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Bringing you news, opinion and innovation in technological advances in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture, check out the Agri-EPI blog.
Exploring precision farming, including engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across crops, land management and livestock, our blog includes input from our broad sector membership and academic partners the length and breadth of the UK.
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Welcoming NoFence to our Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

NoFence (www.nofence.co.uk), has created the world’s first virtual fencing for livestock: using GPS and cellular communication technology built into special collars to help farmers graze animals on pasture without the need for traditional penning and electric fences. Our vision is to improve animal welfare and make it easier for farmers to rear animals, as well as promote sustainable food production and help people to make better use of pasture resources throughout the world.

The Agri-EPI Centre Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub is designed to unite tech innovators, business thinkers, engineers and all agricultural expertise under one roof. From flexible office space to events and workshops, the hub supports agri-tech innovators to take their solutions from the planning stage to testing on commercial farms and ultimately to market.

Set in the home of British agricultural engineering, Shropshire, on the Harper Adams University campus, the hub is one of four Agri-EPI Centre facilities. We sat down with network member and Innovation Hub resident NoFence to catch up on their game-changing fencing solutions and how the Midlands centre is supporting agri-tech innovation.

The world’s first virtual fencing for livestock

Using GPS and cellular communication technology, Nofence eliminates the need for traditional pens and electric fences for livestock. Smart tech in special collars worn by the animals means they can graze on pastures without physical boundaries, making farming easier for farmers, more sustainable for the planet and kinder to animals.

“The Nofence system facilitates the managed grazing process,” explains the Nofence team. “[It allows] farmers to change the boundaries of the grazing zones throughout the day, in order to optimise the energy uptake in the grass and avoid overgrazing.”

“Grazing animals on open pasture land offers well-documented benefits for both wildlife and the environment. For example, grazing animals will often choose more dominant plant species to eat, allowing less competitive plants to thrive. In addition, grazing animals that lie and roll help increase structural diversity of the land, and trampling helps to create areas of bare ground that produce nurseries for seedlings.”

Inspire, inform, innovate

Nofence is just one of the many agri-tech innovators in residence at our Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub, where the availability of all kinds of agricultural expertise and access to commercial farms for trials and research offer practical benefits to their agri-tech solutions.

“We are always striving to create a product that the farmers find useful,” they say. “It’s not about what we want to make, but about what the customers need.”

Testing technology in a real farming environment allows agri-tech companies to see the practical application of the technology being developed. For Nofence, it’s been hugely exciting to see how their work helps the farmer bring a herd out of the barn and into the pasture.

“Nofence takes the animals back outside, so that the farmer can benefit from all of the land and the ‘free food’ that the animals are made to collect. The grazing ruminant has always been there and is equipped with four legs to find their own food – Nofence allows them to do this, in a much simpler way than before.”

The future of agri-tech

Looking ahead, Nofence plans to use the Midlands Innovation Hub as a centre to continue developing innovative agri-tech solutions and forge links between the UK and their home country of Norway. For Nofence, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of self-sufficiency: “With our technology, countries like Norway and the UK can utilise all of their land to produce food and rely less on imports,” they explain.

With big plans and even bigger goals, Nofence shows no sign of slowing down and can rely on the Midlands Hub as a springboard for their projects to grow nationwide. “Our goal for the UK is that every farmer should have the option to fence virtually,” they declare. “Physical fencing is so 2018!”

To find out more about our Agri-Tech Innovation Hubs, and see how your business could benefit from the many spaces and opportunities available, contact us today.

Recruitment: Everything you need to know about jobs in agritech

Agritech recruitment is a fast-paced and often highly competitive world. For start-ups and larger businesses alike, recruiting skilled candidates for agritech roles can require engaging with unfamiliar sectors from banking and finance to retail, energy or even healthcare. With such a range of desirable skills, recruiting agritech candidates can cover specialist roles including software engineering, AI and robotics and all manner of engineering disciplines.

We previously caught up with Sam Clayton, Managing Director and Recruiter at AgRecruit, for tips, tricks and insights into the agritech recruitment process. With yet more best practices for recruiting agritech employees, Sam is back to discuss all things recruitment with us once again.

Hi Sam, thanks so much for joining us to talk about agritech recruitment again! So first of all, what roles and career routes are there for anyone looking to get into agritech?

Thanks for having me! The truth is that – just like in other tech-driven sectors – the nature of roles that arise can be highly varied, weird and wonderful! We collaborate with many academic bodies and institutions involved in agriculture and agritech, so any connections you can make with those kind of organisations is a great place to start and find out more about agritech careers.

Do you need a background in agri to get a job in agritech?

I definitely wouldn’t say you need a farming background to build a career in agritech; some roles may require a specific skillset, naturally – agri-specific posts such as agronomists or trials management teams need to understand a farming environment, for example. But there’s such a range of opportunities out there and the most important thing to remember is that skills can always be learned by candidates with the right attitude and plenty of enthusiasm.

What kind of job roles should people just starting out in their agritech career look for?

There are plenty of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) roles that are open to entry-level candidates, thanks to a huge rise in demand recently. An agri background isn’t necessary for many STEM roles, but good experience from other sectors is always a bonus. STEM covers software development, data science, AI, engineering (electrical, mechanical and more) and scientists of varying specialisms. Exploring these opportunities, and seeing how you can get involved to learn as much as you can, is a great way to enter the agritech world.

Do you have to be technical to get into any agritech career?

Not at all! Growing start-ups and established businesses always need management and leadership, so roles such as Technology Officers, Commercial Directors, Heads of Product, even CEOs can be a great fit. Obviously you’ll need to know about the business or product you’re working with, but the key to success in leadership posts is the same in agritech as in any sector: organisation, people skills and problem-solving.

What about sales or business development positions?

These are known as commercial posts and cover anything from sales to account management, strategy and customer success. While some employers recruiting for these roles may ideally target those with some knowledge or experience in agri, increasingly companies are open to candidates from all kinds of backgrounds. For example, companies working with tech products or services naturally gravitate towards those with tech sector backgrounds.

Are there any other types of job in agritech?

There are so many! We call many positions ‘In Between’ roles, as they don’t fit neatly into tech, STEM or commercial categories. ‘In Between’ roles would be, say, product specialists or project managers. Candidates applying for these roles should be comfortable working closely with clients, and happy communicating tech concepts without being a hands-on expert on the solution.

With so many options available for candidates looking to get into agritech, is there any hard -and-fast rule or advice you would give to someone looking for a career in agritech?

It’s hard to say – it really all depends on the client and the exact role. Some clients may want to hire candidates with very specific backgrounds and skills, others may prefer a broader knowledge of the sector, whether that’s software, data, AI or engineering, and others still may lean towards candidates with a good knowledge of the agri domain. It really varies.

Thanks, Sam. Any parting words of wisdom?

Essentially, anybody interested in agritech jobs or a career in the agritech space can find a wealth of opportunities to have a genuinely positive impact on the world. There are so many career opportunities out there, just keep looking and learning as much as you can, regardless of your background. Don’t let a lack of agri background deter you!

Agriculture and agritech recruitment

AgRecruit prides itself on placing candidates into one of the most exciting, motivating and fulfilling sectors: agriculture. Before founding AgRecruit, Sam worked in the tech sector and found himself fascinated by AI, data science and disruptive tech innovations and passionate about the opportunities in agritech to have a real societal impact, both on people’s lives and the sustainability of farming.

To find out more about careers in agtech, or to get in touch with AgRecruit for help finding your next role in agritech, visit the AgRecruit website.

Contact Sam Clayton at AgRecruit for help on anything covered in this post, or any other recruitment related enquiries: (+44) 01908 03595 or sam.clayton@agrecruit-ltd.com