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Start-Ups showcase exciting agri-tech opportunities at REAP


Nicole Sadd, RoCRE, chairing the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2018
Nicole Sadd, RoCRE, chairing the Start-Up Showcase at REAP 2018

Improving consistence of products in alignment with customer specifications was one of the themes at REAP this year.
Increasing accuracy in managing and predicting quality of products and using digital technologies to understand and connect with markets will both improve productivity and reduce waste.
Both the technology exhibition and the Start-up Showcase featured new ways of achieving this.
A number of exciting early-stage agri-tech companies seeking support, advice, connections and investment were invited to appear in the showcase.
In previous years this opportunity has been the launch pad for business growth for a number of companies including: Small Robot Company, Olombria, Hummingbird Technologies, PBD Biotech and 30MHz.
The session was introduced by Nicole Sadd, Executive Director at RoCRE. This innovation centre at Rothamsted Research has also provided support for several of the companies featured.

 Selective harvesting? New drone app identifies best potato plants for crisps

Keith Geary, Axomap, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Keith Geary, Axomap

The best crisps are made from potatoes that have higher dry matter content – Axomap’s remote sensing drone makes it easier to spot the individual plants that are producing spuds with these desirable qualities.
“Higher dry matter means potatoes absorb less moisture and oil during frying, and are also less likely to caramelise so they don’t go brown and look burnt,” Axomap founder Keith Geary explains.
He comments that strategic harvesting is the next big opportunity: “It is difficult to get potatoes to grow uniformly. Given the variations across a field, inevitably your crop is going to be inconsistent.
“Selectively harvesting high value produce at just the right time offers huge potential.
“We’re interested in trying to improve the quality of potatoes harvested so producers are confident in their saleable yield.”

Beef producers to meet changing consumer preferences

Ian Wheal, Breedr, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Ian Wheal, Breedr

Changing customer tastes mean that almost half of prime beef now fails to meet ideal market specifications, resulting in lower prices for producers and waste in the value chain.
Breedr co-founder Ian Wheal explains: “There is a big consumer drive towards steaks and burgers, however the EU-wide EUROP grading system used to value beef was designed when rump was the main piece of beef consumed.
“As a result farmers are flying blind when trying to meet the specifications of retailers for meat with less fat and improved taste.”
Breedr has developed an easy-to-use app that will help farmers finish cattle to retailers’ specifications with greater precision, underpinned by the data to evidence this. The company launched the Field to Yield trial with Rothamsted Research at North Wyke to improve the metrics available to farmers.

Chalante developing new weapon against cattle nematodes

Simon Aspland, Chalante, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Simon Aspland, Chalante

Increasing resistance to anthelmintics, anti-parasitic drugs used to treat worms (nematodes) in cattle and other animals, is threatening the viability of the international livestock industry. There have been no new drug families with novel modes of action in cattle for 30 years.
Now early-stage company Chalante has developed a parasiticide with a novel mode of action that promises a new approach to tackle this problem which impacts productivity.
General manager Simon Aspland explains: “Most anthelmintics disrupt neuromuscular transmission in the nematode by focusing on a specific molecular target. This has put the nematode under evolutionary pressure and it has been able to develop resistance.
“Our drugs target different molecular targets, so this will be a new resistance breaking product.”

 DryGro offers arid regions high protein sustainable alternative to soy

Sean Peters, DryGro, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Sean Peters, DryGro

It might be considered a nuisance by pond owners, but ‘duckweed’ offers a high protein alternative to soy that can be grown in arid countries with very little water. Start-up company DryGro is set to disrupt a huge global market, with a growing system for Lemnoideae that promises to revolutionise animal production in sub-Saharan countries
DryGro founder Sean Peters explains: “Lemnoideae is a simple round-leaved pondweed that multiplies quickly on the surface of water, is rich in protein and is a viable alternative to soy which is widely used in animal feed.
“We have developed a technology that would allow it to be grown in an enclosed environment using recycled water. This creates the opportunity for a sustainable source of high-grade animal feed to be grown close to livestock producers and their local markets.”

FOLIUM Science’s new ‘guided biotic’ triggers salmonella self-digestion

Ed Fuchs, Folium, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Ed Fuchs, FOLIUM Science

A feed additive that will protect young chicks against common bacterial infections such as salmonella and E.coli has been developed by early-stage company FOLIUM Science. Initial trials of its ‘Guided Biotic’ were seen to restore the natural balance of the healthy microbiome and revealed unexpected improvements in wellbeing.
The highly specific anti-bacterial technology can trigger a natural process in the target pathogen that guides the bacteria’s own enzymes to digest its cell material.
Co-founder Edward Fuchs says it provides a potential solution to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.
“Our patented approach is highly specific; by removing only the pathogenic bacteria it leaves the animal with an intact healthy microbiome.
“Preliminary trials in chickens indicate that reducing the disease burden improves the weight gain of the birds and removes the need to use antibiotics.”

Farming’s fatal record – could new farm safety app save time and lives?

Elizabeth Creed, Receptive Technologies, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Lizzie Creed, Receptive Technologies

One person is killed every 11 days in agriculture despite an overwhelming volume of information and process. Farm365 is a new app-based tool that uses a mobile phone to read QR codes on equipment, making it easier to fit health and safety checks into everyday practice, and creates electronic reports that help compliance.
Lizzie Creed, founder of the agricultural consultancy Receptive Technologies, developed Farm365 after a decade working in agriculture and realising that every mention of health and safety was met with a groan, despite agriculture’s fatal injury record being 18 times higher than all other main industries. The app launched at REAP.

Nova Extraction launches world’s first industrial off-grid essence extractor

Alex Novitskiy, Nova Extraction, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Alex Novitskiy, Nova Extraction

Increasing interest in the use of herbal essences and cannabis oil for health and wellbeing has created a demand for high quality, pure botanical extracts. Early-stage company Nova Extraction has developed the world’s first industrial, off-grid, clean-tech extractor.
It is now available for flower, herb and food producers to rent, providing producers with affordable and consistent technology to extract flavours or fragrances in-field.
Nova Extraction’s new autonomous extractor uses supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) technology, originally developed for decaffeination of green coffee beans.
Company co-founders Alex Novitskiy and Sergey Soshin re-engineered the process and have designed a unique piece of equipment that can be deployed almost anywhere in the world, without the need for electricity or water.

Digital marketplace to help Colombian farmers trade without intimidation

Jacqui Poon, Farming Data, in the REAP 2018 Start-Up Showcase
Jacqui Poon, Farming Data

A complex supply chain and violent middlemen can mean that the price difference between the farm gate and local store can be as much as 300% for small Colombian farmers.
Farming Data has developed of an integrated digital marketplace accessed through Android phones that provides a virtual marketplace for two-way information sharing. It supports trading by geotagging or setting a proxy location for producers and capturing specific requests from buyers on the frequency or varieties of crops they are seeking, level of ripeness, and other variables that enable producers to better meet demand.
Farming Data co-founder Jacqui Poon announced that 1,000 farmers will be piloting the platform. She said: “Our digital marketplace is about arming producers – often women – with information about current market demands to bring about healthy competition.”
REAP 2018