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ATW22: Thursday: Scaling of agricultural innovation

Agri-TechE Article

The journey from ideas to market is – almost literally – fraught with bumps in the road and is not one for the faint-hearted. But as the Agri-Tech Week 2022 event hosted by CHAP and Cranfield University revealed – help is on hand to navigate round the bumps and help commercialise great ideas.

“Innovators – ARE YOU READY?”

“For an idea to be commercially successful, a lot of factors need to be ready,” according to Cranfield University’s David Rose. As well as the technology being mature enough to show it can work, the market and the regulatory environment have to be ready for a disruptive new tool or service. The end-users have to be ready, as does the organisation looking to launch into the market and scale up its operations.

Collaboration with others to achieve success, according to David Rose, is crucial, and the idea of co-design – building a fit-for-purpose idea together – is a concept that Amy Farrington, CHAP’s Innvoation Sector Lead developed as she explained the services offered by CHAP.

According to Amy, “CHAP has a range of delivery partners across the UK, with technological expertise ranging from biopesticide development, to vertical farming tests-beds, tools for regenerative agriculture, and advanced glasshouse facilities.”

From microbes to Miscanthus

Everyone loves a success story and the two featured were FA Bio (formerly known as Fungi Alert) and Terravesta, both of who have worked with CHAP to secure technical support and access to grants.

Vijay Gunasekaran, FA Bio’s R&D lead discussed their microbial discovery platform which has identified over 1500 microbes from corn fields and has developed 5 effective microbial biofungicides. With patents pending and a growing team, FA Bio is posed to release biocontrol and biostimulant products throughout 2023.

Miscanthus is good for soil health and a source of biofuel

As COP27 continues in Egypt, Michael Squence, R&D Director of Terravesta, shared some stark data around the need for biomass crops to tackle climate change. “According to the Climate Change Commission’s land use survey, an estimated 750,000 ha of biomass crops are needed to help reach net zero by 2050, meaning 23,000 ha / yr are needed to reach the goal if planting starts next year.

“Currently the planting in England is around 10,200 ha, of which 8200 ha is Miscanthus.”

“It’s a great crop” commented Michael “it needs no fertiliser and only a small amount of weed control during early establishment. A single cultivation gives over 20 years of harvests and is a carbon negative crop, storing 2.35 TCO2 eg / ha / yr.”

And it’s ripe for innovation – from planting technology using drones, to using machine learning to count plants, numerous partnerships and collaborations are underway to increase efficiencies and reduce the reliance on manual inputs.

The road may be long and it may be bumpy, but worth the journey.

ATW Logo 2022

Agri-Tech Week is a partnership initiative founded in 2014 by Agri-TechE with the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association. The week features a mix of in-person and virtual events that are designed to showcase exciting developments in agri-tech. It is coordinated by Agri-TechE working closely with partners across the innovation ecosystem and aims to provide opportunities to attract new customers and partners and to broker collaborations and international connections.