Spotlight will shine on innovation at upcoming World Agri-Tech summit in London

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Photos courtesy of World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit

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From October 16-17, 2018, an expected 500 delegates from major global agribusinesses, start-ups, R&D institutes as well as investors, will gather from around the world to discuss everything agri-tech related. Launched in London in 2013, the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit has established itself as a meeting place for international stakeholders dedicated to advancing sustainable agriculture in both developed and developing markets. 

The two-day event will identify new solutions in the market, with the goal of the summit  to accelerate the commercialisation of advanced agricultural technologies by generating global partnerships and collaborations. 

This year’s theme: “Building Agri-Food Systems Fit for the Global Consumer.”

Produce Business UK sat down with Jennie Moss, Founder & MD of Rethink Events, the organisers of World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit for a deeper look into what this year’s summit will hold:

How did the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit first come about? 

“The World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit first took place in October 2013, just after the UK government launched its new agri-tech strategy. 

The summit (held annually in London and San Francisco) has witnessed huge growth in five years: In San Francisco, this March, the event attracted over 1,000 attendees, and over 500 are expected this year in London. 

Rethink Events developed the concept: We are a Brighton-based start-up that creates international networking events for innovators and investors in sustainable energy, food and water.”

What are some of the goals of the summit?

“The goal has been to accelerate the development of innovative technologies that can help farmers achieve higher yields and more nutritious crops, whilst reducing environmental impact and preserving the health of our soils.” 

In your opinion, has the subject of agri-tech become more relevant today than it was in 2013?

“The growth of the event reflects the urgent need for innovation in order to meet global food demand in a sustainable way.

At the same time, consumers are increasingly demanding more transparency and traceability in what they eat, and foods that are fresher, healthier and that pack a nutritious punch.

Technology is also moving fast: with rapid innovation in satellite and drone technology, robotics and automation, and advances in biotechnology and gene-editing to create climate-resilient and nutrition-dense crops.” 

Let’s talk about the content of the summit. You have 45 speakers and a two-day agenda numbering 17 sessions. How do you curate the panel of speakers? The agenda at large? 

“Rethink has a team of researchers who keep track of everything happening in this exciting industry, monitoring news stories and keeping their finger on the pulse of new ideas and solutions as they emerge.

We also put together an expert Advisory Board for each event who help shape the specific themes, identify the most critical issues to address and make recommendations for speakers who are recognised industry leaders. 

In terms of this year’s agenda, what would you say are the most pressing topics?

“The topics we’ve identified as being most critical right now are:

  • New Digital Tools and Technologies: Controlling Supply Chain Performance from Seed to Table
  • Smart Farming and Precision Agriculture: Tackling the Adoption Barrier
  • Robotics and Artificial Intelligence: How Automated Could the Farm Become?
  • Beyond Pesticides: Microbes, New Chemistry and Integrated Platforms 
  • Gene Editing: Collaborative Approaches to Bringing Solutions to Market
  • Animal Health: Targeting Innovation and Investment in Feed and Nutrition
  • Blockchain: Tracking and Tracing from Farm to Table
  • Indoor Farming: Hyper-Efficient Horticultural Production to Nourish the Cities of Tomorrow.”

Produce Business UK recently wrote an article about Emirates' new vertical farm. As one of your topics listed, what is the trend of indoor farming and how is it nourishing the cities of tomorrow?

“Indoor farming, and particularly vertical farming, is a hugely important new development in agriculture, so much so that in June we ran a focused two-day summit, Indoor AgTech in New York, attended by over 200 leading international indoor, urban and vertical farming specialists.

Vertical farming offers the potential to grow super-fresh, nutritious foods with low-impact local distribution models and super-fast delivery within hours, bringing affordable healthy nutritious foods to urban populations who currently don’t have that choice. 

At the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in London, delegates will have the option to join a dedicated afternoon interactive workshop focused on indoor farming, with speakers including W.N. Wang, director, chief technology advisor with Yeshealth Ifarm from Taiwan, and Steve Dring, co-founder at Growing Underground, based in the UK.” 

Tell us about the start-up component of the summit? 

“As a summit focused on technology innovation (it’s in our name — the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit), entrepreneurs and start-ups are an integral part of the programme and massively sought after by the big brands, agribusinesses and investors at the summit. 

Every year we select 10-15 exciting start-ups to make 7-minute pitches during the Technology Showcase sessions at the summit. These sessions run in a “Dragon’s Den style,” with a panel of investors questioning the companies on their technology and business model.

We also have a “TechHub” within our exhibition space, which is exclusively for start-ups to have a branded presence at the event and serves as a central meeting point where interested VCs can find their next potential investment.

The Pitch Day was introduced in 2017 to expand the number of really early-stage companies attending the event. Following a call for entries and a rigorous selection process, we invite 10 finalists to present at the Pitch Day. All of these companies are also invited to attend the whole summit free of charge, and the winner of the Pitch Day gets the opportunity to present to the entire World Agri-Tech audience the following day.” 

Who were the winners of the start-up pitch day last year?

Hexafly were selected from 10 Pitch Day presenters as the winners at World Agri-Tech Pitch Day last year, earning themselves the opportunity to present again as part of the high-profile Technology Showcase within the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit programme. 

Hexafly Insect Protein is a sustainable protein feed ingredient with an advantageous breakdown of essential amino acids that provides high digestibility for both animal and aquaculture species. Other applications include use as an alternative protein ingredient for health snacks, protein bars and as a meat replacement for dairy products.” 

This year, Tesco is contributing to a pitch day. Can you explain how that came about?

“Tesco have run several ‘T-Jam’ events previously, but this will be their first Agri T-Jam.

Having attended the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, Tesco saw the opportunity to work with Rethink on our annual Pitch Day, combining our resources and expertise to find the most exciting new agri-tech solutions from around the world.

What’s really exciting about our partnership with Tesco is that the winner of the Pitch Day will be given the opportunity to trial their technology with Tesco’s supply chain partners, and benefit from mentoring from Tesco’s Agricultural Team. It’s an amazing opportunity that could fast-track a start-up’s path to market. We’ve received well over 100 applications from 23 different countries around the world. 

Areas of particular interest include, but are not limited to: Sustainable feed | Reduction of farm level emissions | Responsible use of antibiotics | Meat grading and quality | On-farm sensor technology and remote sensing | Sustainable crop protection | Soil health | Water management | Automation and robotics | Waste reduction.” 

Have other partners been involved in pitch days in previous years?

“This is the first year we’ve partnered with Tesco for the Pitch Day, although they have attended the summit as delegates previously.

For the San Francisco edition of World Agri-Tech in March 2018, we partnered with Radicle Growth. The US acceleration fund offered a $250,000 USD investment to the winning company, TradeLanes.

TradeLanes is a digital trade room that automatically generates global trade documents for physical commodities. The platform creates a single source of truth for every shipment, enabling seamless handoffs of all trade documents with greater efficiency, accuracy and cost-savings.” 

Finally, what can we expect from this year’s summit?

“This year is set to be our biggest ever event in London, with 500 attendees expected, from the major global agribusinesses — Bayer, Corteva, BASF and Syngenta — to some really exciting start-ups, including a delegation of Norwegian entrepreneurs led by Innovation Norway. I’m particularly looking forward to our session on supply chain digitisation, featuring IBM, Tesco, Nestle, Branston and Cibo Technologies, and to learning about the next generation of smart farming from Microsoft, Bayer, Yara, Trimble and Koch.
 
What’s really exciting is the networking that takes place at each event — with all the top names from the industry gathered in one place, we’ll see deals being done and new partnerships formed right before our eyes. For many of our start-ups, the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit is where they first meet the investors, which later go on to invest millions. Watch this space.”

A note on Tesco Agri T-Jam:

According to Tesco’s official report, following an application and selection process, 10 companies will be invited to present their technology to the Tesco panel and a selected audience of investors and agribusinesses at the World Agri-Tech pre-summit Pitch Day in London on 15 October. 

The Pitch Day ‘winner’ also will present as part of the main World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit programme, to its audience of more than 400 international agribusiness leaders. 

All finalists will be invited as guests to the two-day summit to maximise their visibility and networking, gain valuable market intelligence and benefit from feedback on their technology from the senior executive audience. 

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