The Agri-TechE 2020 GROW Business Plan Competition welcomed business plans describing new commercial opportunities based around new products or services to help increase the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of agricultural and horticultural production, or downstream food processing. The Competition was opened on 6th November 2019 and the closing date for submission of business plans was 15th April 2020. Applicants were supposed to clearly describe how they would help meet one or more of the objectives of improving productivity, efficiency or sustainability within agriculture or horticulture.
The judges – Calum Murray, Head of Agriculture and Food at Innovate UK; Kerry Baldwin, Co-Founder of IQ Capital; Rob Alston, director at AF Group; and Andrew McLay, an Innovation Lead for Agriculture at UKRI – reviewed the business plans of all the entrants and selected four companies, “SilviBio, Glaia, AgriOptimizer and Farmz2U” to go through to the final.
SilviBio, a company developing a solution to increase germination rates of tree seed, was announced the overall winner of GROW 2020 by Calum Murray of Innovate UK, one of the judges.
SilviBio founded in 2019 by a science entrepreneur Dr Alicja Dzieciol, an expert in the synthesis and characterisation of hydrogel materials, has developed a seed coating for conifers, that improves germination by 40 per cent where there is drought stress. SilviBio’s innovative bio-formulation creates a survival capsule for the seedling, providing a water source and slow release nutrition. It also creates a favourable environment for the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
The other 3 finalists include:
- Glaia: Glaia has developed a new class of plant additive called ‘sugar dots’ that can increase photosynthetic efficiency naturally, increasing yields by up to 20 per cent. Sugar-dots are water soluble and can be applied as a foliar spray or within an irrigation system and have been tested on a variety of crops from soft fruit through to wheat and sorghum.
- AgriOptimizer: AgriOptimizer aims to address the unsustainable fertiliser use problem by using the plant’s molecular signature as a way to precisely determine plant health issues at an early stage and create a fertiliser with a bespoke prescription.
- Farmz2U: Farmz2U is digitising agri data and combining it with data information on soil composition, weather trends, historic crop yields and animal health to provide tailored advice to farmers delivered by phone. In a pilot it has increased yield by 20%, more than doubled annual farm sales per farmer and created jobs for agricultural students.
About Grow: Launched in 2015, GROW is the UK’s first business plan competition for agri-tech. GROW aims to encourage a pipeline of agri-tech innovation by providing support and guidance through a mentoring programme and then access to a range of prizes provided by service providers in the agri-tech cluster. This includes support for patent protection and management, space in incubators, membership of business clubs, access to training and marketing and business advice.