Post-grads get their ‘eureka’ moment
A business competition run for students at the University of East Anglia has been won by a biotech spinout hoping to make its mark in the agriculture world with an alternative to pesticides.
Frontline Agriculture, formed by post-graduate students Simon Lloyd, 26, and Stuart King, 24, last year out of the John Innes Centre, with the hope of commercialising a business idea they had had, will now be sent on a week's placement at chocolate firm Hotel Chocolat's Rabot Estate in St Lucia.
The firm is in the process of developing its first product, the Beacon delivery system, which will deliver natural plant compounds to enhance crop disease resistance in the field.
It is hoped the technology will significantly reduce the use of harmful chemical pesticides, improving the sustainability and environmental impact of modern agriculture.
At a dragon's den style event at the Thomas Paine Study Centre, judges on the Eureka Business Plan Competition were wowed by the pair's thoroughness of research.
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Judges were struck by the depth but also simplicity of the idea of enabling farmers to move to more environmentally friendly biological products, delivered in a more efficient and effective manner.
They also saw the global potential of the product, which is being patented, within intensive farming and less intensive growing regions, such as the developing world. The pair's presentation, business plan and the fact that they had challenged their own ideas also stood out.
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Mr Lloyd said just by taking part in the competition, which saw them paired with mentor Graham Gannon, a Norwich-based brand strategist, their start-up had been transformed from 'fundamental research into a viable and exciting business opportunity with huge potential'.
'This has been a fantastic opportunity to learn the practical skills needed to make our business prospect a reality. It has provided a new outlook on how to commercialise academic research to achieve real benefit to the wider world, and given us the skills and confidence needed to establish and develop our own business.'
In second place was first year undergraduate in political science and international relations Lauren Razavi with her music publicity business LZR Publicity.
She won a week's placement at Hotel Chocolat's Huntingdon headquarters.
Patrick Harding, a second year undergraduate in economics, came third with his Parcel Box product, a product to let delivery people drop off parcels in a secure box if people are out, and won a two day placement at Huntingdon.
Five finalists also won �100.
The competition was judged by a panel which included the EDP's acting business editor Elaine Maslin as well as representatives from Lovewell Blake, Barclays, Breckland Orchard, The Click Design Consultants and Mills & Reeve.