AgriTech Entrepreneurs Fueling the Innovation Engine

Last week, Farm491 member Innovation Beehive sat down with Head of Farm491, Luke Halsey to discuss AgriTech innovations …

One aspect of The Innovation Engine is seeking new ways to tackle business challenges by looking outside our own organisation for stimulus. We can either steal with glee or seek principles that we can apply in our own context.

In this article we share an amazing example of an Innovation Engine and look at principles that can apply to our own organisations to accelerate the potential of our people and our ideas.

Last week The Innovation Beehive team interviewed the Head of Farm491: Programme Manager, Luke Halsey. Farm491 is a space for innovators to grow their businesses by applying technology to growing environments. Farm491 provides high-spec facilities created to foster entrepreneurship, ideas generation and collaboration. Luke shared a new initiative between Farmers Guardian, BASF and Farm491, which is designed to foster innovation in the agricultural sector, using technology.

“Technology changes the old paradigm that the only way to survive is to get bigger”- Luke Halsey 

Agri Innovation Den

We have all seen the prolific TV series Dragons’ Den, where entrepreneurs share their business ideas. The collaboration between Farm491, BASF and Farmers Guardian was modelled on this concept. Budding entrepreneurs were invited to share their products, services and business ideas with a panel of experts in the agriculture industry.

An entrepreneurial husband and wife team shared an idea which solved the problem of paperwork! They developed an app which would help farmers to stay up to date with payments, invoices and inventory. The app provides convenience to the farmer by consolidating all of their admin in one place and puts all of this into the palm of their hand.

Another idea allows companies to become more sustainable by tracking the carbon emissions within their supply chain. The system would track emissions from field to fork with each stage of the supply chain accounted for, meaning a true carbon footprint could be defined, and measures taken to limit emissions.

Many other ideas were shared. The winning ideas received a package of support, advice, and coaching from Farm491 and BASF, and publicity from Farmers Guardian. This enables entrepreneurs to accelerate the potential of their ideas. Equally as important, it provides BASF a unique opportunity to engage with the cutting edge of innovation. To read more about the finalists, click here.

This example of an Innovation Engine holds within it several principles that can apply to innovative efforts in any organisation.

Partner to Leverage Connections

The Innovation Engine is about looking outside your own company and context to gain insight into other worlds, whether start-ups or large companies. Partnering with Farm491 and Farmers Guardian enables BASF to extend its reach into these parallel worlds to discover new stimulus, fresh ideas, and diverse perspectives on the challenges facing their agricultural customers.

Partnership is a powerful way of extending your world to uncover principles that can inform your thinking. By definition, partnerships must be of benefit to all parties – a win/win/win. So as you plan to build your Innovation Engine, think about how you can create structures that are of mutual benefit.

Make It Sustainable

Many organisations hold an event, like a Dragons’ Den or Ideas Day, and feel that they have ‘done’ innovation. One of the positive things about the collaboration between Farm491, BASF and Farmers Guardian is that they have built a structure to continue working with the entrepreneurs afterwards. This means the effort and time spent on the day of the Entrepreneurs’ Presentations was an investment in a future relationship. Innovation Engines fail most often when they have no follow-up.

When you plan your Innovation Engine, think about how you can make it a long-term structure, rather than a one-off experience. This ensures people in your business and network can see and reap the rewards of innovation.

Shout About Your Work

Partnering with an industry publication brought opportunities for publicity to BASF and Farm491. This is a great opportunity to raise awareness of innovation in the sector and build the profile of the companies involved. This can be a powerful way of building communities and networks where ideas can bounce off one another, develop and lead to further innovation.

Innovation is a driver of engagement, both for customers and employees. It is important to talk about your innovation efforts to build momentum and engagement in your business. Partnering with industry press, applying for awards, and developing internal comms plans are all excellent ways of doing this.

For more about the importance of The Innovation Engine within your Innovation Ecosystem, read Innovation Beehive’s white paper here.