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Investing in innovation

Last week saw an extremely successful day in Briefing Media and The Co-operative Food’s Agri-Innovation Den, with four finalists taking away firm promises for further progression.

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See Farmers Guardian in the coming weeks to find out how all the finalists got on and for more about the competition and the finalists, visit www.aginnovationden.com

Six finalists made the trip to Wootton Park, Warwickshire, to present their business concepts and all faced tough questioning from our expert judging panel (left to right in picture above): Briefing Media chief executive Neil Thackray and group editor Emma Penny, Overbury Farms manager Jake Freestone and agricultural development manager for The Co-Operative Food Group Will Jackson.


The judges all agreed the day had been truly inspiring, with Mr Thackray saying: “The quality of businesses and level of innovation was extraordinary. Every single one of them was doing something which will change how people in agriculture work.


“There are several businesses we have seen which we are definitely going to be following up and doing some work with. I think there is at least one where we are going to be investing some real hard cash, so it has been completely brilliant.”

Rob Carter




Allowing farmers to create a shared, working map of their farm, fieldmargin helps them make more informed day-to-day decisions and streamline communication on their land.



The judges were keen to o er their support to Fieldmargin, with both Will Jackson and Jake Freestone o ering to help with trial work in terms of introducing Rob to forward-thinking farmers who could help with product development. Neil Thackeray went one step further by o ering help in disseminating the concept to farmers and potentially helping with marketing, intimating he would also explore investment opportunities further down the track.



Rob said: “Agri-Innovation Den has been really easy actually. It has been fun. It put me out of my comfort zone, making sure the presentation was up to scratch and presenting in front of slightly scary, but certainly important, people within the industry. But it went really well. I hope it is going to lead to promotion through the platforms Briefing Media has.”

Richard Counsell




AOX is a simple trading platform designed to combat volatility in British farming. Richard says: “We make it very easy and a ordable to let farmers hedge against the rise and fall in prices and investors take the other side. Anyone can make a trade from as little as 50p.”



Neil Thackray said he found AOX a ‘massively interesting’ concept which he was very keen to explore further. He will be sitting down with Richard shortly to explore the system before ‘very possibly’ investing in the company.



Richard said: “It is a big subject which can be quite dry, but actually it went really well. We both saw opportunities for the two organisations, so for us it is now about edging it forwards towards full launch and the exciting next step.”

Camilla Gordon




The idea for WeFarm is to connect smallholders across the world to share information and knowledge and help them improve their farms and livelihoods. It is unique because it uses peer-sourced information rather than more traditional top-down methods of information sharing.



The judges loved the WeFarm concept and both The Co-operative Food and Briefing Media were keen to talk further to the company to see how partnerships could be developed. Neil Thackray said: “Whether or not there is an investment by Briefing Media, we would like to work with WeFarm to see how we could further the development.”



WeFarm head of engagement Camilla felt the pitch went ‘really well’, saying: “It was great to pitch in front of the panel and really exciting to get our idea out there a bit more. We are looking forward the new potential partnerships.”

Fabien Penyaud and James Greevy




Herdwatch is a farm management app which allows farmers to record their compliance and management information in real time. Its aim is to enable farmers ‘to record farm and animal events on the go, anytime, anywhere, even without internet access, for less than £2.50/week’.



The judges were extremely impressed by the level of success the business had achieved to-date and Will Jackson said he was keen to have further conversations with Herdwatch, explaining compliance was massively important for The Co-operative Food. He said: “I think we might be able to bring something which could accelerate the business.”



Fabien said: “For us it was a very worthwhile exercise, the judges were extremely pleasant and we loved the experience.”

Christopher Walmsley




HarvestYield helps agricultural contractors get paid faster by providing efficient and accurate job records on their phones, which are automatically synced back to the client to ease the invoicing process.



Although HarvestYield received no investment, the judges said it was an interesting idea. Neil Thackray said: “It is a niche of a niche, but Christopher needs to demonstrate he can move some of his free trialists through to purchase. If he can sell a few, we will talk to him again.”



Christopher felt the pitch went really well, saying: “Agri-Innovation Den is a fantastic idea to give innovative businesses such as mine a chance to get in front of industry experts and get feedback and advice on how to develop further.”

Hugh and Jack Wrangham

Drone AG



Drone AG aims to make drone systems affordable and accessible for farmers and agronomists with a focus on integrating products and analysis of data to help farmers achieve end results.



Judges were impressed by the brothers’ mix of in-depth knowledge on agriculture and drone technology, but they felt they needed to revisit their sales projections. They said there were lots of potential avenues the business could take in its development, but before deciding which way to go, the brothers needed to really try to understand the size of the market.



Jack said: “We have really enjoyed it. We would obviously have preferred some investment, but on the whole, it has been a really good experience.”

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