InvEnterPrize Yields Profitable Harvest for Budding Agri Business

Ben Jones

A new venture designed to help Colombian farmers improve crop productivity is the winner of the latest edition of Aberystwyth University’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ style student entrepreneurship competition InvEnterPrize.

Developed by an inter-disciplinary team led by PhD student Liliana Castillo from Colombia, Amigrow uses satellite technology and machine learning to assist farmers with decision making.

Along with the 2019 InvEnterPrize title, Amigrow receives £10,000 to invest in the development of the concept to bring it closer to market.

Speaking of the team’s success, Liliana said: “Winning InvEnterPrize is very important to us, there are no words to describe the feeling.”

“This idea started with my experience of agriculture in Colombia. With the support of InvEnterPrize, my team and I look forward to start testing the capabilities of Amigrow. We are going to develop the first prototype and create iterations of it so that we can really know what works and what doesn’t, and produce something meaningful for the farmers so they can take the right decisions at the right time and produce better profit margins.”

Liliana added: “Colombia is a very diverse country, we have very different environments for very different kinds of crops. Initially we are going to start with rice producers as it is very important for feeding people in Colombia and in the world.”

Amigrow was one of 15 entries for InvEnterPrize 2019, and six finalists to present their ideas to the judges on Friday 29 March 2019.

Chair of the judges, Donald Davies, Emeritus Professor in Toxicology at Imperial College London, said: “We are delighted to award InvEnterPrize 2019 to Amigrow and our warmest congratulations to Liliana and her team on their venture.”

“InvEnterPrize is an excellent competition which brings out the best in the students, and this year has proved to be the most difficult to judge with all six finalists delivering excellent presentations. It clearly inspires students here at Aberystwyth University to venture and develop ideas that go beyond what they might normally do. It is so important to sow the seed of an idea that students can develop into a business, and this competition, along with the support the teams receive throughout the year from the University’s Careers service, makes this all possible.”

InvEnterPrize organiser and Aberystwyth University entrepreneurship champion, Tony Orme, said: “The quality of the entries this year has been exceptional and the final proved to be a very close run indeed. We are immensely grateful to our panel of judges for their valuable time and expertise in this year’s search for a winner, and to the University’s alumni who make this competition possible via the Aber Fund. We now look forward to working with Liliana and colleagues on Amigrow, as the concept is developed.”

Amigrow also enjoyed further success at InvEnterPrize 2019 as it won a year’s office space at AberInnovation – the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus, a £40.5m development at the Aberystwyth University Gogerddan Campus.

Presented by Dr Rhian Hayward, Chief Executive Officer of AberInnovation, the award was given for the best presentation in the bioscience, agri-tech, and food and drinks sectors.

Now in its 6th year, InvEnterPrize was established to further encourage a culture of entrepreneurship among the University’s students.

The £10,000 prize provided by the University’s alumni via the Aber Fund enables the winner to invest in equipment, facilities or professional services to turn the invention or business start-up idea into reality.

Entrants also had the opportunity to seek expert advice and attend a series of workshops and presentations led by successful entrepreneurs as they developed their final bids, gaining valuable advice on the way.

Aberystwyth University offers a full programme of events to support entrepreneurial activity amongst students, alumni and staff. To find out more visit the AberPreneurs online pages.

The judges for InvEnterPrize 2019 are:
Donald Davies (Chair) - Emeritus Professor in Toxicology at Imperial College London and a Founding Director of ML Laboratories plc (pharmaceuticals), one of the first public biotechnology companies to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Jane Clayton - A qualified practising chartered accountant, Jane is also an experienced non-executive Director. She is currently Chairman of Bay Leisure Limited and Treasurer of St David's Medical Foundation.

Nigel Davies - After graduate and postgraduate studies in Aberystwyth, Nigel worked for 30 years in corporate technology and business. In 2003 he was the founding director of Innoval Technology, which is a UK technology-based consultancy with a global client base.

Huw Morgan - Former Head of Business Banking, HSBC Bank plc, Huw worked for HSBC for the majority of his working life. He was most recently responsible for Business Banking and Franchising for the UK

David Sargen - Managing Partner of Derivatives Risk Solutions LLP, a specialist risk consultancy providing expertise across a broad spectrum of disciplines within the financial industry, with a particular focus on the global derivatives market.

Kerry Diamond - Chair of the Welsh Industrial Development Advisory Board, which advises the Welsh Government on grant support to business, also a ‎Business Improvement Consultant, and Vice-Chair for Stoke and Staffs Local Enterprise Partnership. Formerly Chief Financial Officer, Zytec - automotive systems - high performance racing cars and road cars.

All six judges are graduates of Aberystwyth University.