Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the Tesco’s Finest of them all?
Ten agri-tech start-ups have been flinging 7-minute pitches at UK supermarket giant Tesco and its supply chain partners for most of Monday. The series of pitches — branded slightly eccentrically as a Tesco Agri T-Jam — serves as a Wagnerian overture to this week’s World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit in London.
After their pitches, the startups fielded quick-fire questions from a panel of judges. These mostly included top honchos from Tesco’s Agriculture, Technology and Product teams — Emmanuelle Lerges (Food Technical & Agriculture Director), Mark Suddaby (Category Director: Meat, Fish, Poultry), Natalie Smith (Head of Agriculture) and Jo Hickson (Head of Tesco Labs). They will be joined by supply chain partner Vee Gururajan, Innovations Director at Branston. “It’s been a challenging but exciting process to review nearly 100 innovative ideas from around the world,” said Smith, the Head of Agriculture at the firm. “We look forward to working together with at least one of those tech companies after choosing the winner.”
By the early evening, the judges had made up their minds; news crept out from Tesco’s HQ and Heart Building in Welwyn Garden City that the winner is … Roboscientific!
The Finest of the Finest: Roboscientific emerges victorious
Commenting on the win, Ben Curtis, Research Development Manager at Roboscientific released a statement describing his team’s “shell-shock” and elation.
“We look forward to working together with Tesco and its partners to improve food wastage and animal welfare within the food supply chain,” he said. Roboscientific will now gain introductions to Tesco’s supply chain partners, as well as ongoing support from the Tesco Agriculture team, the value of which was highlighted via an update from last year’s winner, ImpactVision.
Roboscientific will also pitch to the full World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit as part of the start-up Technology Showcase on Wednesday October 16, showcasing its solution to an audience of more than 500 international agribusiness leaders and investors.
This year’s top 10 ‘Tesco’s Finest’ Finalists:
- Arcis Biotechnology (UK) specialises in the rapid innovative room temperature extraction and stabilisation of nucleic acids. Arcis kits are especially suited to in field extraction of nucleic acids including DNA and RNA, require no specialist equipment and stabilise nucleic acids for up to 90 days at room temperature. Its products have proved particularly attractive to scientists testing for disease in soil, crops and livestock.
- Biosystems Engineering, or BioE (UK) is active in the application of IoT across the agri-food industry, from farm to table, including precision agriculture and food chain traceability. Its CyberBar technology provides a tamper-proof system for assuring the provenance of food products while also delivering a novel approach to reducing food waste in the home.
- BlakBear (UK) builds novel chemical sensors, electronics and software to help the world feel, understand and improve itself. From soil and food to air and water quality, in the field and across supply chains, it is pioneering the digital interface to the biochemical world. Blakbear’s latest research focuses on ultra-low-cost packaging sensors for fish and meat products, to reduce waste and prevent food-borne diseases arising from spoiled foods.
- CCm Technologies (UK) transforms costly waste materials including CO2, ammonia and phosphorus back into valuable, sustainable, ultra-low carbon footprint products, such as fertilisers and plastics, with multiple applications across food, agriculture, wastewater treatment and energy. The technology is economically viable without reliance on government subsidies and will contribute to solving the challenges of GHG emissions and deteriorating soil health.
- Faromatics (Spain) employs robotics, artificial intelligence and big data to increase animal welfare and farm productivity in intensive animal production. Its flagship product, the ChickenBoy, is the world’s first ceiling-suspended robot that monitors ambient conditions, health and welfare and equipment function for broiler chickens. It is currently being tested in several European countries and full commercialisation will start at the end of 2019.
- Metronome Technologies (UK) combined hardware and software platform provides best-in-class cold storage management. Unlike traditional cold storage, its system uses AI to predict and actively manage when heating or cooling will be required within pre-defined boundaries, allowing power consumption to be shifted around in the day while keeping produce in optimal conditions. This shift creates new opportunities for matching demand to supply – Metronome has turned the farm into a giant battery, storing renewable energy in vegetables.
- N2 Applied (Norway) aims to fundamentally improve global food production. N2’s technology enables the farmer to produce fertiliser on the farm from manure or biogas digestate, air and renewable energy. The result is fertiliser produced with lower GHG emissions, that provides a similar yield to mineral fertiliser, at a competitive cost to the farmer. The technology significantly reduces laughing gas, methane and ammonia emissions in the storage and spreading of manure.
- Proteon Pharmaceuticals (Poland) uses precision biology for microbiome protection to improve animal and human health, increasing environmental sustainability and eliminating the unnecessary use of antibiotics. Its advanced phage technology platform combines genomics, bioinformatics, materials engineering and molecular biology enabling the company to discover, develop and deliver bacteriophages as a means of bacterial control in animal farming.
- Roboscientific (UK) has developed a new generation of sensors for detecting disease, infestation and contamination in agricultural products using Volatile Organic Compounds. The technology is fast, reliable and affordable and at the point of commercialisation for its automatic early disease detection system for growing broiler poultry and early alerts of spoilage in stored potato and onion crops.
- SmartBell (UK) is an animal health management platform for livestock. Its real-time monitoring solution uses AI and Internet of Things technology to record vital signs and enables disease detection, helping to decrease costs, achieve optimal growth targets and improve margins. The product is uniquely designed to work from the birth of an animal and is able to track key health information through its life, helping farmers improve profits and producers and supermarkets to improve their supply chain sustainability.