UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering


Innovative Agtech Entrepreneurship Project ends with workshop and Dragon's Den pitches

18 October 2018

The student team SowIT win £1000

On the 18th of October, UCL’s tech accelerator space IDEALondon (www.idea-london.co.uk) hosted an EPSRC funded workshop event aimed at fostering knowledge exchange on technologies applied to agriculture between policy, research, business and farming communities, providing an overview of current approaches, challenges and future directions for the UK. The workshop culminated in a Dragon’s Den style pitching event from PhD students of both UCL and Rothamsted Research who had received training at an earlier ‘Spring School’ in technology entrepreneurship focused on the agriculture sector. The winning student team called SowIT won £1000 prize money for their business idea.

Dr Kenneth Tong, Reader, was the PI of an innovative 6 month EPSRC funded training fund focused on interdisciplinary and industrial strategy linked activities for a project titled ‘Transforming UK Agriculture through new technology’ running from March – October 2018. The training project enabled a group of 15 PhD students to learn about the technological, political and socio-economic challenges facing UK farmers. The students worked in teams to create innovative agri-tech solutions to the farmers’ problems. This project linked to the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

The PhD students attended Residential Training (“the Spring School”) from 4th to 5th June in the areas of Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G mobile technology, and remote sensing data from satellites.  They were presented with several technological challenges collected from local farmers.  On 6th August, Dr Richard Anson, Senior Teaching Fellow from UCL School of Management provided entrepreneurship training to the project participants.  The entrepreneurship training was also attended by other UCL PhD students. There was a farm visit to Brogdale National Fruit Collection, Kent on 9th August.  Finally, the PhD students pitched their business ideas to representatives from industry, academia and government for £1000 prize money in a workshop ‘Perspectives on UK Agriculture after Brexit’. The workshop was run in partnership with Cisco and featured speakers including Dr Riaz Bhunnoo, Director of the Global Food Security Programme for the UK Government, Prof Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement & Partnership, Rothamsted Research), Peter Shearman (Head of Co-Innovation, Europe CSIG, CISCO) and Paul Rous (Impact Investor and former farmer).

 PhD student Salinna Abdullah from the winning team SowIT said:

"I am delighted to be given the opportunity to learn about the many issues impacting agriculture and farmers in the UK. Agriculture is something completely unrelated tomy PhD research but I found it refreshing to expose myself to a new sector and encouraging to know how I could contribute my existing knowledge and experience to solving the agricultural problems. The Sow IT team is extremely grateful for the learning experience and the helpful feedback given by the judging panels. Winning the prize has assured us that our company has potential and is worth pursuing. From here, we intend to continually receive entrepreneurship trainings and participate in more competitions to raise capitals and gain more exposure!"

To find out more you can read a blog post from Clement Leroy (UCL Public Policy) who attended this event