Farm491 funding given the go ahead by GFirst LEP Board

This week the GFirst LEP Board has approved £2.9 million of funding to support fledgling agricultural technology – or ‘agri-tech’ – businesses. High-tech incubation facilities to support start-ups and promote innovation will be created at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), under the name Farm491.

The funding decision will create an agri-tech incubator space to enable innovators to grow their businesses, by applying technology to agriculture at two separate locations in Gloucestershire. The exciting project will give Gloucestershire’s start-up businesses great opportunities for business growth, with access to the Royal Agricultural University’s enviable support and knowledge network of farmers, entrepreneurs and academics, as well as a vibrant working environment with great potential to benefit the wider land based sector.

To deliver the plans for Gloucestershire outlined in GFirst LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP), the Farm491 project was allocated £2.9million of funding from the Gloucestershire Growth Deal in July 2014. This funding will create space to offer start-ups an affordable and flexible co-working environment at the Royal Agricultural University’s main campus in Cirencester, and at Harnhill Farm.

The provision of agri-technology start-up spaces will be attractive to high-tech agricultural innovators, to use the vibrant incubation environment with the potential to influence and benefit the wider agricultural and food production industries.

Mike Warner, GFirst LEP Board Member and Chair of The Warner Group, said: “Approval of the Farm491 project will enable this pioneering new initiative, which will create a vibrant environment for the advancement of agri-tech, to go ahead – benefiting both the UK agriculture and food production industries, as well as Gloucestershire’s rural industry. In addition to this, it will assist in the Government’s drive to improve food sustainability within the UK. Gloucestershire already benefits from a vibrant agriculture and food production industry, and this is a further vote of confidence in the long term future of this important sector.”

Angela Simkins, Centre Director at Farm491, said: “Angela Simkins Farm491 Centre Director said: ‘The Royal Agricultural University is absolutely thrilled to have secured the combination of generous GFirst LEP funding, matched University investment, private donations and philanthropic funds from the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust, to enable the pioneering Farm491 start-up facility to offer a co-working incubation environment in which budding agritech entrepreneurs and developmental companies can run and grow their businesses.”

“Our Farm 491 facilities have the potential to influence and benefit the wider agricultural and food production industries. There is no doubt that the combination of agriculture and technology will be a significant contributing factor to feeding a growing global population – and Farm491 will give a real focus for the Gloucestershire heartland in the development of agricultural technology.”

Before the announcement today, Farm 491 had already attracted interest from over 30 student entrepreneurs, who are currently developing innovative products, including tablet based technologies and high-tech innovations.