Where would you put your money? Punters’ choice for agri-entrepreneurs

National GROW agri-tech business plan competition pilots peer-to-peer funding

Finalists of the prestigious UK-wide GROW agri-tech business plan competition will have to win the backing of an audience and secure virtual peer-to-peer funding at the event in June, on top of prizes including six months’ access to the hatchery incubator at Allia Future Business Centre Cambridge.

GROW enables budding entrepreneurs with innovative ideas within the agricultural sector to turn their ideas into business plans – the winner receiving funding to take their business plan to the next stage.

The process of pitching to the audience is an exciting twist to this year’s competition which sees corporate financier and farm managing director, Robert Alston, guide the finalists through the event.

Robert is chairman of AF Finance Limited, an agricultural pooled collective investment scheme that provides cash flow management for farmers. He is also MD of his family’s farming business, Silfield Limited.

“I’m looking forward to GROW this year; it excites me to see something that could be the ‘next big thing’ in the industry, challenging the status quo,” said Robert.

The final of GROW 2017 will feature pitches from early-stage agri-entrepreneurs, drawn from across the UK, looking for their first break into the industry. Pitches include new digital platforms to improve access to market for niche producers, improved techniques and tools for soil analysis, and innovative cultivation systems for urban farming.

Robert will provide his expert insight into the current climate for agri-tech investment. Before returning to manage the family farm in Norfolk full-time, he worked in the City for 18 years, at Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan.

“There is a lot of interest in agri-tech and a huge wall of money looking for investment,” said Robert. “Everyone understands agri-tech is essential, but no one quite knows where to put their money – it’s such a broad topic.”

The winner will be selected by a judging panel, but the audience of seasoned investors, potential partners, farmers and advisers will also have an opportunity to vote.

For Robert, the team is as important as the idea. He said: “I am encouraged by people who really understand the industry, can get on with it and make it happen. Often business plans and markets change, so have you got the right people that can make it work?

“You have to be able to adapt quickly in this market and get something out there and prove it. And it must be addressing a problem that is real for farmers now.”

Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East comments: “Everyone is warmly invited to the final of GROW, to hear competitive pitches from agri-entrepreneurs across the UK. Our finalists will not only try to win over our panel of judges, but also a voting audience.”

The final of the GROW agri-tech business plan competition will take place on 19 June at Agrii’s Throws Farm Technology Centre, Stebbing, with support from Innovate UK.

The event is free but registration is necessary: click here to register your attendance.

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About Agri-Tech East: www.agritech-east.co.uk

Agri-Tech East is the UK’s first and largest membership organisation for agri-tech, bringing together businesses and academia across different disciplines to help improve the productivity, efficiency and sustainability of UK agriculture and horticulture. Agri-Tech East has become an internationally recognised catalyst for open innovation and entrepreneurship, helping to bring new ideas and thinking to the industry to become a commercial reality.

About GROW

GROW is kindly supported by Innovate UK.

GROW is the UK’s only Agri-Tech Business Plan Competition, and is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurial thinking into the industry.

The objective of GROW is to encourage innovative, investable commercial concepts that will have the potential to become new businesses. All those that register an expression of interest will benefit from the support of an experienced mentor to help them to develop the business plan.

In addition to a cash prize, the finalists will be able to select further business support from a menu of options designed to help accelerate their businesses.

At the final of GROW on Monday 19th June 2017, kindly hosted by Agrii at their Throws Farm Technology Centre, the audience will also be able to cast a vote that may accelerate the growth of one of these start-ups.

The audience will be provided with special GROW money to become an investor in their chosen business plan(s) – the idea which attracts the most audience backing will win real funding to advance their idea. Your ‘investment’ can help your choice to get started – so come along and make a real difference!


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