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Funding for new ventures start year of Pollinator meetings

Agri-TechE Blog
Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography from
Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

The clear message from the first Pollinator of the year, was there is funding available but you need to check that you are looking in the right pot!  To encourage more companies to consider innovation in agri-tech we brought together all of the key funding organisations for our January Pollinator network meeting.  It provided a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in finding out what funding is available and how to access it. If you missed it we have produced some “top tips” for you.

Talking about using funding to build your business, Delta-T Devices – the environmental monitoring cooperative – is one of the companies to be awarded grants from the Agri-Tech Catalyst, one of the funding instruments to be discussed at the Pollinator.

Already large and small businesses, universities and research organisations have shared in the £5 million awarded to 13 projects across the UK from Round 2 of the national Catalyst Fund, considered to be the UK’s flagship fund for agri-technology translation.

Round 4 of the Agri-Tech Catalyst opens this month and there are 7 rounds in total, so still lots of time to prepare proposals.

Tony Peloe, head of international sales for Delta-T Devices, is also the co-chair of our Remote Sensing and Monitoring Special Interest Group.  It is fitting that one of the funded projects is to develop a decision support system to improve soft fruit production by making more efficient use of inputs and reducing waste. The initiative is led by Berry Garden Growers and a fellow collaborator is Weatherquest, the weather forecasting company based at the University of East Anglia.

The super-food blueberries are the subject of the second Delta-T project which is to explore the impact of the growing environment and management practices on yield. The intention is to help the development of predictive yield maps and models.

If this area is of interest to you, the next RemSens Sig meeting is planned for the near future so there will be an opportunity to discuss this further with Tony.

URSULA Agriculture Ltd was also successful in achieving funding from the Agri-Tech Catalyst; it is expanding into the region and will be presenting at our March Pollinator.

As part of a collaboration – led by Pepsico and supported by NIAB – URSULA will be deploying its Unmanned Aircraft Systems to develop and validate ways of translating visual and spectral sensor data into on-farm decision tools. The project aims to increase average oat yields by at least 1 t/ha by optimising the yield and quality.

Wild oats
Oats photo courtesy of kibsri at

Collaborations are vital in this sector. Cranfield University is collaborating with Pepsico in a project to help find cost-effective alternatives to the chemical chlorpropham (CIPC) to manage sprouting during the long-term storage of potato tubers. With CIPC potentially under threat from EU regulation, effective new interventions based on the potato physiology are likely to be welcomed by farmers.

Improved storage will also be discussed in more detail in April Pollinator as this is also the subject of a collaboration between John Innes Centre and Nelson County.  Bringing together lab and field is essential if solutions are to be found.

Other projects funded under the Agri-Tech Catalyst include: a feasibility study by Cambridge-based SME Isomerase Therapeutics to evaluate new and improved versions of crop and livestock crop protection agents and another by Pangaea Agrochemicals Ltd to exploit and pilot the commercial production of a new micro-encapsulated form of glyphosate.

The range of size and maturity of organisations that have been successful in attracting Agri-Tech Catalyst support shows that the funding really is open to all.

If you have been inspired to find out more, we will be discussing this, and other types of funding, at our Pollinator at the Norwich Research Park on January 26th 2014.