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Innovate UK

Agri-tech – a growing opportunity

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, Support

There is a growing recognition that the significant challenges facing global agriculture represent significant opportunity for innovation, investment and commercial growth.

This is driving dramatic increases in both the number and value of global investments in the AgriFood sector.

Investment in start-ups nearly doubled from $2.4 billion in 2014 to $4.6 billion last year, across hundreds of deals.

While much of this was in the US, this clearly demonstrates a keen and growing interest in the sector from large corporates with dedicated funds to the growing eclectic band of interested and savvy entrepreneurs.

Public support for the sector

Farmer using smart technology
Farmer using smart technology

Here at Innovate UK we have been delivering public funding to support business led innovation in the agriculture and food sector for nearly six years.

We started with the £90 million Sustainable Agriculture and Food Innovation Platform and are just concluding the delivery of the AgriTech catalyst – a £70 million initiative and part of the UK Strategy for Agriculture Technologies.

To date our combined portfolio is:

No of projects  

Total Grant



Total Project Value
Totals 358 £145m £98m £243m


Where are these opportunities?

With such a wide and diverse portfolio the commercial opportunities are endless. Obvious candidates include: -

  • Robotics, drones & smart machines for agriculture
  • Remote imaging, satellites & intelligent crop monitoring
  • Farm management software
  • Low-cost sensors & wireless networks
  • Precision irrigation & water-saving technologies
  • Biotech: gene editing and synthetic biology
  • Bio-based crop protection hydroponics, aquaponics & LED technology
  • Portable rapid testing of food & next generation sequencing

Each of these can standalone and deliver solutions that will lead to enhanced efficiency and profitability.

But alongside this there is a requirement to face up to the challenges of land, energy and water availability, while enhancing yield and overall supply.

To this we must also recognise shortages in labour availability and indeed a general skills shortage in the sector.

We must drive resilience against a backdrop of new biotic and abiotic stresses and extreme variability in weather patterns; all this in a world where the arsenal of agricultural chemistry is diminishing – we need to work smart!

So..where things can get very interesting is when an integrated approach is taken to find long-term solutions.

Advanced approaches to plant and animal breeding combined with precision approaches to resource utilisation and robotic harvesting will be essential if we are to stay ahead of the game.

Our investment continues

To this end, our support and investment will continue.

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency and we are committed to both funding industry led innovation and connecting those industries that can benefit from cross-sector innovation.

For all of these reasons we are delighted to be supporting an exciting  showcase event for the industry.

World Agri-Tech Investment Summit 2016  – London

In November 2016, the World Agri-Tech Investment Summit returns to London for two days of networking and debate.

Global agribusinesses, VC investors and technology start-ups from around the world come together to uncover the most exciting innovations in agricultural technology.

Innovate UK are delighted to be supporting this years event and we will be taking a small group of companies and showcasing some of these to the 200 plus delegates that will be in attendance. These companies are: -

Short pitches from each of these companies will presented in a showcase session at the end of Day One, just prior to a networking reception.

This will build on what is already a full and stimulating agenda with many other companies presenting novel ideas and innovative technologies.

This is a truly exciting time for the industry, with so many innovations and new technologies helping transform the agricultural sector.

Seize this opportunity, embrace and encourage change and be part of the next and very necessary agricultural revolution.

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