Farm491 – incubating new farming tech

By: Luke Halsey, Agritech Entrepreneur in Residence, Farm491

Farm491 is as a newly formed space for agri-innovators to grow their businesses. The team will be at CropTec showcasing some of the companies that they have been working with and who are pushing the boundaries of technology for agriculture.

Farm491 is a start-up itself, founded at the Royal Agricultural University* and will be at CropTec for the second time this year to talk about the exciting businesses that we have been supporting within our incubator.

The high-spec facilities at Farm491 cost £4.2m and have been created to foster entrepreneurship, ideas generation, and collaboration, including 491 hectares of farmland for research and testing.

We plan to assist over 70 new agritech companies and help them create over 200 new jobs over the next 5 years. We run Inspiring AgriTech Innovation (IAI) Programme Bootcamps to hone the investor readiness of the start-ups and improve their chances of long-term success. These Bootcamps are completely free to attend.

Businesses that we have worked with include:

  • Lettus Grow design irrigation and control technology for urban vertical farms.
    It was formed when Charlie, Jack and Ben, all graduates from Bristol University, found out that 45% of salad products are wasted. Their mission is to reduce the waste and carbon footprint of fresh produce, by empowering anyone to grow delicious food near its point of consumption. As well as this they are developing aeroponic technology for the benefit of vertical farms. It is easy to use, with higher yields, and far greater control, and results in efficient moisture delivery, whilst minimising system complexity.
  • Multibox is a Farm491 member with a workshop at the Harnhill facility.
    They produce insects which are then processed into fish and animal feed, as well as several grades of fertiliser. The insects are fed on undesirable food residues that would otherwise end up in energy production or landfill.
  • Ewetrack was a small business that was involved in one of the IAI Bootcamps.
    Formed by three RAU graduates, the team helps to solve the problem of sheep worrying – Ewetrack technology alerts farmers when their sheep are out of field boundaries, when their sheep are being upset, for example, when chased by dogs and can provide behavioural data, such as eating and drinking. The system also includes lambing alert and rustling alert, so farmers can trace stolen sheep. Ewetrack have since been awarded the Jaguar Land Rover Bursary from the Princes Countryside Fund and have recently began trials with the Royal Veterinary College.

* Funded by the Rural Agricultural University, the GFirst LEP Gloucestershire Growth Deal 2015 to 2021 and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2017 to 2020.

Writer biography

 Luke Halsey has a range of experiences working with environmental and social impact orientated start-ups, helping them develop their business models and raise investment.  He has worked in California on Mission Investing portfolios that fill market gaps by seeking out and investing in innovative solutions to problems in the field of climate change and human rights and at Farm491 he works directly with companies providing business support.


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