week, seven finalists in the Agri-Innovation Den competition went before judges to pitch their ideas and innovations, making their play for a share of the £20 million investment pot up for grabs.
Now in its third year, Agri-Innovation Den judge Neil Thackray said this year’s competition was the most inspiring yet: “Some of these businesses will make a real difference to how farming operates. I am excited about working with some of the businesses as they progress and I look forward to helping them on their journey.”
Judge Will Jackson said: “Each year I am stunned over the quality of innovation taking place. The entries this year were of such a high quality, so whittling it down to the pitches on the day was tough. It was great to see a mix of businesses from the agri-tech sector through to practical on-farm solutions.”
He said there were a couple of pitches on the day which really stood out for him, namely Hummingbird Technologies and Agricision.
Over the coming months, judges will have follow-up meetings with finalists, before announcing their decisions.
Here is how the businesses found the experience:
Adam Keene’s ambition is to make the highest impact precision technologies available and desirable to a wider range of farming businesses through his company Agricision.
The business launched its onTrak GPS at this year’s Lamma, where it achieved a certificate of merit in the Lamma Innovation Awards.
Adam said: “The Agri-Innovation Den experience was fantastic. It was great to be in the room with experienced judges. Their feedback was positive and some good ideas came out of it.”
Agronomex is a web marketplace linking fruit and vegetable growers and suppliers with food professionals to allow direct trade of surplus produce.
Pascal Martin said: “The pitch was a very nice opportunity for us to introduce our service to industry experts and get their feedback and recommendations.”
A third generation blueberry farmer, David Trehane said it was his disappointment with what the tech industry had to offer the soft fruit industry which led to him designing a new cloud-based software system for fresh produce growers.
Version one is now launching, enabling growers to manage their data and their business from planting to dispatch. He said the Agri-Innovation Den was nerve-wracking, but a good experience overall.
Born and bred on a Northumbrian farm, Dan Robinson has developed Farm-r, an online marketplace allowing farm businesses to rent out under-utilised machinery to farmers who need to use it.
Speaking after the pitch, he said: “We have to get out there and grow the product now. The judges all seemed really keen on it and they really want it to work.”
This business uses machine learning and computer vision technique to produce insights on crop health, providing farmers with field maps they can act upon.
Speaking after he pitched his business to the panel, William Wells said: “It was great, some good questions. It was a pretty robust hour-long session.
“It is always good to see really good investors’ initial reactions and where they probe.”
Daniel Suggitt and his brother Steve, a large-scale agricultural contractor from Norwich, have launched PlantGrow, which uses a by-product from the AD plants which are part of their business.
Specifically for horticultural use and gardeners, it is available in a bottled form, plus a solid soil conditioner.
Daniel said: “It was lovely to come and meet the team. They were very engaging and gave their honest opinions on PlantGrow. It was good and I got some useful tips and advice.”
Ubiqutek develops technology and products to kill weeds using electricity, reducing chemical herbicide use.
Called Rootwave, the company’s recently launched professional hand-weeder for spot-weeding and tackling invasive species won a 2017 Lamma Innovation Award.
Andrew Diprose said delivering his pitch to the panel was fun, but very challenging: “The pitch was quite standard, but the questions asked by the panel were quite informative and challenging. It was an interesting experience.”