The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative has funded a wide range of projects from technology development to new machinery. Here is a snapshot of the projects we have supported to date:
The team at KisanHub in Cambridge have created a cloud-based, integrated software platform that allows farmers to make informed decisions about their day-to-day operations and markets. The project is underway with the funding being used to develop and trial a Crop Yield Prediction, Irrigation and Fertiliser recommendation model that uses satellite data and meteorological information to support on the ground decisions.
Based in Calthorpe near Norwich, Dofygate (which stands for Driver Operated Field & Yard Gate) is developing the marketplace and processes for their innovative automated farm gate system. The farm gates are solar powered and entirely self-contained, allowing them to be easily relocated as required.
Lane Farm Country Foods
Lane Farm Country Foods, who have their premises in Brundish in Suffolk, applied for a grant to upgrade their existing production operation to bring it under one roof, increasing efficiency and enabling them to expand production. The project is now complete and the development has provided Lane Farm Country Foods with greater flexibility of production, allowing the team to develop and expand new lines more quickly.
Pangaea Agrochemicals concentrates on finding solutions to pests and weeds that have become resilient to existing pesticides. The team are using the funding to develop a formulated product that can control resistant weed species using active ingredients that have had efficacy in the past. The funding is helping to accelerate the development of this technology, allowing the team to run further trials in the local area.
Glebe Farm Foods Ltd
Based in Kings Ripton in Huntingdon, Glebe Farm Foods is a leading manufacturer of gluten-free food for sufferers of food intolerances. Nearing completion, the team are creating a new 2nd generation gluten free oat mill, packing plant and store for Glebe Farm Foods, with the funding being used to purchase and install the process plant which will clean, dehull, post-process, and mill or palletise the oats.
Park Farm Prawns Ltd
Park Farm Prawns Ltd are using the funding to support an innovative research and development project to establish a hatchery for saltwater prawns, which project developers believe is the first of its kind in the UK. The project began last year- the water will be installed into tanks in the coming weeks and the first prawns are due to be introduced to the water in May 2015.
JA Collison & Sons
Collison is one of the largest cut flower growers in the UK. The funding was used to purchase, install and commission a fully automatic, robotic flower processing and bunching line. Since the Eastern Agri-Tech Programme Delivery Board approved Collison’s proposal in August 2014, the Bercomex Furora has been successfully installed and is in full use. The machine has improved production efficiency by 30% across Collison’s three most labour intensive crops, freeing up staff time to increase production and take on more on-farm packing work to add value to its products. You can here a case study about Collison here.
Nelson County Ltd
Nelson County are successful potato farmers based in North Norfolk who supply much of their produce to the crisp industry. To enable year round supply, potatoes have to be carefully stored to deter sprouting. Nelson County are currently using the funding to undertake a research project in collaboration with the John Innes Centre (Norwich), to investigate the potential to reduce levels of current agents used to deter sprouting in stored potatoes to provide new opportunities for safe and controlled potato storage.
SMART Biosystems UK Ltd
Based in Cambridge, SMART Biosystems UK Ltd supply Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants and installations to companies across the world. The project has begun and the funding is being used to develop an innovative Hydrolysis Biomass pre-treatment tank for installation in new and existing AD plants globally.
Hargreaves Plants Ltd
Hargreaves Plants Ltd is a leading producer of rhubarb, asparagus, soft fruit plants and ornamental plants in West Norfolk. The funding is being used to grow new varieties of rhubarb that will improve the marketability of the product in terms of aesthetic appearance, whilst also improving the production and quality of rhubarb varieties to suit both consumer and grower demands.
Based at Harleston in Norfolk, Foster-Clarke are an established company concerned with agriculture, both livestock and arable. The funding is being used to investigate new methods of monitoring crop health by combining spectrums of light and imaging techniques. Currently in progress, the project’s research is helping farmers boost their crop yields whilst lowering the need for pesticides and fertilisers.
Aponic Ltd, who are based in Sudbury in Suffolk, is creating an innovative growing system that uses vertical tubes attached to fencing, linked to small tanks containing fish that nitrify the water, to increase crop productivity and reduce waste water. The system can be used to grow food for individuals as well as on a commercial scale sustainably and efficiently, and uses less resources and does much less damage to the environment.
CN Seeds Ltd
CN Seeds Ltd is a family run business in Ely that specialises in herbs and leafy salads. The funding has been used to purchase specialist equipment needed to pilot the development of a new variety of Wild Rocket.
NIAB are internationally recognised for their innovation in the plant science sector. From their premises in Cambridge, NIAB provide independent, science-based research and information to optimise the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of crop production in agriculture and horticulture. This funding is currently being used to investigate organisms collectively known as downy mildews that affect plant growth, in order to provide quality assurance for seed sales, as well as providing the basis for seed treatment decisions.
Based in Peterborough, Safapac Ltd is a Chemical Manufacturing business. They have used the funding to upgrade their Herbicide pilot plants to full production scale plants, thereby addressing the seasonality of the business and increasing the all year round supply of agrochemicals to local farmers.
J. Gilbert & Son Ltd
J. Gilbert & Son Ltd are a respected family Arable Farming company based in Littleport, Cambridgeshire. They have used the funding to build a 1,800 tonne capacity combinable crop store with continuous flow dryer to increase productivity and improve efficiency.
iLevel is a Newmarket based Information Technology business using the funding to implement and develop a remote monitoring system via mobile apps for the agricultural industry, focusing on fuel and fertiliser measuring. The app is still being developed, but once complete it will ensure that farmers do not run-out of resources and are warned of theft or pollution to the environment, allowing them to optimise their stock efficiency.
Fountain Foods Ltd
Based in Upwell near Wisbech, Fountain Foods Ltd is a vegetable processing company that supplies a range of fresh, prepared, frozen and brined vegetable ingredients to the food manufacturing industry. Successfully applying for two Agri-Tech grants, (one from the Growth Fund and the other from the R&D fund) Fountain Foods’ 1st project has involved developing and manufacturing CauliRice – a new, long-life rice substitute made from cauliflower. They are also in the process of refurbishing and installing new equipment in their existing premises.
A further project from Fountain Foods was approved by the Board in March 2015 to build a 1500 tonne onion storage unit. The energy efficient store will be capable of curing the onions and holding them in chilled conditions to supply a raw material source during the most difficult time of the year (between May and July).
Sharp Systems Ltd
Sharp Systems manufactures bespoke processing and handling equipment for the food and drink industry. Based in Kings Lynn, Sharp Systems have purchased a folding machine with the funding to improve precision and accuracy. When installed, the machine will free up staff resources, resulting in less handling damage, increased production, reduced costs and improved product quality.
Diesel Dynamics Ltd
Norfolk based Diesel Dynamics specialise in providing dual-fuel solutions for diesel-engine applications, and are using R&D funding to prove that biogas can be used as a cost-effective and commercially viable alternative fuel source for diesel vehicles and generators within the agricultural sector.
Uphouse Farm are award winning poultry farmers near Fakenham in Norfolk. The funding will be used to buy and install the very latest computer software and ancillary equipment into 16 poultry houses to enable Uphouse Farm to drive forward and improve the performance and welfare of their chickens.
Peterborough coffee roasters and packagers Masteroast, will use the funding to buy and install two important pieces of equipment. The first is a new bespoke coffee bag packing line which will improve automation and productivity as well as providing capacity to expand within the airline and travel sector, building on the Masteroast coffee that is already being served on EasyJet and Virgin Trains. The second piece of new equipment is a new specialist Nespresso compatible capsule packing line which will enable Masteroast to launch the world’s first fully compostable coffee capsule.
Based in Cambridge, Omnisense is a software company that provides positioning technology that can be used by farmers to monitor livestock and promote well-being in Dairy herds. They will use the funding to develop new technology to more accurately monitor dairy cows in order to increase farmers’ milk yields.
NIAB Ltd (DAVIDS Project)
This is NIAB’s 2nd Agri-Tech R&D grant. Its DAVIDS project (Deconvoluting Allelic Variance in DNA Samples) will develop a specific test for food adulteration, beginning with potato flakes. This test will identify when ingredients or DNA found in foods have become adulterated due to a lack of quality control.
NIAB have since received a 3rd Agri-Tech Grant which aims to further enhance their Yield Check service by making it more efficient and accurate. The current system relies on manual data collection, whereas the upgraded system would use satellite technology to better forecast crop yields.
Traditional Norfolk Poultry
Based in Shropham, Traditional Norfolk Poultry Ltd (TNP) rear and process free range chickens and turkeys to RSPCA Freedom Foods standards. They have been awarded funding via the Eastern Agri-Tech Initiative’s Growth Fund to purchase three types of new equipment that will boost the business’ efficiency, reduce waste of production, materials and resources, and introduce an innovative, environmentally friendly system.
Hedenham business Sentry Ltd, has been in operation for over 40 years and is one of the largest farming companies in the UK with over 50,000 acres under cultivation for clients throughout the country. The project centres on improving soil management, by increasing the use of organic matter by using a one-pass drilling of oil seed rape and sugar-beet. Using a 6m Vaderstad Tempo drill, Sentry believes this approach to soil tillage will reduce costs (fuel, labour, earth-wearing parts and maintenance) but will lead to less soil compaction, increased earthworm activity and improved drainage and aeration.
Tompsett Burgess Growers
Based in Isleham, Tompsett Burgess Growers (TBG) is one of the major growers of root vegetables in the Fens and supply their crops to major UK supermarkets. The company will use the funding to upgrade their existing facilities and purchase a state of the art refrigeration plant, to boost production and grow the business.
Crop Systems Ltd
Crop Systems design, construct and install crop storage controllers and equipment for the agricultural industry. Based near Norwich, Crop Systems will invest in key research to develop a new crop store controller at its base in Gimingham. This controller will be web-based, enabling greater connectivity and remote control.
Sharp Systems Ltd
This is Sharp Systems’ 2nd grant from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative; they will use the funding to purchase an innovative laser cutting machine to boost production, lower costs and create new jobs at their site in Kings Lynn.
Flint Vineyard is a new vineyard and winery in Earsham that aims to exploit the opportunities of the growing conditions in Norfolk together with using advanced and experimental techniques in wine production. It will produce white and sparkling wines. The vineyard also intends to set up a visitor centre for attracting tourists.
Olympus Automation Ltd
At their base in Orton Southgate, Olympus Automation Ltd (OAL) specialise in delivering innovative solutions to food process design, mechanical, electrical and software engineering problems. OAL will seek to develop a system that can simultaneously collate the print information from several different makers of check-weights on food production lines, and store this information in a central database.
OAL’s 2nd project will seek to transform the food manufacturing industry by introducing a robotic production line. A.P.R.I.L, which stands for (Automated Processing Robotic Ingredient Loading), is a fully automated, robotic system that can load and cook ingredients as well as professional chefs. The technology will help to boost production, lower costs and wastage and create more space on factory floors.
DR & TJ Laurie Family Partnership
Based near Diss in Suffolk, DR and TJ Laurie Family Partnership will use the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative grant to build a new, self-sustainable, egg-laying facility, designed with innovation, energy efficiency and animal welfare in mind. They have already secured a contract with M&S to supply up to 16,000 eggs a day.
KisanHub – KisanSat
This is KisanHub’s 2nd Agri-Tech grant. They will use the funding to improve their cloud-based ‘KisanSat’ technology to help farmers make more informed decisions by predicting changes in weather and the risk of pests and monitoring crop health.
Kings Farm Foods Ltd
Based in Suffolk, Kings Farm Foods are aiming to create new products using “2nd grade” eggs that farmers cannot sell to supermarkets; tackling the issue of food waste in Suffolk and the local area.
Herdsy is telemetry technology for livestock farmers; it is flexible across species Bovine, Sheep, Deer & Poultry, as it harnesses the combined power of tracking technology with a cloud based infrastructure that monitors tracks and analyses trends and animal welfare. The aim of the project is to develop the prototype sensors & wireless low power beacon technology.
CN Seeds Ltd
This CN Seeds’ 2nd grant from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative. Having identified the need to produce plants that are tolerant to diseases, CN Seeds intend to build a state-of-the-art testing facility to grow the business and boost its sales and exporting potential.
Law Fertilisers Ltd
Based in March, Law Fertilisers Ltd is the last remaining British manufacturer of fertilisers in the UK, supplying farmers with a range of liquid and granular fertiliser and crop protection products. With the potential to expand its production, Law Fertilisers intend to bring in house chemical manufacturing processes that would have previously been outsourced to companies all over the world.
Delta T Devices Ltd
Cambridge based Delta-T Devices Ltd specialises in instruments for environmental science to investigate the effects of climate change, develop methods that address the requirements of agriculture to feed a growing global population and improve water and fertigation resource management. The company will use the funding from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative to design, fabricate and evaluate a low-cost prototype “WET-50” sensor, which has the ability to measure soil moisture, temperature and conductivity.
Elveden Farms/ AHDB Potatoes
Elveden is set to become a regional Research & Demonstration Hub for potato growers and suppliers, which will will provide a unique opportunity for the industry to see the latest research innovations and practical science in action. The site will promote improved business and agricultural productivity and resource management, alongside providing a space for knowledge exchange and collaborative working.
Entomics Biosystems Ltd
Entomics Biosystems Ltd plan to convert food waste into three sustainable fuels for plants, animals and vehicles and most importantly, reduce the amount of the food which is going into landfills. To achieve this Entomics will use insects. Specifically, the Black Soldier Fly, which has the ability to efficiently convert organic waste into fats and proteins inside their bodies. These compounds can then be refined into three high value products – animal feed, biodiesel and organic fertiliser – in a cheap, scalable and sustainable process.
Rollagranola is a family business that produces a wide variety of granola recipes including gluten free and no added sugar granolas and other natural ingredients, with a focus on delicious home-grown, healthy foods. Having identified an increasing demand for their product, Rollagranola will expand their production in North Hertfordshire by using a new premises in Hitchin to grow the business and boost production.
SMART Biosystems UK Ltd, Project 2
SMART Biosystems UK Ltd will use the funding to build on the work they began with their previous Agri-Tech grant and install and test the Hydrolysis Biomass pre-treatment tanks in new and existing AD plants. Once installed in one of their AD farms, SMART Biosystems will conduct a six-month testing period to run mechanical and software tests to check the reliability and efficiency of the Hydrolyser before it is sold and installed. When complete, the technology will help SMART Biosystems become industry leaders in Anaerobic Digestion.
Agrimech Services Ltd
Wisbech based Agrimech Services have been awarded £50,000 to bring a unique new product to market and boost their competitiveness and efficiency. Agrimech Services will design, build and trial a palletiser for stacking bags and sacks onto a pallet, with speeds of up to 12 tonnes per hour.
Manasty Packing Ltd are contract packers and are part of the Sweet Ideas Ltd group, who provide pack dry food products such as confectionery, snacking lines and cereals.
To grow the business, Manasty Packaging will purchase and commission a new packing line, enabling the business to increase its daily output by 40% and expand their workforce by taking on 3 more staff to operate the new line.
The Genome Analysis Centre
Recent technology advances in the Agri-Tech industry and precision farming have the potential to revolutionise crop research, plant breeding and growing practice – but these processes are restricted by lengthy field testing and phenotyping.
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) has been awarded funding from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative to improve a recently invented in-field phenotyping device, CropQuant, (which analyses the health of crops and best conditions for growth), by making it more intuitive.
Dodman will research and develop a more robust calibration method for the food industry, which doesn’t rely on fresh produce. If successful, the machinery will help develop the food industry by producing more accurate ‘tenderness’ results and less food waste.
RoboScientific Ltd is a world leading manufacturer of instruments that measure levels of odours in the air; known in the industry as Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) analysers. With the funding, RoboScientific will create prototype products that will have mass market appeal and be easy to use across in many agricultural sectors worldwide.
Beams Packing Services Ltd
Beams Packaging Services Ltd bottles a range of food and drink products including flavours and essences for the home baking sector, alcohol, including gin and vodka for craft distilleries and salad dressings for the airline industry. To comply with industry requirements, Beams Packaging will use the funding to invest in a “Bottle Rinser” and place it in line with its existing automatic bottling machine. The new machinery will allow the company to operate to a higher level of efficiency and take on more business.
GroPod Ltd is researching ways to grow exotic fruit and vegetables – namely sweet potatoes – in the UK for the crisp industry. These are currently air-freighted in from Florida. The R&D project is seeking to prove the concept of the Pod production on a pilot commercial scale and provide the evidence for upscaling this to meet the needs of the local processor. This would enable sweet potatoes for crisping to be produced in the local area, reducing carbon footprint and overall operating costs.
Dogtooth Technologies Ltd
Dogtooth Technologies Ltd was awarded £60,000 funding by the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative to develop a robotic harvesting project. Dogtooth Technologies has plans to develop the first strawberry harvesting robot designed to replace the hand-picking of strawberries. The initial phase of the project will see ten harvesting robots manufactured and offered to UK growers. The robots will be able to navigate rows of strawberries, detect and locate ripe strawberries, pick and check the fruit before placing them into a punnet. Should the initial trial prove a success, the project would then seek to expand the production and sell the harvesting robots to farms across the country.
Chilford Hundred Winery
Chilford Hundred runs various operations from the family-owned Chilford Hall. Amongst these ventures is a 17 acre vineyard and winery, where the business produces around 15,000 bottles of wine per annum across nine different grape varieties. It employs five staff across winemaking, sales/administration and catering. The funding will allow Chilford Hundred to expand the winery and allow them to take on more subcontract winemaking, as well as bringing the Degorging process in-house. The project consists of five key parts, which includes transforming one room, which currently acts as storage, into a bottling room, as well as the procurement of additional stainless steel wine-processing vats to increase sub-contracted wine production and a new labelling machine to mechanise this process and increase productivity by 48%.
PS & JE Ward
PS & JE Ward Ltd is a major UK producer of commercial flowers. Their Agri-Tech Growth Initiative Grant will be put towards a project to enhance its productivity by installing and developing a robotic bunching line. This grant project will create two new full time jobs and safeguard 10 jobs. The new equipment will enable Ward Ltd to increase labour productivity by 15% by 2018 and turnover by 27% with only a 10% increase in staff headcount. The new machine will improve quality with sophisticated vision systems that ensure that the product specification is consistently applied whenever the production line is running.
UVue is a start-up company with a vision to create and implement a platform for a National Grid of automated drones and subsequently create a new commercial model for the drone industry. The Research & Development (R&D) grant will help uVue develop their software and operations for the use of drones in industry. The key market for uVue is the farming sector, aiming to provide farmers with drone-sourced data and imagery that will help in the quest for improved performance on important factors such as drainage, pest control, weed control, animal welfare, climate change and general management. This data will help farmers quickly identify and address any issues that may need attention.
This Norfolk-based abattoir, which supplies local butchers and wholesale establishments throughout East Anglia and London’s Smithfield market, is planning to develop its business with additional offices, a new IT system, and increased workforce. The company will build a new modular office building to replace the existing offices, which were built to accommodate 7 staff and currently hold 16. It will also introduce a new integrated IT system, to replace the current, manual system for managing stock lists and processing orders.
Cambridge Animal Technologies
Cambridge Animal Technologies Ltd (CATL) has developed a livestock management product, the Smartbell. This is a wearable device that goes around the animal’s neck that can send actionable alerts to the farmer’s mobile device or computer. In a typical day, farmers managing livestock need to manage a wide variety of tasks from feeding and bookkeeping through to managing pregnant or ill animals. The Smartbell would help them to manage these varying needs better by housing a customised set of sensors that collect data from each cow, including temperature, movement and activity, and then sending this information to the cloud and onwards to the farmer. The device uses complex algorithms detect any anomalies that may need action or attention to help better inform the farmers of their livestock needs and priorities.
PBD Biotech Ltd
PBD Biotech Ltd has been working on a method to detect the presence of live Mycobacterial infections faster and more accurately. These diseases can infect both humans (e.g. tuberculosis) and animals (e.g. Johne’s disease) with potentially devastating consequences at an individual level, a public health level and in agricultural settings. These bacterial infections have major consequences in terms of animal health and productivity and can be passed to humans through infected food and dairy products. Importantly, existing tests tend to miss the infection in many animals thus disease control is particularly difficult so a new technology for the more accurate identification of infected animals is urgently required. PBD Biotech aims to fast-track a new technology into animal diagnostics for cattle, sheep, goats, domestic animals and more. This will have a substantial positive impact on the industry, not only on animal health, but also by providing huge cost savings for animal health organisations, government agricultural departments, farmers, animal breeders and the food industry.
Mood Foods Ltd
Mood Foods was founded in 2007 by three like-minded friends. The company makes raw chocolate bars with a healthy angle under the brand Ombar. To grow the business beyond its current size, Mood Foods require larger space to increase production capacity, develop new products and grow the commercial team. Mood Foods have picked out new suitable premises, but need support with the change and fitting out its new chocolate factory. The funding will support Mood Foods to purchase new machinery and increase their capacity and potential.
Norfolk-based Tropic Biosciences are bringing together some of the world’s leading experts in plant genome technology for a project to develop new varieties of coffee plant, ready to be made available under licence to growers worldwide. The £133,000 project has been made possible with a £60,000 grant from the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, and will create jobs for a full-time researcher and part-time technician, to be recruited locally. The work will be carried out at Tropic Biosciences’ base on Norwich Research Park, part of New Anglia LEP’s Space to Innovate Enterprise Zone and a world-renowned cluster for research and development in food science.
To find out more about the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative and how to apply, visit: http://www.gcgp.co.uk/agri-tech-grants/.