THE winning companies of Menai Science Park (M-SParc)’s £135,000 Welsh-Government-sponsored ‘Agri-Hack’ are proving to have a significant impact on the North Wales economy.
A number of well-paid, skilled jobs have been created for people in the region, while exciting international collaborations have been developed between Irish and Welsh companies, and there is potential for much more investment to come to the region in the future.
The Agri-Hack saw 12 teams from across the UK and Ireland pitching artificial intelligence solutions to agricultural challenges, with the winners sharing £135,000 of Welsh Government funding to commercialise their Agritech products and ideas in Wales.
This week, the winning teams – Wales-based dewin.tech and EvoMetric, and Ireland’s Micron Agritech – met together at M-SParc for the first time since receiving funding to develop their ideas, and have already created new, well-paid careers in Wales to help progress their projects.
Micron Agritech also opened their first Welsh laboratory at M-SParc, where two new Welsh employees will be based.
The companies are developing products from sensors which monitor when a cow is calving, to AI-powered parasite detection for livestock, and are even challenging legislation with a nitrate sensor for detecting safe slurry spreading opportunities on farms.
In 2020, the UK invested £24 million in Agritech projects, cementing its status as a growth sector, with investments expected to reach billions by 2025.
M-SParc wants to make sure Wales doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of that.
M-Sparc managing director Pryderi ap Rhisiart spoke of his excitement for the future of the Agri-Hack winners, saying: “It is fantastic to see the positive impact of the Agri-Hack, as all of the winners have already pushed forward to develop their exciting innovations and are now in a position where they’ve all created exciting careers for local people in the region as well; three new careers have already been created directly from the Hack.
“We’re proud to be able to play our part in bringing these innovators together for the benefit of Welsh innovation and finding ways to support them to bring their solutions to life.”
Welsh Government minister for economy, Vaughan Gething, added: “I’m pleased to see the positive outcomes realised as a result of our funding of the Agri-Hack challenge.
“The projects supported through this challenge are a great demonstration of the potential digital and tech developments can have in creating valuable job opportunities, which will help drive sustainable economic growth in our rural and farming communities in Wales.”
The Consulate General of Ireland said: “Great to see Irish start-up Micron Agritech arriving at M-SParc, and we wish them the best of success in their collaborations.”
Sean Smith, founder and commercial director at Micron Agritech, said: “We’ve had a very positive first week here in M-SParc with the on-boarding of our two new Welsh employees, setting up our testing lab, and meeting with lots of local vets and farmers.
“The M-Sparc building is incredible, both architecturally and the fact that it is surrounded by beautiful views of the Welsh mountains; an incredible, vibrant working environment!”
One of Micron Agritech’s new Welsh employees, Ryan Williams, spoke about his first week in M-SParc with the company.
He said: “I’ve recently joined the exciting Micron Agritech team here, based at the fantastic M-Sparc in Gaerwen.
“I’ve only been with Micron a week now, and I’ve already learned so much about the agricultural sector, and it’s exciting to see how this company & the technology behind it is growing every day!”
dewin.tech’s Geraint Hughes added: “Support from the Agri-Hack has been a springboard for dewin.tech to become a reality.
“Our aim is to work closely with talented technical specialists in Wales to bring commercial solutions to the Agritech market.
“It has reinforced in my mind that Wales can lead the Agritech sector.
“Collaborating with people and organisations is very important for us, and hence why we have established Steering Groups for both ‘Dewin Water’ and ‘Dewin Moo’, where we have collaborated closely with Dr Rob Shepherd and EvoMetric.
“We were particularly pleased to secure the ‘Wales Start-up Award in Mobile and Emerging Technology’ in September, and that wouldn’t have happened without the Agri-Hack.”
M-SParc by Bangor University has also launched an AgriTech cluster, promoting collaboration and innovation in this high-growth sector with economic benefits for the region.
The cluster already has a range of partners from industry and academia, and any companies or partners wanting to join the cluster are invited to head to www.agritech.cymru to sign up.