What is Ceres Agri-Tech?
Ceres Agri-Tech, founded and based at Cambridge Enterprise, has an established track record for the translation of world leading science. It provides translational funding and commercialisation expertise to accelerate high-quality agri-tech research to market.
The University of Lincoln is home to the outstanding Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology (LIAT), which supports and enhances productivity, efficiency and sustainability in food and farming through research, education and technology. LIAT’s multi-disciplinary team brings together sector-leading expertise in a diverse range of areas such as: artificial intelligence, robotics, engineering, crop science, environmental sustainability, food manufacturing, product development and supply chains.
LIAT’s researchers are engaged in the development of technologies which solve challenges across the food chain, ‘from farm to fork’, collaborating with partners in industry, academia and their colleagues at the National Centre for Food Manufacturing in Holbeach, South Lincolnshire. Their work delivers the world-class research and higher-level skills the UK’s agri-food industries need today and in the future.
In November 2023, LIAT was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for its work supporting the success and sustainability of the UK’s food and farming industries through innovations in research, education and technology. The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is the highest National Honour in UK further and higher education, recognising outstanding work by UK colleges and universities showing excellence, innovation and benefit to the wider world.
The University of Cambridge (UoC) is ranked in the UK’s top two universities and in the top three worldwide by the Times Higher Education 2020 Rankings. It draws on a long tradition of research excellence, spanning over 11 departments from Plant Sciences to Engineering, with key strengths in big data, biotechnology, and computing.
UoC supports interdisciplinary agricultural research through strategic research initiatives, such as Global Food Security and the CamBridgeSens network for sensor research, and forges close links with the UK’s leading institutes for agri-tech R&D. These include NIAB (via the Crop Science Centre) and the John Innes Centre and Earlham Institute (via the OpenPlant Synthetic Biology Research Centre). It has also collaborated with partner universities across England to help set up AgriFoRwArdS, the world’s first doctoral training centre in agri-food robotics, established at the University of Lincoln in conjunction with the University of East Anglia.
UoC is supported by the extensive commercialisation expertise and industrial networks of Cambridge Enterprise, its technology transfer arm, to connect Ceres academic partners with commercial opportunities in the East of England and beyond.
The University of East Anglia (UEA) is ranked by The Times in 2020 as one of the top 200 universities in the world and top 25 in the UK, as well as 10th in the country for the quality of its research.
UEA’s agri-food expertise spans multiple schools within the University, including Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computing and Environmental Science, and is supported by the outstanding commercial know-how of Norwich Business School. This has helped to build the University’s track record of successful industry collaboration with large multi-national companies, start-ups, and SMEs.
UEA also has strong collaborative links with internationally renowned research institutes in the region. The John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory lead the world in plant and microbial sciences, while the Quadram Institute has complementary strengths in food science and technology.
Interdisciplinary research programmes across UEA underpin the University’s innovation in agri-food. The Internet of Food Things Network Plus project brings together data scientists, chemists, and economists, ultimately to help shape digitisation of the future UK food supply chain. The Food for Thought Network connects over 200 companies, providing expert advice to agri-food businesses in the East of England, while the AgriFoRwArdS Agri-Food Robotics centre for doctoral training brings together the resources of the University of Cambridge, UEA and the University of Lincoln to teach the next generation of experts in this field.
Image © UEA 2020. External view of the Enterprise Centre.
The Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (GLLEP) is a business led partnership made up of private and public sector leaders. Working with Government and stakeholders enables us to deliver the strategic projects and programmes that will drive local prosperity and economic growth.
GLLEP has identified four key sectors which present game-changing, high-potential opportunities for growth, investment and collaboration on a region-wide scale. These are: Humber Freeport, Green Energy, Defence, and UK Food Valley.
The UK Food Valley is a programme that promotes the Greater Lincolnshire agri-food sector as an internationally significant centre of excellence and concentration of food chain businesses.
Key priorities for the UK Food Valley are:
- Accelerating food chain automation and digital technology adoption to deliver productivity growth and high value jobs;
- Delivering low carbon food chains from farm to fork by focusing on low carbon technologies for production, processing and distribution;
- Developing the market potential of naturally good for you foods and new sources of protein, such as fish, vegetables, salads, fruit, pulses and lean meat, in which Greater Lincolnshire specialises.
Part of the UK Food Valley is the Agricultural Growth Zone, located North of Lincoln, centred on Riseholme. The cluster has seen over £50m of capital investment and secured innovation projects worth over £60m since 2016, including creating Europe’s largest centre for agri-robotics. It will support agriculture and agri-tech, and a skills pipeline to attract the next generation into the industry, from schools’ engagement through further and higher education and on to postgraduate education and continuing professional development for the agri-tech industry.
The overall aims of the Agricultural Growth Zone are to support:
- Regional leadership in agricultural innovation, skills, business support and technology adoption;
- Agricultural investment to deliver productivity gains, climate smart and sustainable farming as farmers respond to the Agricultural Transition (which runs to 2028).
West Lindsey is one of the largest districts in England and one of the most rural in Lincolnshire. One of seven districts in the county, West Lindsey covers 1,125km2 (or 447 square miles), with the administrative centre of Gainsborough on the River Trent to the west and the smaller towns of Caistor and Market Rasen to the east. West Lindsey is currently made up of 20 wards with a total of 97 parishes spread across the district.
As a predominantly rural district, it is vital that we seek to safeguard what is important to current and future residents of West Lindsey. Central to this is ensuring economic growth and regeneration, creating employment opportunities and meeting the need and demand for homes.
Encouraging investment, supporting our businesses, developing growth and employment opportunities and harnessing the potential of green recovery underpins our economic plan which, developed around our understanding of the challenges, with feedback from our businesses and informed by our opportunities is based around the following key themes:
- Green Recovery
- Business Environment
- Regeneration and Levelling Up
- Key Sector Development
- Infrastructure (Physical and Digital)
- Supporting People and Skills
Developing the Agricultural Growth Zone (‘Ag-Zone’), and the agri-tech sector more broadly, is a key component of our strategic approach to levelling-up the West Lindsey economy, creating higher value jobs and new economic opportunities (both directly and in the supply-chain) for the district.
There is a very tangible opportunity for us to foster the continued development of an emerging and strategically important local agri-tech cluster based around the ‘A15 growth corridor’ (Central Lincolnshire Food Enterprise Zone (Hemswell Cliff), RAF Scampton, the Lincolnshire Showground and the University of Lincoln – Riseholme Campus) under the banner of the UK Food Valley and the emerging Ag-Zone. Our combined commitment to sector-development could position West Lindsey as a UK (if not international) leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability. Additionally, and given land use in West Lindsey is predominantly focussed on primary agricultural production, our longer-term ambition is that much of the new technology developed by the cluster is both tested and adopted by local farmers – improving the efficiency of production and contributing towards ‘net zero’.
The Universities of Lincoln and Cambridge, working with Ceres Agri-Tech, have been awarded £4.9m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Place Based Impact Acceleration Account (PBIAA) to help fund their drive to make the Lincolnshire and north Cambridgeshire (Lincam) region a global innovation centre for agricultural technology (agri-tech).
The PBIAA is impact funding to foster greater collaboration and networking between researchers, businesses and civic bodies to enhance the capabilities of a cluster through engineering and physical sciences in order to drive the long-term prosperity of communities and regions
Visit this link to find out more: £41 million to enhance UK research and innovation clusters – UKRI
Cutting-edge agri-tech innovation
A snapshot of our project portfolio
Using 5G to unlock AI on UK farms
Non-GM crops for the 21st century
Driving down your car’s carbon footprint
Picking our way out of the labour crisis
Perfecting the growing environment
Knowing when it’s time to harvest
Addressing the harvesting crisis
Keeping an eye on potatoes
Knowing when it’s time to pick
Leading the race to save the banana
Using data to fight crop disease
Spotting every weed
Targeting every drop
“The support from Ceres has been transformational – shaping 12 years of R&D and helping us to develop a ground-breaking new sensor technology for potato stores”
Dr. Edmond Nurellari
“The Ceres team provides invaluable support and advice to turn agri-tech concepts and ideas into commercially valuable outputs”
Dr. Amir Ghalamzan Esfahani
“The Ceres Fund has helped UEA bridge the gap between research projects and commercial applications through the provision of both funding and access to industry insights and contacts.”
Dr. Jon Carter
“Funding and support from Ceres has enabled us to develop our chemistry from lab-scale to industrial scale; essential for the commercialisation of our technology.”
Professor Richard Stephenson
“The Ceres grant enabled me to realise a 15 year vision and bring the ‘Strawberry Powdery Mildew Prediction system’ from research through licencing to market.”
Dr Avice Hall MBE
“Ceres positions the UK’s world-leading innovators to establish the global agri-tech businesses of the future.”
Professor Andrew Hunter
“Ceres creates a one-stop shop for agri-technology innovators and has been transformative for our University.”
Professor Darragh Murnane
“This partnership will provide a useful platform to help some of the best and brightest innovations in the sector be accessible to those that need it most.”
Professor Julian Park
“The Ceres network offers opportunities for new collaborations and puts together the expertise needed to tackle key challenges that will underpin future food security.”
Professor Simon Pearson
“The grand challenges in agri-tech require a multi-disciplinary approach and the establishment of Ceres will facilitate this.”
Dr Belinda Clarke
“The time is ripe for catalysing early stage technology transfer in the globally critical agri-tech sector.”