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KTN helps boost investment in UK agri-tech companies

Posted on 03/01/2019

KTN provided 14 agri-tech companies with an invaluable opportunity to pitch their technologies to investors seeking new business propositions.

By Dr David Telford, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Agri-Food Team

KTN recently held a successful Agri-Tech Investment Showcase, to bring together early-stage companies who are leading in agri-tech innovation with the investment community which is increasingly interested in investing in this sector.

Why is investment in agri-tech important?

Agri-tech is an exciting area in the UK. It plays a crucial role in underpinning much of the Agri-Food sector, worth £113 billion in the UK, and also provides good potential for high value technology exports globally. This is reflected by ongoing government support in this area.

The UK has a very vibrant agri-tech start-up community, however funding for growth and scale-up is often sparse. For this reason, the KTN Agri-Food Team has prioritised helping agri-tech companies to develop fundable propositions so they can source the private investment needed to help them reach their full potential, in addition to grant funding provided by Innovate UK and other funders.

KTN has developed a programme of activities to bring together early stage companies and investors, to boost investment in UK agri-tech. In 2018, this culminated in the KTN Agri-Tech Investment Showcase, which was held on 15th October in London at the Prince Philip House.

KTN's Agri-Tech Investment Showcase 2018 – what was involved?

In May 2018, KTN launched a call for UK agri-tech companies seeking private investment. Over 40 applications were received, of which we selected 24 businesses to participate in a KTN investor readiness programme. Over the summer in 2018, KTN provided support to these 24 companies including a pitch training session, individual feedback by mentors to improve their pitches, as well as a pitch critique day by a panel of KTN and Innovate UK experts in Agri-Food and Innovation Funding, and video footage of their pitch. The companies also significantly benefitted from a dedicated KTN mentor who advised them not only on their pitch, but also their business plan, and introduced them to relevant partners who they might benefit from working with, where relevant.

From the initial cohort, 14 companies were then selected to pitch at the investment showcase event on 12th October 2018.

Participants in the KTN investor readiness programme for the Agri-Tech Investment Showcase 2018

Showcase event boosts companies seeking investment

The event was very successful, with over 43 individual investors attending. The day included an investor-only meeting, followed by the 14 company pitches, and opportunities for networking and gathering of additional information about companies. Many of the participating companies are now having ongoing talks with investors, and some have also applied for Innovate UK funding as a result of introductions by mentors and improved business plans. We anticipate more good news in the coming months.

But rather than just read about the event, you can see for yourself! The following video provides an interesting overview of the event and the process leading up to it, including some very noteworthy insights from the companies that presented at the event.

Video highlights of KTN’s Agri-Tech Investment Showcase 2019

Insights into investment in agri-tech in the UK

We have identified some key insights into investment in agri-tech in the UK from this event:

1)    There is a growing interest from investors in UK agri-tech. Compared to the first event we ran in 2017, there was marked increase in investor interest in 2018, including from numerous investors who had not previously invested in agri-tech. We also noticed a change in a range of investment opportunities, from more early stage companies in 2017, through to a more balanced offering in 2018, including those with more well developed investment propositions, showing that the start-up community is maturing and more investment-ready.

2)    There is a growing supply of early-stage companies looking for investment. We noticed an increase in the number of early stage companies that have appeared in just the last year, and also some more mature companies that have developed a new agri-tech technology, reflecting the growth in agri-tech sector in the UK. These included both University spin-outs and start-ups, and also entrepreneurs from outside agriculture who recognised the exciting market opportunity that this market sector offers. You can find out more about some of the companies that participated here.

3)    Bringing companies together in a cohort provided additional benefits. In addition to the anticipated benefits of bringing companies and investors together, one of the striking outcomes this year was how much the companies had benefitted from being part of a cohort of similar companies. Many remarked on how they had learned a lot from their peers, and that they had benefitted from the chance to speak to people in a similar situation. Some had even found new partners for collaboration within the cohort.

Acknowledgements and further information

KTN would like to thank Innovate UK for their continued support of this activity, as well as the UK Business Angels Association who helped promote the event.

We would also like to thank all the companies and investors who participated as well, and we look forward to working with you all further in due course.

The event organisation was led by the KTN Agri-Food Team, in collaboration with the KTN Access to Funding and Finance Team. If you want to find out more about this event, and learn how you can be involved in similar activities in the future, please feel free to contact Chris DanksCharles Vander Broek, David Telford or Liliya Serazetdinova from KTN’s Agri-Food Team.

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