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30 June, 2017 - 01:35 By Kate Sweeney

AgriTech mobile trading platform to aid sub-Saharan farmers

A Cambridge company aiming to lift sub-Saharan farmers out of poverty by creating a market for their surplus was one of two winners in Agri-Tech East’s GROW agri-tech business plan competition.

Farming Data’s mobile trading platform uses mobile money and SMS texting on a basic phone to allow smallholders and buyers to communicate and trade more effectively. Smallholders grow 50 per cent of the world’s food and 40 per cent of global food production relies on irrigation.

GROW is the UK’s only agri-tech business plan competition, established by Agri-Tech East to stimulate entrepreneurship in the industry. GROW was developed by Agri-Tech East to stimulate and support entrepreneurship in agriculture and horticulture.

SoilSense – a water sensor that can create moisture maps from the air was the other successful business plan. SoilSense is an aerial soil sensor that can provide a detailed map of moisture content of the soil - even through vegetation - for a whole farm, in minutes. The proprietary technology was first developed for detecting breast cancer tumours.

Dr Belinda Clarke (pictured), Director of Agri-Tech East, said that the entries this year were looking at global challenges: “Smart water use, enhancing data available for decision support and improving profitability by finding markets for edible waste were strong themes among the entries this year
“Many were looking for partners and investors for pilot studies and this is where the agri-tech cluster in the east of England is particularly strong.

“Our membership includes investors, researchers and innovative farmers and for strong propositions there is a receptive environment.”

The GROW finalists were:

  • Agronomex – a trading platform which addresses the 4m tonnes of edible food lost before it reaches the farm gate in the UK. The London-based company considered the buy-side issues and have built logistics into the offering.
  • DataGranary – a data management service that rewards farmers for providing data and cleans and prepares data ready for use.
  • Farming Data – a Cambridge-start-up developing a software system that allows farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to communicate with potential buyers using SMS messaging on a basic mobile phone, creating a market for their produce.
  • Soil for Life – a specialist soil health system which helps farmers prioritise interventions and is compatible with existing farm management packages.
  • SoilSense – a Bristol based company developing an aerial soil moisture sensor that can provide a detailed map of the water status of a whole field in minutes.
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