Register for GROW business plan competition
"A universal need, a receptive market, money and advice available to support you - what are you waiting for?", Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, will ask at the Norfolk Farming Conference. Agri-Tech East has launched the GROW business-plan competition which aims to encourage entrepreneurial thinking into the industry. The closing date for registration of interest is 1 March 2015.
Entrepreneurs and innovators from across the UK are encouraged to submit a 12-page business plan describing an innovative new technology, product or service that will help improve the efficiency, productivity or sustainability of agriculture and horticulture.
The objective of GROW is to encourage a cohort of 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.
Belinda continues: "Agri-tech is a good sector to be exploring now - population growth brings pressure on resources, we need fresh approaches and these can come from non-traditional routes. We are anticipating that through GROW entrepreneurs with technologies developed in other industries will be encouraged to explore the potential in agri-food.
"For example, salad is the ultimate fast-moving-consumer-good, with tight deadlines, the need for high levels of data-management and considerable scope for huge benefits in productivity through incremental process improvements. This is the type of challenge that is relished in other market sectors such as finance or logistics."
Miranda Weston-Smith is one of the experienced mentors that have volunteered their time to support the applicants. In her day job Miranda provides practical business development services for early stage companies particularly those within healthcare and biotech, and this includes the development of marketing plans, and advice on business strategy, financing, and licensing, so she is in a good position to guide those new to entrepreneurship in the right direction.
Miranda says that the business plan is a key starting point. "The role of the business plan is not just to define the business concept and outline the market opportunities but it is also a valuable vehicle to share your aspirations and ambitions with integrity and engage and energise others - your team, potential funders and collaborators.
"Innovation happens at boundaries so ideas gained from other industries could be applied to the agri-food industry. Agri-tech is needed to improve how we feed the world; what can be more vital and inspiring than that?"
Miranda is also a mentor of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning part of the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and believes that entrepreneurship can be taught and that although a tolerance to risk is important there are ways to manage the level of risk. "Taking the pulse on risk is essential as is minimising it," she comments.
The business plan for GROW should identify the market opportunity, the business concept, the management team, their strengths and track record, financial predictions and the funding requirements. With business support, rent-free accommodation and access to expert help to make the plan a commercial reality, the competition is designed to encourage and support the leaders of the agri-tech businesses of the future.
Miranda is looking forward to seeing more entrants; "Farmers are innovators out of necessity - so there is considerable untapped talent in the sector. Bringing together talent and the needs of the times will generate new ideas."
For more information about GROW and how to apply www.agritech-east.co.uk/business-plan-competition.