Where does innovation come from? Fram Farmers is a farmers’ co-operative and Chief Executive Richard Anscombe sees part of its role as helping farmers to benefit from new ideas.
Agri-Tech East’s GROW business plan competition aims to support potential entrepreneurs develop their business plans and Anscombe thinks it would appeal both to farmers wanting to do something different and to people outside of farming who are interested in applying their technology in a new market.
He says: “GROW is aimed at helping those people who are wondering how to engage with people who might help them to move from having a good idea to taking a product to market, and getting it adopted.
“Innovation could come from anywhere. It starts with somebody who has an eye for an opportunity, and sees potential in creating a new business. I don’t think you can be too prescriptive which is why it is good to set out a platform, like GROW, and encourage people to get involved. ”
Fram Farmers is a farmer owned input purchasing and crop marketing cooperative.
Anscombe continues: “We source products for our farmers as best we can and giving them really good, independent, transparent market information.
“For me, anything that encourages people to expand their horizons is a good thing, and GROW is doing that. We have got a diverse membership and I see our role as sign-posting technologies and approaches that might be of interest to our farmers. Many are looking at diversification or interested in adopting new technology, or indeed they might see new uses for technology that could be potential business ideas.
“I see our role as very much promoting GROW and leaving it to the farmers to pick out the aspects that are of interest to them.”
Anscombe says that he is excited about some of the technology that is emerging.
“I like devices and of particular interest are the various ways that you can use transponders to help spot changes in behavioural patterns in livestock that could alert you to health issues. I think that’s quite exciting; that’s the one thing that I’ve seen over the last year or two that’s got real potential.
“I think there are two main obstacles to uptake of new technologies; one is the lack of time for farmers to consider the art of the possible – there are too many of them ‘doing the doing’ and not looking for new potential.
“The other is that although the idea of ‘always on, always connected’ has great potential, the problem is the lack of internet and mobile connectivity. Until we get that, the concept of a ‘connected farm’ will remain something that is theoretically great but practically not happening.”
“We are always looking to innovate ourselves and involvement with Agri-Tech East is a good way to keep hooked in to see where the value is coming from.
“It’s aiming to do two things: it’s identifying promising near-farm research and technology, and working to get farmers talking about it, discussing it, networking, using it, trying it, believing in it.
“The good thing about Agri-Tech East is that whereas some other organisations will say ‘here’s some technology’ and expect farmers just to have a look and go back to farming as usual, Agri-Tech East is trying to get farmers to practically adopt stuff.
“GROW is aimed at encouraging people to get up and give something a go, rather than letting an idea stay as just an idea. It’s a catalyst to make ideas become reality. I think that’s what’s good about it. ”