Start-up and SME - Agri-EPI Centre - Engineering Precision Innovation

Start-up and SME

At Agri-EPI we support start-up and SME growth and innovation in agri-tech.  Offering support with investment opportunities, office and workshop space, collaboration with academia, research and development opportunities, commercial trials and retailers. As a member we also offer opportunities to attend conferences, launches, webinars and a range of networking events.

If you are a start-up or SME and want to explore and deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in the UK agriculture across soil, crops and livestock, talk to us!

The Merage DeserTech Competition

Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre are pleased to announce their support for the 4th Merage DeserTech competition, an annual event aimed at accelerating innovative technologies addressing global desert challenges. This competition takes place in Be’er Sheva, Israel, and is dedicated to advancing sustainable solutions for arid climates. 

DeserTech’s vision is to establish Be’er Sheva and the Negev region as a prominent global hub for desert technologies. This initiative leverages existing technological and policy research resources, including Ben Gurion University and its Institutes for Desert Research, regional R&D centers, as well as prominent startups and corporations specializing in sustainable agriculture, energy, water, and infrastructure. 

The competition invites British startups to test and develop their solutions in the Negev desert, serving as an ideal testing ground for technologies in an increasingly arid world. With funding opportunities of up to £20,000, British startups can collaborate with trial partners in Israel to refine their technology. 

To participate and learn more about this competition, we invite you to register for an informative event scheduled for September 28th, UK time. During this event, you will gain insights into the unique advantages offered by Negev assets, engage in brainstorming sessions through one-on-one meetings, and begin the development of joint pilot projects. Winning startups may even secure funding for the execution of their pilot initiatives. 

To register for the event, simply follow the provided Zoom registration link.  

Don’t miss this chance to adapt your innovations for thriving in arid climates and to collaborate with Negev assets, your ideal partners for sustainable living in desert environments. Join the Launch Event and become a part of the solution to global desert challenges! 

Beta Bugs takes flight with Agri-EPI Centre support

  • Agri-EPI Centre supported growth for a sustainable and carbon neutral agri-tech business
  • Membership offered high level networking and exposure for Beta Bugs
  • Friendly and supportive environment for innovation

A specialist UK agri-food supply chain business which is improving insect genetics to tackle one of the world’s biggest challenges has expanded thanks to support from the Agri-EPI Centre.

Beta Bugs has developed a pioneering insect breeding facility at the centre’s Scottish site which is also home to the company’s growing team.

CEO and Founder Thomas Farrugia said the insect farming industry is helping to combat three major areas contributing to the climate emergency: food waste, deforestation, and carbon emissions.

And he says being part of the Agri-EPI Centre has delivered collaboration, funding and access to new market opportunities – as well as space to grow its operations specialising in the genetics of insects destined for feed at the Centre’s Northern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub in Scotland.

The Agri-EPI Centre, part of the UK’s Agri-Tech Strategy and supported by Innovate UK, is a membership organisation which aims to support projects which will generate economic growth and help tackle the global issues of sustainability and feeding the world.

Beta Bugs focus on breeding an improved Black Soldier Fly is part of that mission to generate a sustainable alternative protein source that can be used in aquaculture, pork, and poultry feed.

The growing company is a member of the Agri-EPI Centre, based at the Easter Bush Campus site near Roslin, which offers a host of benefits to members, from employment and lab space to support with funding bids.

Thomas said:

“Agri-EPI provided us with a great office and space for us to be able to grow, both the team and also the space for the bugs. It’s helpful to be on site with other agri-tech businesses because it’s good to be able to build up connections, share peer-to-peer learning and there are collaboration opportunities between us.”

Thomas said being a member of the Agri-EPI had been a huge factor in the growth of the company.

He said:

“It’s great to be able to work with a team that’s so motivated to enable agriculture to innovate further and develop, and to be able to leverage that.

“What I really like about Agri-EPI is the physical space, being able to build connections into the agri-food supply chain. The ability to build relationships with key stakeholders such as Innovate UK and DEFRA has been really important too and one which we accessed via the platforms that Agri-EPI Centre gave us.

“We’ve had assistance with leveraging grant funding and managing building projects, as well as engineering support. Importantly, they’ve helped us expand and helped the company to grow and create jobs.”

Annabelle Gardener, Membership and Events Manager at the Agri-EPI Centre, added:

“Beta Bugs is a great example of a company which has really benefitted from our dedicated support and assistance. The business is growing, creating jobs and developing new products and services to supply other companies in our sector – it is a real supply chain success story.

“By working together, we have shown we can support agri-tech companies to scale and Beta Bugs is just one of 142 different projects we’ve helped since our launch, supporting collaborations providing access to R&D funding of £36 million into the sector.”

 

Read more:

Beta Bugs case study

Defra announces new R&D Partnerships Funding opportunities

Defra has announced a new series of funding opportunities to drive on-farm innovation in agriculture and horticulture, supporting the sector to improve sustainability, productivity and resilience.

Following on from the Farming Innovation Pathways competition earlier this year, the new R&D partnerships will bring together farmers and growers with technology, business and research partners to collaborate in developing innovative solutions.

Supporting innovation in agri-tech

This approach of placing farmers and growers at the centre of agri-tech development is something we enthusiastically support at Agri-EPI Centre. Since its inception, Agri-EPI has partnered with a network of farms around the UK to form our Farming Innovation Platform.

Our satellite farm network enables the development, testing, validation and demonstration of agri-tech innovations on commercial, real-world farming settings at scale.  They cover a diverse range of farming types and production systems, both livestock, arable and mixed; conventional and organic.

As a network, the group provides a unique opportunity to gain farmer insight into challenges and solutions, share experience, knowledge and perspectives into technology application and gain vital user feedback.  Highly instrumented, the network also supports all-important ground-truthing and validation of technology.

When is the right time to engage farmers in technology development?

In short: throughout the entire process.  It is never too early to engage farmers and other end-users in R&D.

  1. Understanding the problem: we are often approached by technology developers bringing skills and expertise from outside of agriculture, looking for problems to solve in the sector. Having meaningful interaction with farmers at this early stage helps technology developers to understanding the realities on farm, operationally, commercially and environmentally.
  2. User-centred design, co-development: whatever the buzz-word, involving users of technology in its design and development will ensure it meets their needs and requirements, and ultimately will increase its chances of more rapid adoption. It will also save time and cost in multiple iterations, with faster and more direct user feedback.
  3. Evaluation: there is nothing more exciting that getting a prototype out into a field of a livestock shed and seeing it in action. Getting the farmers’ feedback here as part of a commercial operation will guide how the technology (whether physical hardware or a software / data solution) needs to develop to get from a prototype or beta version towards a commercial product
  4. Knowledge exchange: in laying the foundations for technology adoption, there is no voice more powerful than a fellow farmer or grower who can share their experience with the technology first-hand. Peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge, experience, ideas and impact is far more effective that a traditional ‘show and tell’ led by the developer themselves.

In partnership with our member Innovation for Agriculture, Agri-EPI is co-hosting an interactive online workshop focused on impact-driven farmer-centred technology development, which will explore these principles further and feature case studies showcasing success.  To join the event, taking place on October 12th, please see our events pages or contact us (team@agri-epicentre.com) for further details and to register.

Defra’s R&D Partnerships will fund the following:

Competition Launching Duration and funding Outline
Research Starter October 2021 12 month projects; £28-56k total cost Supporting farmers and growers to build a collaborative team to develop their bold and ambitious early-stage ideas.  For those who have not previously received IUK funding
Feasibility projects October 2021 Up to 2 years;

£200-500k total cost

Test the feasibility of early-stage ideas to inform decision-making on subsequent R&D
Small R&D partnerships October 2021 Up to 3 years;

£1-3 million total cost

R&D for innovative solutions to substantially improve productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector
Large R&D partnerships Early 2022 Up to 4 years;

£3-5 million total cost

R&D and demonstration of solutions to substantially improve productivity, sustainability and resilience of the sector

For more information on how we can support your ideas for innovations that will enhance the sustainability, productivity and resilience of agriculture and horticulture, contact the Agri-EPI Centre team today.

 

We recommend getting in touch with our Innovation Support Partner Leyton today for more information: https://agri-epicentre.com/membership/leyton-partnership/

 

Agri-tech Innovation Support for future funding

Are you an agri-tech innovator developing solutions that improve the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of agriculture? You may not realise that your new systems or processes on farm are real-life examples of agri-tech innovation – and therefore could benefit from research and development relief.

To encourage companies to invest in R&D the UK government provides incentives to companies and farm businesses that develop new products, processes and services, or enhance existing ones.

The R&D tax credits scheme allows companies to reduce their corporate tax bill or receive a tax refund based on a proportion of their R&D expenditure. The scheme can be used by any organisation liable for corporation tax in the UK and meets the necessary R&D criteria and it can even be used on unsuccessful projects. The work that qualifies for R&D tax relief must be part of a specific project which aims to make an advance in its field.

Examples of R&D in agriculture  

  • Optimisation of irrigation systems and water treatment
  • Agricultural trials involving seeds, soils and pesticides
  • Development of crop species with enhanced properties
  • Design of agricultural machinery, equipment, and agricultural structures
  • Food Engineering and the processing of agricultural products
  • Feeding trials: developing new feeds, type of feed, timing of feed, ration timing
  • Improving animal health and welfare: reducing mortality/tail biting

Agri-EPI recognises that innovation support such as the R&D tax incentive can provide businesses with a cash injection to fund further R&D and reward innovation. We are pleased to have partnered with Leyton, the UK’s largest innovation funding consultancy. to provide support and advice to Agri-EPI members and farmers to find out how their agri-tech innovations can qualify for the research and development scheme.

Matilda Hayward, Technical R&D Consultant at Leyton commented that there is a lot of misconception surrounding the types of projects which qualify for the scheme, which has resulted in a lot of companies only claiming back a small portion of what they are eligible for. The government is actively looking to support company’s investing in process and product improvements, which is a big part of running a business within the agricultural sector.

Sector examples of what can qualify

Arable

Trialling new varieties to improve yield or disease resistance | New methodologies to optimise yield | The investigation into hydroponic, aeroponic or vertical growth systems | Improving ground quality or reducing environmental impact | Modification of fertilisers to improve the absorption of minerals and nutrients | Optimisation of harvest and sorting line • Innovative use of technology – drones, sensors, scanners, software etc

Pig

Improving animal health and welfare: reducing mortality/tail biting | Reducing antibiotic usage | Feed trials or improvements to feed conversion ratio | Improvements to number of sows per litter and farrowing rate | Improvements in muscle to fat ratios/ average daily gain | Selective breeding to improve genetic trials

Poultry

Feed trials to increase egg quality / quality | Light / ventilation trials to affect outputs | Housing improvements around poultry welfare | Trialling different breeds | Improving water quality to the farm | Reducing the use antibiotics: trialling vaccines/water treatment | Delaying in maturation |Increasing the FCR (feed conversion rate) |Improvements to egg harvesting (reducing wastage / automating processes)

Dairy

Selective breeding to improve genetic traits | Reducing mortality rates and improving the health of the cow | Reducing antibiotic usage | Investigating alternative ways to reduce the risk/rate of disease | Developing new feeds to enhance milk production | Feeding trials: type of feed, the timing of feed, ration timing | Improving sustainability and decreasing environmental impact

Can you see any examples of your R&D on the list? If so, get in touch to discuss how you could qualify for R&D Tax relief, or  talk to one of Leyton’s technical team, to see how and Leyton’s expert innovation funding services can support your agri-tech innovation full details here.

 

 

Agri-EPI Centre and Leyton announce new partnership

Agri-EPI Centre is proud to announce that it has established a partnership with Leyton, the UK’s leading specialist innovation funding consultancy.

The new partnership will help Agri-EPI’s members and its wider network access Leyton’s advice around government financial incentives for their involvement in agri-food innovation projects. Under a current government scheme, innovative businesses are able to claim back up to 33% of the costs which relate to their research and development activities, such as the advancement of new or existing products or processes.

Supporting innovation in agri-tech

Speaking of the new partnership, Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development Lisa Williams said: “We are extremely pleased to have developed a special partnership with Leyton. The new arrangement is all part of our efforts to ensure we support our members and wider network to develop innovative ideas that boost their own businesses while supporting a profitable and sustainable agri-food sector. We want to help companies access the best expertise and advice available to help them succeed and our partnership with Leyton is all part of this approach.”

Mark Petty, Head of Strategic Alliances, Leyton UK commented: “From R&D to Patent Box there are some hugely valuable schemes available for innovative Agriculture businesses. Volatile energy prices coupled with environmental concerns and rising expectations from consumers have created a climate of pressure for today’s agri-businesses. Innovation now forms a vital component in navigating both short and long term challenges faced by the sector and rewarding these innovative businesses through government incentives can provide tangible benefits and support future growth.”

Funding the future of agribusiness

Leyton supports a significant proportion of the UK’s agriculture-related R&D claims each year, helping hundreds of businesses, in farming and the supply chain through to engineering and technology providers, increase their ability to fund future projects and grow.

Their team of in-house consultants, which includes scientists, engineers and software developers who understand the agri-food sector, have over a decade of experience working with food producers, processors and retailers across the UK. Leyton helps them benefit from valuable schemes including R&D Tax Credits, Grants and the Patent Box Scheme, which allows qualifying companies to accelerate their innovation strategy through additional funding and/or a reduction in their corporation tax.

You can find out more about our partnership with Leyton, and see if you are eligible for tax credits, grants and more financial schemes on our partnership page.

Idea to reality: what’s stopping tech getting onto farms?

The intractable issue of getting useful new technologies onto farms – and how the barriers to success might be overcome – will be the subject of a webinar led by tech innovation company Cambridge Consultants and Agri-EPI Centre on Thursday 28th January.

The event will feature expert panellists representing different stages of the innovation ‘pipeline’:

  • Ben Scott Robinson, Chief Executive of The Small Robot Company*(concept)
  • Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics at Cambridge Consultants (supporting concept development)
  • Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive (‘enabler’ bringing together public and private sector partners)
  • James Green, Group Director of Agriculture at G’s Fresh (on-farm end user)

The panel will explore some of the key issues involved in ensuring a new idea can move from concept stage right through to being put to effective use in supporting efficient, productive and sustainable farming.

Connecting early tech development to farming

They will be looking at a host of challenges along the innovation journey, including a disconnect between early technology developers and farmers; difficulties in companies finding the right business models and return-on-investment for their products; regulatory issues; skills gaps; and challenges with product testing in a seasonal farming environment.

Event host, Cambridge Consultants’ Head of Automation & Autonomy Sajith Wimalaratne, explained:

“We’re excited to have a strong panel of experts who will be discussing why it takes so long to get new technological solutions onto farms, and why, despite no shortage of concepts, there is currently so little farmers can use.

“We hope to identify ways of easing some of these issues that will help to ensure new technology which really meets farmers’ needs can be deployed more quickly and effectively.”

Agri-EPI Chef Executive Dave Ross said:

“Agri-EPI’s role is to bring together those with the know-how to drive innovation in farming and food production and our webinar promises to be a really exciting journey around the key challenges and potential solutions to getting technology in place that really meets farmers’ needs.”

The free webinar runs between 11am and noon on 28th January. Further details and registration can be found here.

On demand

This event is now closed. Missed it? Here, you can view a video registration of the webinar:

 

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Agri-EPI member Small Robot Company BBC The One Show 18 Jan 2021BBC The One Show

You might have missed it. Small Robot Tom and roboteers have appeared on the BBC The One Show this Monday 18 January 2020. The appearance saw the weed zapping robot in action and an interview with Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Craig Livingstone. Small Robot Company is a British start-up that makes robots for agriculture. They design and produce machines that could, in the future, replace tractors and harvesters. The founders developed the idea after talking to farmers about the growing costs and decreasing profits of farming. More background about Small Robot Company in this case study.