GROW Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition
GROW was launched by Agri-TechE (then Agri-Tech East) in 2015 as the UK’s first Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition, and is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurial thinking into the industry and welcoming applications around new ideas supporting agriculture and horticulture.
Entrepreneurs, researchers, farmers and innovators from across the UK are invited to submit a 12-page business plan describing an innovative new technology, product or service that will help improve the efficiency, productivity or sustainability of agriculture and horticulture.
The objective of GROW is to encourage innovative, investable commercial concepts that will have the potential to become new businesses. All those that register an expression of interest will benefit from the support of an experienced mentor to help them to develop the business plan.
Alex Dinsdale, Agri-TechE’s Regional and International Growth Manager, says: “We would love to hear from entrepreneurs, technologists, start-ups and businesses looking to take their innovations further. It’s been an unusual few months, on top of the changes that agriculture is already going through, and I’m hoping that the adversity and challenges we’ve been facing will have generated some really inspiring innovations. We’re looking for business plans describing new commercial opportunities based around new products or services which help increase the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of agricultural and horticultural production, or downstream food processing. With some great prizes on offer we hope to see plenty of entries.”
The business plan should identify the market opportunity, the business concept, the management team, their strengths and track record, financial predictions and the funding requirements.
With business support, rent-free accommodation and access to expert help to make your plan a commercial reality, the competition is designed to encourage and support the leaders of the agri-tech businesses of the future.
The competition was launched on 10th November 2020 and will close with the final on 8th June 2021.
Applicants must register an expression of interest by 1st February 2021 and will be assigned an expert mentor to talk through the competition and help them develop their idea and the plan. Applicants that have not pre-registered are not eligible to submit a plan to the competition.
Completed plans must be submitted by 1st April 2021.
Once the competition has closed, a panel of experts will short-list a number of plans to go through to the final – in preparation for this all finalists will attend a workshop to gain advice on creating a compelling presentation.
Final on 8th June 2021. The winner(s) will be announced the same day.
Download the expression of interest form and submit it by 1st February 2021.
By entering this competition you accept the Terms & Conditions, and consent that your details will be used for the purposes of this competition by Agri-TechE and their agents.
Stimulating agri-tech innovation
Agri-TechE is helping to stimulate innovation in agri-tech and to build a cluster of organisations across the value chain.
It provides a single point of access to the latest funding opportunities and is invaluable to those wanting to gain an insider view of the latest agri-tech and opportunities to meet potential investors, partners and customers.
The REAP conference with its Start-Up Showcase has been a launch-pad for many companies. Agri-TechE also hosts regular networking events on topic subjects in the industry and works with international partners to offer introductions to agri-tech hubs overseas.
GROW is the UK’s first business plan competition for agri-tech. Launched in 2015, it ran successfully again in 2016, 2017 and 2019, resulting in companies such as Farming Data. After a break of a couple years (running GROW agri-hackathons in 2018 and July 2019) we’re back with the business plan competition for 2019-2020 and we are looking forward to meeting the next batch of agri-tech entrepreneurs.
Winner of the 2019/20 GROW Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition announced
SilviBio is developing a ‘survival capsule’ that will improve the survival of tree seedlings. Its clearly defined proposition and route to market has made its business plan the overall winner of the GROW 2020 agri-tech business plan competition. The result was announced by Calum Murray of Innovate UK, one of the judges.
Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-TechE, also announced that SilviBio had been the audiences choice. The announcement came at the end of an exciting final on 4 June 2020 in which four early-stage companies pitched their business plans to the judges via Zoom.
Belinda comments: “The portfolio of organisations that were supported through the GROW programme this year were particularly strong. Although SilviBio was the overall winner all the finalists show promise.”
SilviBio innovative seed coating improves survival rates by 40% in drought conditions
The need to grow more trees is globally recognised but germination rates are often poor, particularly where seed is applied directly to the ground in new forest projects and in bareroot forest nurseries where seedlings are vulnerable to water shortage.
SilviBio has developed a seed coating for conifers, the most economically important species, that improves germination by 40 per cent where there is drought stress. innovative bio-formulation creates a survival capsule for the seedling, providing a water source and slow release nutrition. It also creates a favourable environment for the growth of beneficial microorganisms. Read more here.
GROW supporting early-stage innovation
GROW aims to encourage a pipeline of agri-tech innovation by providing support and guidance through a mentoring programme and then access to a range of prizes provided by service providers in the agri-tech cluster. This includes support for patent protection and management, space in incubators, membership of business clubs, access to training and marketing and business advice.
GROW 2019/20 is kindly sponsored by
The judges – Calum Murray, Head of Agriculture and Food at Innovate UK; Kerry Baldwin, Co-Founder of IQ Capital; Rob Alston, director at AF Group; and Andrew McLay, an Innovation Lead for Agriculture at UKRI – reviewed the business plans of all the entrants and selected four companies to go through to the final.
Calum Murray of Innovate UK, the sponsor of GROW, was very pleased with the calibre of each of the finalists: “The business plans presented by all these entrepreneurs show great potential and innovation. Having a sound business model is critically important if innovative technologies are to be successful commercially. Innovate UK is, therefore, delighted to support GROW and encourage the development of ground-breaking technologies and the cluster as a whole.”
AgFunder says providing an evidence-base is crucial in current economic climate
Louisa Burwood-Taylor, Head of Research and Media at AgFunder, was the guest speaker at the GROW final. AgFunder has recently released a report which shows that the UK was one of the most diverse and active agri-tech sectors in Europe. Louisa thought the line-up of finalists at GROW was exciting.
“All the finalists had something distinctive to offer and I am delighted that SilviBio won.
“For me, Farmz2U’s work in Nigeria stood out as very interesting; there is so much untapped opportunity across Africa to increase efficiencies but it’s incredibly challenging to get technologies into the hands of typically smallholder farmers. We have a company in our portfolio working in East Africa called Wefarm that’s successfully brought over 2 million farmers onto its platform by initially providing them with information on any mobile device; they’re now creating a marketplace to help them get access to inputs, so it just goes to show how important it is to create an innovative business model to ensure adoption.”
Given the global pandemic, Louisa predicts that funding will be harder to find in the coming months, and suggests start-ups across the globe focus on validating their technologies as much as possible to have decent results to show investors when capital markets open up again, but also to help speed adoption.
“Collaborations and partnerships with corporations or governments can be a great way to get these results and sometimes start-ups can be paid for that way, which in a tight funding environment will be important. Other than that, start-ups will have to hustle hard to get their technologies into as many farmers’ hands as possible for feedback; the more mature the agtech space becomes, the clearer it becomes that farmers will only consider technologies with a strong value proposition, and in a potential recession they will not entertain anything that’s not going to clearly impact the bottom line positively.”
The GROW 2020 finalists
SilviBio has developed a seed coating for conifers – the most economically important tree species – that improves germination by 40 per cent where there is drought stress. The company has gained the support of Forestry and Land Scotland, the government agency responsible for managing Scotland’s forests and SilviBio is to carry out field trials at its nursery. Read more.
Glaia has developed a new class of plant additives called ‘sugar dots’ that can increase photosynthetic efficiency naturally, increasing yields by up to 20 per cent. The technology, developed by a team at the University of Bristol, has a well-defined mode of action, high efficacy and is patent protected. Read more.
AgriOptimizer is offering rapid, accurate diagnosis of nutrient and health status of growing plants. It uses the plant’s molecular signature as a way to precisely determine plant health issues at an early stage and create a fertiliser with a bespoke prescription. Its AgriOptimizer service can be also used as a testing platform for new agrochemical products. Read more.
Farmz2U aims to bring traditional Nigerian farming practices into the digital age. In a pilot it succeeded in increasing yield by 20 per cent and doubling farm sales. Much of Nigeria’s agricultural data is paper-based with little exploration of historic trends to improve future practices. Farmz2U is digitising this data and combining it with data information on soil composition, weather trends, historic crop yields and animal health to provide tailored advice to farmers delivered by phone. Read more.
The support award prizes
Agro Mavens – one day of consultancy
Allia Future Business Centre – two months’ access to co-working space Appleyard Lees – IP advice and support
Appleyard Lees – IP advice and support
Barclays Eagle Lab – One month club membership
Cambridge Judge Business School – free place on the Ignite Course.
Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub – 6 months’ free license
Incubyte – 12 weeks of hot-desk space and business consultation
Kendalls PR & Marketing – PR Consultation and Audit,
Mathys & Squire – IP advice and support
Norwich Research Park – Virtual tenancy of the Centrum
PwC – free two-hour sessions with a finance partner and with an R&D specialist
Redfox Executive Selection – psychometric testing for up to four people
Rothamsted Enterprises – six months’ free hot-desking
Satellite Applications Catapult – two days of technical consultancy with a leading expert in Earth Observation
A big thank you to the sponsor of GROW 2019/20
Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
The organisation drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. It has around 300 staff, drawn mainly from business working across the UK, with a head office in Swindon.
With a strong business focus, Innovate UK drive growth by working with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation by connecting businesses to the partners, customers and investors and funding business and research collaborations.
Since 2007 Innovate UK have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation and across all sectors, which has been matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding. Innovate UK has helped some 8,000 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £16 billion to the UK economy and create nearly 70,000 jobs.
Calum Murray, Innovate UK’s Programme Leader for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform, said of GROW: “The role of Innovate UK is to work with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. Innovate UK is committed to supporting Agri-TechE and the cluster, and we are very happy to be supporting GROW.”
Read more about Innovate UK on their member page here.
In 2018 and 2019, our GROW activities took the form of an agri-hackathon, providing industry expertise and technologies to “sprint” towards developing exciting new ideas for agriculture.
48 hours to save the world!
Changes to the UK climate will impact our ability to produce food – predictions include periods of too much or too little water, increasing average and extreme temperatures, and sea level rise.
However with the right approaches and technologies there is an opportunity to mitigate these impacts and to embrace the change.
If constraints such as water availability and soil fertility are managed, agriculture and forestry may be able to increase production with warmer weather and longer growing seasons. Offering adaptation-related goods and services may provide economic opportunities for UK businesses in global markets.
Necessity is the mother of invention – so our second Hackathon called on you to rise to the biggest challenge and think about solutions.
48 hours to feed the world!
Ideas can change the world … for the better
At our first Hackathon we gave participants a couple of days to feed the world.
Solutions emerged for improved use of big data in agriculture, unexpected innovations for vertical farming, and the winner, deployment of gaming technologies to identify weeds in the field. Several of these concepts are now being progressed.
Articles about GROW
GROW 2019/20 Terms and Conditions
- The Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition (hereafter “the Competition”) welcomes business plans describing new commercial opportunities based around new products or services to help increase the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of agricultural and horticultural production, or downstream food processing.
- In this context, “agriculture” refers to crop and livestock production and management. “Horticulture” refers to fresh produce, ornamentals, fruit, nuts, algae, herbs and seeds. Both food and non-food crops are within scope of the Competition.
- Applications should demonstrate a degree of innovation which may, for example, be either technology-based or built around new business models. They should clearly describe how they would help meet one or more of the objectives of improving productivity, efficiency or sustainability within agriculture or horticulture. Innovations based on crop bioscience or chemistry, novel engineering solutions, or ICT/systems based ideas are all within scope. Business plans relating to retail (such as farm shops, for example), or business diversification (such as tourism, equine, or repurposing of farm buildings into, for example, business units) are not in scope for this Competition.
- The innovation may have application and impact outside the UK, but the founding entrepreneur must be resident in the UK and intend founding the business within the UK.
- Plans that describe a fictitious business idea, or are based on imaginary science or technology are not eligible. They must describe a real-world innovation with which the applicant(s) have freedom-to-operate. Where know-how or intellectual property exists that underpins the proposed plan, applicants must either own, or have secured this prior to submission of the plan.
- Applicants must declare the date, amount and source of any funding (public or private) which has already been secured to develop the innovation or business. Applicants do not have to have a registered business to develop the innovation, however those that are already incorporated must clearly explain how this is expected be a new commercial entity. Plans that describe amendments or expansions to existing businesses or companies are not eligible for the Competition.
- The Competition will open on 10th November 2020. Applicants must register an expression of interest by 1st February 2021 for successful assignation of a mentor. Plans will not by accepted without prior assignation of a mentor. Closing date for submission of business plans is 1st April 2021. No plans will be accepted after that date.
- Applications should submit a Business Plan comprising no more than 12 pages (including Appendices) to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Postal entries will not be accepted unless with the express written permission of a representative of Agri-TechE. No additional information will be accepted, but contact details of the lead applicant must be provided as a condition of entry. A template for submissions has not been provided; part of the judging process will be clarity of the plans and the information the applicant(s) choose to include.
- Plans will be sifted by an expert panel comprising key stakeholders from the agri-tech, investment and business communities. A short-listed group of finalists will be invited to deliver a presentation of no more than 10 minutes (plus up to an additional 10 minutes for Judges’ questions) to a panel of Judges, from whom the winner(s) will be selected. The Judges’ decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into, unless with the express agreement of individual Judge(s) and applicants(s). The Final will be held on 8th June 2021.
- Non-disclosure agreements will not be entered into by the mentors, judges, Support Award Prize donors, or employees of Agri-TechE. Applicants submit their ideas and plans under the explicit understanding of this.
- Any publicity surrounding the winner(s) will be discussed and agreed between the winner(s), Agri-TechE and/or representatives of both parties where appropriate to prevent inappropriate disclosures.
- Applicants may submit more than one business plan, but each winning plan can receive only one cash prize and up to three Support Award Prizes in total.
- Winner(s) will receive a cash prize as well as further Support Award Prizes to develop their business plan into commercial reality.
- One first-prize winner receive a cash prize and will have the choice of up to three Support Award Prizes. Further prizes will be distributed only at the discretion of Agri-TechE and the Support Award donors.
- Support Award Prizes may include, but are not limited to, additional mentoring/coaching, access to investors, provision of short-term business accommodation to help start the company, and ongoing support to network within the business ecosystem.
- Support Award Prizes cannot be exchanged for cash or equivalent liquid funds.
- Support Award Prizes must be used within 12 months of the date of announcement; any Support Award Prizes not used after this time may be forfeited.
- The Support Award Prizes are provided at the absolute discretion of the donors. Agri-TechE and its representatives accept no responsibility or liability for the Support Award Prizes, the nature of the Support Award Prizes provided by the donor, or any consequences resulting from the selection and delivery of the Support Award Prizes.