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UK agtech competition awards first prize to gluten-free alternative project

A UK-based agtech business plan competition, GROW, has awarded first place to Agritopics, a project positioning white pea flour as a high-value ingredient for gluten-free products. Judges included the Grosvenor family office's early stage arm Wheatsheaf Group and angel investment company Martlet.

A UK-based agtech business plan competition, GROW, has awarded first place to Agritopics, a project positioning white pea flour as a high-value ingredient for gluten-free products. GROW was organised by Agri-Tech East, the UK’s first agtech cluster organisation, and is aimed at promoting entrepreneurial thinking into the industry.

The business idea, put forward by Patrict Mitton, focuses on developing a trusted and audited supply of white pea flour to be used as a nutritious alternative to existing wheat substitutes. The project also focuses on giving farmers incentives to grow the legume as part of a rotation with other crops; legumes help improve soil fertility and structure.

The judges were a mix of industry and technology experts: Simon Bowen, head of agriculture at AB Sugar, a global sugar producer; Peter Cowley, investment director of Martlet, the angel investing arm of private UK motor group Marshall of Cambridge; Keith Norman, technical director of Velcourt, the European farm management company; and William Kendall, organic farmer, entrepreneur and director of Wheatsheaf Group, the early-stage investment arm of the Grosvenor family office.

While the panel liked that Agritopics looked to provide sufferers of coeliac disease with an alternative, Kendall told Agri Investor that the project should have highlighted and researched the end consumer further.

“These companies are very early stage and it is useful to remember what makes a good plan. There needs to be a clearly identified market need, a product, technology or service that is credible and defendable, a clear route to market, a great team and of course a sound model for making money,” he said.

Mitton was awarded £1,000 from ADHB Cereals & Oilseeds, part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, which invests for the benefit of the UK cereals and oilseeds sector. He will also receive legal advice from Barr Ellison, a place on University of Cambridge Judge Business School Ignite Programme and six months’ access to the Green Inc incubator at the Future Business Centre.

The runners up – DDL Diesel Dynamics, a project aimed at adopting biofuels for agri equipment and fleets, and B&C Farming, an agri data company – were awarded £500 each.

Graham Ramsbottom, chief executive of Wheatsheaf, a multi-billion pound fund that actively invests in companies with disruptive technologies to help drive food production efficiency, said: “There is a striking economic case to do more with less, and this creates an exciting business opportunity for well positioned companies. We need to innovate by looking for solutions in new places.”