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25 November, 2021 - 20:20 By Tony Quested

Agri-Tech Group hopes to reap rich harvest from Awards field

With the 2021-2022 Business Weekly Awards now open for entries, a number of Cambridge startups are tilting at multiple awards.

Ceres Agri-Tech is in the running for three categories – Sustainability Champion, Young Company of the Year and Disruptive Technology. 

Led by Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge, Ceres was launched in 2018 – funded by Research England – to commercialise innovative agri-tech based on university research. The other partners are the University of East Anglia, the University of Hertfordshire, the University of Lincoln and the University of Reading, as well as NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany), Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre.

Earlier this year, Ceres spun-out three companies – Agaricus Robotics, FruitCast and Cellexcel.

Agaricus Robotics is developing a robot that can harvest even the most challenging dense clusters of mushrooms. The market for fresh mushrooms in the UK is estimated to be worth £450 million and growing annually.

FruitCast, is focused on strawberry yield improvements, with an innovative yield forecasting system based on AI-enabled data analytics. Image data from hand, vehicle or robot mounted cameras is used to measure individual fruit numbers, along with the weight and maturity state of millions of berries each day. This data is combined with weather forecasts in algorithms to predict yield with unrivalled accuracy six weeks ahead of existing systems.

Cellexcel has developed a novel industrial-scale patented process to make water-resistant materials from flax. The global market for composites – materials made from resin-reinforced fibres – in car manufacturing is predicted to reach nearly £20 billion by 2024. But the most popular composites, such as fibreglass and carbon fibre, are non-renewable and energy intensive to produce.

University of Cambridge spin-out Porotech (below) is a candidate for awards spanning engineering excellence, sustainable innovation, disruptive technology, Young Company of the Year and Cambridge Graduate Business of the Year. Porotech innovation is set to accelerate the long-awaited commercialisation of augmented reality (AR) glasses.

Another early entrant, Qureight, uses cloud-based technology to structure data sets in complex diseases, and is a strong contender in a number of categories. These include Disruptive Technology, Cambridge Graduate Business, AI champion and Young Company of the Year.

The ambitious company recently launched a campaign to hire fresh talent as it looks to scale substantially. 

Qureight’s tools are able to extract airways, blood vessels and tissue from CT scans and quantitatively analyse this data. Qureight is working on the identification of different imaging biomarkers for the assessment of patients with Pulmonary Hypertension (PH).

As the company expands to work across other complex diseases it is also processing a funding round to build its team and assets. It achieved pre-seed funding last summer led by CMS Ventures and is currently in advanced negotiations with several institutions to complete the next round of investment. 

Mursla, a Cambridge-based liquid biopsy company is considered in three categories – Young Company of the Year, Life Science Scale-Up and Disruptive Technology. Mursla has demonstrated its potential with a string of high-profile hires for its Advisory Board. The new dignitaries are Professor Bernd Giebel, Dr Daniel Delubac and Professor Emmanuel Rautou.

Diagnostics startup Glyconics, which recently secured £1.5 million in an oversubscribed Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) funding round ahead of a series A next year, will also be aiming for success in the Business Weekly Awards.

Glyconics raised well over its original £850k target in a round led by investment platform Wealth Club and existing backers, Deepbridge Capital and Boundary Capital. The raise will fund a large-scale trial programme of Glyconics©’ game-changing point-of-care diabetes screening tool, Glyconics-SX™, prior to applying for regulatory approval and CE marking.  

Kalium Health, which spun out novel blood sensing technology from the University of Cambridge and raised seed investment in March 2020 has entered the Young Company of the Year, Michael Marshall Engineering Excellence and Life Science Innovation categories.

The company is working to transform the lives of millions of people worldwide with kidney or heart disease and to reduce total healthcare costs by enabling blood electrolyte monitoring by anyone, anytime, anywhere.

The first product Kalium Health (below) is developing is a rapid test for blood potassium concentration based on a tiny drop of finger-prick blood. The test will enable patients to seek treatment before complications arise and without the inconvenience, cost and delays associated with current testing methods.The Kalium Health team in Cambridge

The award categories are:

Young Company of the Year: For the most exciting startup enterprise in any sector that has made significant progress in the last 12 months.

Graduate Business of the Year: For a Cambridge-based company that has shown outstanding commercial potential or success over the last 12 months, either founded by a Cambridge University alumnus or which has significantly contributed to the employment and retention locally of Cambridge graduate talent. 

The Michael Marshall Engineering Excellence Award: For a company or individual who in the last 12 months has added game-changing engineering to any product in any business & industry.

Disruptive Technology: For the company in any sector whose science or technology is deemed to be genuinely game-changing.

Technology Scale-up: For the hi-tech company that in the previous 12 months has broadened its market reach globally, scaled headcount in a major way, secured significantly increased investment or added noticeable power to its core technology proposition.

Life Science Scale-up: For the Life Science business that has shown most progress in the preceding 12 months in terms of scaling headcount, broadening vertical markets or increasing the potency of its pipeline.

International Trade Champion: For a company in any industry that has significantly broadened its export sales or access to global markets.

Lifetime Achievement Award: To recognise an extraordinary career devoted to innovation and commercial success for the benefit of society and the UK economy.

Life Science Innovation: For the organisation or individual who has done the most to further the cause of life science discovery for the benefit of human healthcare.

Cambridge Judge Business School Woman Entrepreneur of the Year: For a woman entrepreneur who can demonstrate outstanding achievements in the last 12 months and who inspires and nurtures other women to excel. 

Sustainability Champion: For the company whose science or technology is deemed to hold most potential to dramatically reduce or eliminate the carbon footprint of businesses and industries.

Academic Entrepreneur of the Year: For outstanding work by an academic as an innovator, founder or consultant in the past 12 months.

AI Innovation: For the most successful deployment of Artificial Intelligence in any business segment.

Quoted Company of The Year: For an East of England business listed on any public market that has delivered best value for shareholders in the last 12 months.

Investment of the Year: For a deal that is deemed to be a game-changer in terms of amount invested or potential impact following investment, regardless of the amount of money raised.

From these a Business of the Year will be selected to join a Hall of Fame that includes Abcam, ARM, Autonomy, AVEVA, British Sugar, Cambridge Quantum, CSR, Darktrace, Domino, Frontier Developments, Horizon Discovery, Ieso Digital Health, Perkins Engines, Pi Group, Ryanair, TTP and Treatt plc.

• To enter the awards visit https://www.businessweekly.co.uk/business-awards/enter-awards or email Tony Quested –  tquested [at] businessweekly.co.uk

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