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Expert mentoring offered to help agri-tech start-ups achieve their potential

PUBLISHED: 13:13 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:22 19 February 2020

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Dr Belinda Clarke, director of Agri-TechE. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Industry mentoring which could be a priceless springboard to success for aspiring agri-tech entrepreneurs is among the prizes in an annual business plan competition.

The "Grow" competition is being run for the fourth time by Agri-TechE, formerly known as Agri-Tech East.

Individuals and teams are given advice and insights from industry specialists, to help turn their innovative idea into a viable business plan that they can then pitch to potential investors and collaborators.

Prizes include financial and technical consultancy, incubator space and a tailored package of industry mentoring - advice which previous winners said could be a major factor in the success of a fledgling start-up business.

Jacqui Poon is co-founder of 2017 winners Farming Data, which is developing a software system to help subsistence farmers in the developing countries of the "global south" to gain access to a market for their produce.

"The advisors took a close look at our business model and business plan and gave us some useful insights," she said. "They also connected us with potentially useful contacts in the agri-tech space, and challenged some of our thinking so that we could improve the design and execution of our product.

"[As a result] in 2018 we went on a Knowledge Transfer Network partnership seeking mission to Colombia, and we later won grant funding to develop our technology and test its feasibility in the field for small-scale farmers there."

Agri-TechE director Dr Belinda Clarke said taking part in the Grow competition was a valuable process for many early stage agri-tech businesses.

"Good businesses don't emerge fully formed overnight, they take a while to develop and evolve," she said. "Many of the entrepreneurs are new to agriculture and having access to a person with relevant industry knowledge provides an excellent sounding-board for ideas.

"That's why Agri-TechE's cluster offers a brilliant place for new businesses, because there is such a great network of people who are willing to provide professional advice and support."

READ MORE: Farmers must make radical changes to combat climate emergency, says industry leader

Individuals or teams need to register their interest before Friday February 28 and are then assigned a mentor to help develop a business plan. The plans are assessed by a panel of judges and the teams are given feedback before the shortlisted business plan owners are invited to present at the final in June.

This year's Grow prizes have been provided by Agri-TechE members After the Flood, Agro Mavens, Allia Future Business Centre, Appleyard Lees, Barclays, Cambridge Judge Business School, Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub (NIAB), Green Lab, Incubyte, Kendalls PR and Marketing, Mathys and Squire, Norwich Research Park, PwC, Redfox Executive Selection, Rothamsted Research, and Satellite Applications Catapult.

- To find out more or register to enter the competition, visit the Agri-TechE website.

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