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New members increase diversity of Agri-TechE’s innovation ecosystem

Agri-TechE Article
Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

A record number of new members have joined Agri-TechE in recent months, further increasing the diversity and geographic spread of its innovation ecosystem. Agri-TechE’s Director of Communities, Becky Dodds, comments that successful business is all about knowing people and sharing knowledge.

She says: “We have found that the farmers at the heart of our ecosystem are deeply committed to building sustainable, productive businesses that will provide food security to future generations. They are open and willing to engage with researchers and technologists that can support them on that journey.

However, the challenges are complex and need a multi-disciplinary approach, so knowing who to talk to has become the game-changer. As a result, I dedicate much of my time to facilitating connections between people with common interests but very different perspectives.

Becky Dodds, Membership and Events Manager
Becky Dodds – Director of Communities

Within every organisation there are individuals who are passionate about making change and are able to see the opportunity to apply new technologies or new approaches to solve problems. It is those people we look for and introduce them to others with mutual interests.”

Ecosystems are internationally recognised as a way to accelerate and de-risk innovation by providing access to knowledge, collaborators, early-adopters, and sources of investment.

Recent developments in agriculture – including changes in farming practices in the transition to Net Zero, rapid digitalisation of all processes in the value chain from field to fork, diversification in crops and business models, increasing automation, and growing internationalism – are shared by other industries. Therefore, solutions being adopted by pharma, aerospace and manufacturing will have potential applications within agri-tech.

By introducing non-traditional players to agriculture into its ecosystem, Agri-TechE is facilitating the development of new applications and use-cases.

Becky continues: “Many of the obstacles to agri-tech adoption – interoperability, data analysis and sharing, easy-to-use interfaces, battery life, connectivity – are being tackled in other spheres. Part of our role is framing those challenges within an agrifood context to ensure the conversations are productive.”

The vibrancy and diversity of the membership can be illustrated with a small selection of recent members, who represent some of the emerging trends that we are seeing.

Regenerative farming uses a soil first strategy to increase crop resilience while reducing inputs such as inorganic fertiliser. A number of farmers are adopting this approach and supporting each other. New member, Goodley Farm Services, is using learning points from its own journey to diversify the farm business and create a cooperative with other farmers.

Carbon management is opening up as another revenue opportunity for farmers. Underpining this is the need for verified measurements of soil organic carbon. Ecometric has gained independent verification for its approach to quantifying an increase in sequestered carbon. This methodology will pave the way for the development of a carbon market and enable farmers to provide evidence needed for the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Auditing best practice in particular de-risking the business and efficiency improvements. Mandatory legislation coming into force in 2024 is accelerating progress towards Net Zero, but new members Aethr Associates are keen to demonstrate the other benefits that the reporting can offer.

Online markets for low carbon produce. Legislation around reducing carbon emissions in value chains is encouraging food businesses to pay a premium for low carbon produce. Agrasta is establishing an online platform that gives visibility of producers with good credentials to food and beverage companies looking to reach net-zero targets.

Predicting and forecasting – as ecosystems evolve innovation is multidimensional. The move to regen ag is also driving business process change in the agribusinesses that would traditionally provide inputs. Space-tech company Hyperplan, headquartered in France, is using satellite imagery ground truthed by its customers to provide objective information about crop performance and coverage to help inform new business models.

Overcoming resistance in pests. Many soils are rendered unusable for potatoes and other root vegetables due to the build up of nematodes resistant to inorganic pesticides. Members like Ecospray are developing plant protection products that are highly selective to a particular pest’s metabolic processes. It has been working with fellow members Earlham Institute and NIAB to develop a nematode deterrent based on garlic.

Supporting a move to industrial horticulture, it is a pivotal moment for undercover crops as high energy costs and shortage of skilled labour have forced many producers out of business. The current situation and ways forward have been reviewed by new members Camrosh, who are co-authors on a report that shows the potential for the sector to have a bright future, saying that the technologies needed to bring food security are already available

Indeed a good number of Agri-TechE members are developing solutions with Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) offering greater automation with its self-contained growth towers; Crystal Heart Salad creating plant plugs that can work with automated planters and Future Biogas offering renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. This is in addition to the work of long term members such as Lettus Grow.

Agri-TechE is an independent organisation funded and led by our members. We welcome industry veterans alongside new-to-ag companies, global conglomerates and family-run farms that together explore cutting-edge research to find innovations to support their businesses.

We offer flexible membership tiers to suit your individual needs. This includes brokered introductions, profile-raising initiatives, connections with international clusters, exclusive market opportunities, and strategic insights to assist business alignment with industry trends.

If you see a synergy with the members mentioned here or would like to discuss membership then do get in touch with Becky.

IGS growth towers
IGS growth towers offer self-contained environments
Hyperplan uses latest satellite imaging to improve prediction and forecasting of crop performance
Hyperplan uses latest satellite imaging to improve prediction and forecasting of crop performance
Crystal Heart plants in production
Crystal Heart Salad plant plugs in production

A record number of new members have joined Agri-TechE in recent months, further increasing the diversity and geographic spread of its innovation ecosystem. Agri-TechE’s Director of Communities, Becky Dodds, comments that successful business is all about knowing people and sharing knowledge.

Becky Dodds
Becky Dodds
Director of Communities

She says: We have found that the farmers at the heart of our ecosystem are deeply committed to building sustainable, productive businesses that will provide food security to future generations. They are open and willing to engage with researchers and technologists that can support them on that journey.

However, the challenges are complex and need a multi-disciplinary approach, so knowing who to talk to has become the game-changer. As a result, I dedicate much of my time to facilitating connections between people with common interests but very different perspectives.

Within every organisation there are individuals who are passionate about making change and are able to see the opportunity to apply new technologies or new approaches to solve problems. It is those people we look for and introduce them to others with mutual interests.”

Ecosystems driving innovation

Ecosystems are internationally recognised as a way to accelerate and de-risk innovation by providing access to knowledge, collaborators, early-adopters, and sources of investment.

Recent developments in agriculture – including changes in farming practices in the transition to Net Zero, rapid digitalisation of all processes in the value chain from field to fork, diversification in crops and business models, increasing automation, and growing internationalism – are shared by other industries. Therefore, solutions being adopted by pharma, aerospace and manufacturing will have potential applications within agri-tech.

By introducing non-traditional players to agriculture into its ecosystem, Agri-TechE is facilitating the development of new applications and use-cases.

Becky continues: “Many of the obstacles to agri-tech adoption – interoperability, data analysis and sharing, easy-to-use interfaces, battery life, connectivity – are being tackled in other spheres. Part of our role is framing those challenges within an agrifood context to ensure the conversations are productive.”

Current agri-tech trends

The vibrancy and diversity of the membership can be illustrated with a small selection of recent members, who represent some of the emerging trends that we are seeing.

Regenerative farming uses a soil first strategy to increase crop resilience while reducing inputs such as inorganic fertiliser. A number of farmers are adopting this approach and supporting each other. New member, Goodley Farm Services, is using learning points from its own journey to diversify the farm business and create a cooperative with other farmers.

Carbon management is opening up as another revenue opportunity for farmers. Underpining this is the need for verified measurements of soil organic carbon. Ecometric has gained independent verification for its approach to quantifying an increase in sequestered carbon. This methodology will pave the way for the development of a carbon market and enable farmers to provide evidence needed for the government’s Sustainable Farming Incentive.

Auditing best practice in particular de-risking the business and efficiency improvements. Mandatory legislation coming into force in 2024 is accelerating progress towards Net Zero, but new members Aethr Associates are keen to demonstrate the other benefits that the reporting can offer.

Online markets for low carbon produce. Legislation around reducing carbon emissions in value chains is encouraging food businesses to pay a premium for low carbon produce. Agrasta is establishing an online platform that gives visibility of producers with good credentials to food and beverage companies looking to reach net-zero targets.

Predicting and forecasting – as ecosystems evolve innovation is multidimensional. The move to regen ag is also driving business process change in the agribusinesses that would traditionally provide inputs. Space-tech company Hyperplan, headquartered in France, is using satellite imagery ground truthed by its customers to provide objective information about crop performance and coverage to help inform new business models.

Overcoming resistance in pests. Many soils are rendered unusable for potatoes and other root vegetables due to the build up of nematodes resistant to inorganic pesticides. Members like Ecospray are developing plant protection products that are highly selective to a particular pest’s metabolic processes. It has been working with fellow members Earlham Institute and NIAB to develop a nematode deterrent based on garlic.

Supporting a move to industrial horticulture, it is a pivotal moment for undercover crops as high energy costs and shortage of skilled labour have forced many producers out of business. The current situation and ways forward have been reviewed by new members Camrosh, who are co-authors on a report that shows the potential for the sector to have a bright future, saying that the technologies needed to bring food security are already available

Indeed a good number of Agri-TechE members are developing solutions with Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) offering greater automation with its self-contained growth towers; Crystal Heart Salad creating plant plugs that can work with automated planters and Future Biogas offering renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. This is in addition to the work of long term members such as Lettus Grow.

Join the innovation ecosystem

Agri-TechE is an independent organisation funded and led by our members. We welcome industry veterans alongside new-to-ag companies, global conglomerates and family-run farms that together explore cutting-edge research to find innovations to support their businesses.

We offer flexible membership tiers to suit your individual needs. This includes brokered introductions, profile-raising initiatives, connections with international clusters, exclusive market opportunities, and strategic insights to assist business alignment with industry trends.

If you see a synergy with the members mentioned here or would like to discuss membership then do get in touch with Becky.

IGS growth towers offer self-contained environments
Hyperplan uses latest satellite imaging to improve prediction and forecasting of crop performance
Crystal Heart plants in production

Advances in crop monitoring will enable agri-business to respond to Net Zero transition

Meet the Network
Agri-TechE

The move to hyperspectral imagery would offer a step-change in prediction and forecasting of crop performance, according to Rémi Banquet, Commercial Marketing Director for Hyperplan, a ‘Software as a Service’ company. He explains that insights gained from its crop monitoring software will enable agribusinesses to adapt their business models and secure sustainable growth during the transition to regenerative agriculture.

Hyperplan provides decision support services to suppliers, buyers and planners in agri-businesses and agricultural cooperatives.

The Hyperplan platform ingests satellite data about the crop canopy, weather and soils and combines this with crop yield models to anticipate supply volatility.

The service is proving popular with agri-input businesses as it allows their commercial and marketing teams to grow their portfolio of farmers, manage KPIs and respond quickly to opportunities created by changes in production.

Remi Banquet, Hyperplan's Chief Growth Officer
Volatility in agriculture means it is difficult to gain an objective assessment, says Remi Banquet, Hyperplan’s Chief Growth Officer.

Anticipating supply volatility

Rémi explains that there is considerable volatility in agricultural production, and it is difficult to gain an accurate and objective assessment of crop acreage, performance and potential yield. “With Hyperplan our clients can determine what is grown, where, the volume, and monitor the stage of maturity through the season.”

The company was co-founded in France in 2021 by three former McKinsey consultants, each with a decade of expertise in developing supply chain operations for agri-food businesses. They saw the commercial requirement for improved crop monitoring software that could provide predictive insights.

The company now has clients across France, Germany and Spain and is looking to enter the UK market.

It works with partners to optimise the crop models. In France, the company is working with ARVALIS, an applied research organisation that works across the value chain with cooperatives and input firms, as well as feed, food and non-food industries.

By combining ARVALIS’ agronomic expertise with Hyperplan’s deep knowledge on statistical modelling, Hyperplan is able to develop advanced hybrid models and optimise the information available from its satellite imagery.

Hyperplan_screenshot
A screenshot from Hyperplan

The system currently uses multispectral satellite imaging to identify the type of crop and monitor development of the crop canopy and vegetation cover. It has access to Meteo weather data and LUCAS Soil, Europe’s largest topsoil database, with real-time information made available through a single, easy to use platform.

The company is working collaboratively with its clients to collect ground truth data and verify the crop classification and yield estimates. 

Current multispectral imaging satellites have 10 to 20 spectral bands available, but future hyperspectral imaging will give access to 10 times more spectral bands, allowing a much more detailed analysis of the crop as Rémi explains:

“For corn we have just done some trials of 3D crop modelling using hyperspectral imaging looking at the potential for assessment of micro stages of maturity. This is really exciting as it will increase the precision of our predictions and also offers the opportunity for quality analysis models in the future.”

Originally Hyperplan was focussed on providing its customers with a collect forecast on their territory. However, the agri input businesses saw the potential of using its technology to offer greater insights at a field level, as this would enable them to offer farmers and growers more personalised services.

“Being able to provide a customised service is particularly important in the transition to regenerative farming, where there is a focus on effective rotations and improving productivity with fewer inputs,” Rémi continues.

“For the agribusinesses, it means that their reps are not going in cold. They have a sufficient level of knowledge to start engagement with the farmer, to have a proper discussion and fine-tune the response.

“They are trying to sell the most efficient products that will help the farmer gain better performance and improved margin, for example a particular variety of corn that grows well in their soils. This includes using historical data on rotations to look ahead to the next season and advise on suitability of follow-on crops.

“We are helping our clients to anticipate the market for the year, and this is invaluable as they are able to plan their budgets and marketing operations very early.”

Hyperplan_screenshot
A screenshot from Hyperplan