Winners of the new Innovation Competition at CAFRE show a bright future for agriculture in NI
Last Friday, eight young innovators from CAFRE shared a prize fund of £7500 after pitching their ideas to a panel of judges including Invest NI and Techstart.
The first prize went to Seedability, a project from three horticultural students; Jill McNeill, Sandy Carney and Paul Williamson, who walked away with £4000 to kick-start their business. They had come up with a product to allow people to easily transform their gardens into low maintenance native wildflower patches.
The competition was set up by the Growing Innovation Network (GrowIN), a group of farmers from across Northern Ireland working to drive innovation in the agrifood sector. Students were invited to apply from across all the CAFRE campuses. Ideas emerged from equestrian, food, horticulture and agriculture covering local food purchasing, smart livestock feeding and antibiotic use tracking.
The shortlisted finalists then worked with the GrowIN team to develop their ideas. Helen Keys provided mentoring, ‘We had a wide range of ideas and we worked on business models, costings, routes to market and funding plans. We focussed on the things you need to take something from the idea stage to reality. The use of new technology featured in quite a few of the ideas so we brought in technical expertise to work out feasible solutions. There are so many useful technologies that can be adapted into farm environments and as costs come down these are more of a reality. These students are using technology for all kinds of things in their everyday lives so they are well placed to spot opportunities to use this to solve problems on the farm.’
‘The competition is a way to unearth and support new ideas, every one of the finalists has a great idea. Now they are in a position to present those ideas to potential funders and have solid plans for taking them forward. This is just a starting point.’
The competition had a prize fund of £7,500, supported by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and Germinal. Other funding awards were made to Mary-Kate McClory and her tracking system to save farmers time locating animals around the farm and to Luke Fairley, Rebecca Heron and Victoria Turtle who were all involved in clever solutions for monitoring concentrate feed intake and daily liveweight gain.