Agriculture startups set to steal spotlight at London Innovation Summit in October

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Creative companies and minds are set to come together next month, bringing new global solutions to the stage at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit from 16-17 October in London. 

There, a group of international startups will present their new technologies and pioneering innovations at the Technology Showcase pitching sessions, and the TechHub networking forum, both components of the two-day event. 

Selected by the Summit’s team of researchers, each of the 13 startups will present seven-minute snapshots of solutions they have created for the agri-tech industry, highlighting the most creative aspects of their business model, as well as outlining their go-to-market strategy. They will then take questions from the Summit’s panel of investor “Dragons” and from the audience. In the TechHub networking area, some startups will have the opportunity to display their solutions for attendees to see.

"The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit is delighted to present our picks of the most exciting international start-ups, giving them the platform to connect with the world’s leading agri-businesses and investors focused on building sustainable agri-food systems for a global consumer," says Jennie Moss, founder and managing Director of Rethink Events. “Demand for new agri-tech solutions is accelerating to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population." 

Norway leading the way

Among the startups, Norway's Soil Steam International has devised a machine that uses steam to kill weed, fungus and harmful pathogens. With the device, producers of fruit, flowers and vegetables can enjoy an increased crop and prolonged storage life with dramatically less pesticide. The machine supports six out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations. 

"The machine will be a game changer in berry and vegetable production," Hans Kristian Westrum, sales and marketing Manager of Soil Steam International more about the project. "Experts and scientists in Norway and Germany have tested our prototype and we have received positive results. Our tests showed that berry, fruit and vegetable harvests increased by up to 40 per cent on steamed soil, and can be stored up to four months longer, almost without use of pesticides.

"After steaming, the farmers get bigger harvests and longer storage time and decrease use of pesticides down to a minimum. This will give us healthier food, and less food waste. In the European Union, an average person wastes 100 kilos of food every year, and fruit, berries and vegetables are most of the waste." 

The commercial machine will be ready during 2019 and will be demonstrated in Norway and in California. Soil Steam International already has had meetings with several major players in the USA market, including Driscolls and Plant Sciences, who are said to be interested in the machine.

"This year, I visited the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in San Francisco and found the concept of the Summit very interesting," Westrum says. "This is an arena where lots of people that have an interest in sustainable agriculture can meet and share thoughts and their experience.”

Innovation Norway is a partner for the Summit and the country itself is leading the way in driving innovation, with three other startups planning to show off new technologies at the event:

  • N2 Applied has devised a way for farmers to produce their own fertilizer from manure, air and renewable energy. The nitrogen fertilizer created by fixing nitrogen from air and reacting with ammonia in manure or biogas digestate, stops ammonia losses, thereby increasing the nitrogen content.
  • 7Sense uses wireless sensors where live data is displayed, enabling farmers to control their irrigation system and storage, as well as green-house facilities. Already used by Norway’s farmers, 7Senses describes their products as sensor-based solutions for condition monitoring in the agricultural market.
  • Saga Robotics has developed Thorvald, an autonomous modular robot that can be configured for most agricultural environments. Saga Robotics is also part of the RAS-berry project, the largest research project on agricultural robotics in the world. 

Digital transformation

Hi-phen is a French startup using digital capabilities to transform agri-businesses. Hi-phen’s suite of validated sensor systems and its cloud-based, data-fusion platform provide a customized digital observation system for customers, allowing them to speed up their product development pipelines and optimize their logistics and operations. 

“Observing crops in fields to make business decisions is a critical part of the agriculture industry," says David Gouache, co-founder of Hi-Phen. "Agribusiness companies are spending $1.5 blilion annually for this scouting. The development of IoT sensors and remote sensing will transform the type of expense into much more valuable data. We have developed these tools for arable and vegetable crops and shown they can significantly optimize farm to factory operations.”

As for why Hi-Phen decided to present their technology solution Summit, Gouache says,“The idea to present at a major event gives us the opportunity to connect with leading agri-business companies and agri-tech investors. We hope these relations will allow us to scale up our technological solutions with new investment and take it to the next level across Europe, USA and Asia.”

Another intriguing startup is Tillo.app, a Russian company whose mobile app is described as “the ultimate remote control for the farm.” Providing a cloud-based collaboration service to farmers, its open API platform seamlessly integrates third-party technology and applications, connecting every worker inside and outside the farm through digital boards and tickets. It is all designed for simple task management and in-the-field data collection and measurement, creating a data-rich ecosystem that enables value transactions through fin-tech and blockchain solutions.

More companies on the rise

  • Ceres Wave is a USA-based company addressing the challenge of sustainably feeding the world’s growing population with seven patents and functional equipment. Their process: applying ionized air in both dry and wet settings. This dry seed treatment boosts the health of the seed to increase yields without using any radiation, genetic modification, heat or chemicals. Added to that, Ceres Wave’s water technology sanitizes water, food and equipment while keeping their composition intact.
  • Hungry Planet Intelligence, also from the USA, creates and integrates proprietary artificial intelligence and machine vision applications with existing UAV agriculture software. The company says this technology is an integrated hardware, software and farm supply solution. 
  • Micropep Technologies is a French biotech startup developing a new generation of crop stimulation and protection solutions, based on the active ingredient: miPEPs, natural peptides produced by plant cells to regulate their gene expression. Products comprising miPEPs are said to transiently regulate the expression level of these genes, orchestrating plant gene expression, and essentially controlling plant development.
  • Pheronym is a USA-based agricultural biotechnology company that uses a new pheromone to control microscopic roundworms in an eco-friendly way, promoting beneficial nematodes’ efficacy to eliminate pest insects. 
  • Urban Crop Solutions from Belgium plans to show the best way to grow the healthiest leafy greens whenever and wherever needed. UCS creates fully automated vertical farming systems using LED lighting that the company says is efficient and effective under any given climate conditions.

The Tesco Agri T-Jam

Separate to the international startups, the Tesco Agri T-Jam is a separate Pitch Day where agri-tech start-ups have the opportunity to trial their technology with Tesco’s supply chain partners, and benefit from mentoring from Tesco’s Agricultural Team. This will be taking place a day before the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit. The Tesco start-ups will be announced on 17 September.

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