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16 June, 2015 - 14:46 By Tony Quested

Cambridge agritech wins R & D funding

Andy Thurman of Omnisense

Innovation from two Cambridge companies has earned combined R & D funding of more than £80k from The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative.

The cash goes to Omnisense for new technology to more accurately monitor dairy cows to increase farmers’ milk yields, and to NIAB, which is developing a specific test for food adulteration.

Fund overseers, the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP), believes the new technologies will significantly benefit the burgeoning agritech sector. The investments take the scheme’s total funding to £2.3 million.

Omnisense is a software company that provides positioning technology that can be used by farmers to monitor livestock and promote wellbeing in dairy herds. It will use the funding to develop new technology to more accurately monitor dairy cows in order to increase farmers’ milk yields.

NIAB is a major international centre for plant research, crop evaluation and agronomy, with its headquarters in Cambridge. Its DAVIDS project (Deconvoluting Allelic Variance in DNA Samples) will develop a specific test for food adulteration, beginning with potato flakes. 

Accidental or deliberate use of adulterants is a major problem for the food industry and fraud is estimated to cost £11 billion per year. This test will identify when ingredients or DNA found in foods have become adulterated due to a lack of quality control.

Mark Reeve, chairman of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership said: “The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative is making a real difference to local businesses, in particular those at the cutting edge of research and development.

“Both Omnisense and NIAB came forward with proposals that we believe will have a positive impact on the agritech sector as a whole, and we are pleased to provide them with funding to move their research and development work forward.

“Since the scheme first opened in April 2014, almost £2.3 million has been awarded to 26 companies across the East of England. Grants are still available, and I would encourage all businesses within the agricultural supply chain to apply and see their business grow.”

Andy Thurman, CEO of Omnisense (pictured above left), added: “We are very grateful for the support of the Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative Funding Committee through the application process and for the confidence they have shown in Omnisense.

“The grant award will be used to develop a simple set-up process for our sophisticated indoor positioning system by non-expert installers, greatly increasing the dairy market accessibility of our products.

“The Omnisense system is used on farms to promote wellbeing, reduce costs, improve efficiency and increase farmer’s milk yields.”

Dr David Lee, head of innovation and products at NIAB, added: “We are excited by this award, which recognises the uniqueness of the project and its potential to develop cost effective tests to combat fraud in the food industry and reassure consumers that they are getting what they read on the label.”

The Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative still has grants available to organisations looking to invest in specialist equipment, new market and supply chain development, ways to improve productivity and efficiency, and the application and commercialisation of Research and Development.

To find out how the initiative could help to grow your business, visit or call the LEP on 01480 277180.

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