Exciting new phase for Ceres Agri-Tech

Our journey

Ceres Agri-Tech, founded and based at Cambridge Enterprise. Since 2018 it has worked closely with its partners: the Universities of Cambridge, Lincoln, UEA, Hertfordshire and Reading and agricultural research institutes: NIAB, Rothamsted Research and John Innes Centre; supported by a £4.8m grant from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund. Ceres Agri-Tech has established an excellent track record for the translation of world leading science. It has developed an extensive pipeline of high quality, high tech agri-tech assets with global potential, launched four agri-tech spin-out companies to date and created a wealth of patent and licensing opportunities.

 

Lincam Ceres Agri-Tech

Collaborating with the Universities of Lincoln and Cambridge, Department of Engineering, and civic partners to deliver agri-tech impact in the Greater Lincolnshire and North Cambridgeshire (Lincam) region. It is funded by a £4.9m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Place Based Impact Acceleration Account.

The LINCAM region is already a major UK production centre for crop-based agriculture and the associated supply chain. Its significance and sheer scale has led to the establishment of a nationally renowned agri-tech cluster – centred on the Universities of Lincoln and Cambridge, where interdisciplinary agri-food innovation is focused on digital technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence, to boost productivity.

This funding will drive the LINCAM region to become an agri-tech gateway for the world – enabling the development of technologies at industrial scale and providing export opportunities for agri-tech companies and inward investment opportunities within both the agri-tech and primary production sectors.

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.

https://www.cam.ac.uk

Part of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Enterprise supports academics, researchers, staff and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact. It does this by helping innovators, experts and entrepreneurs use commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise for the benefit of society, the economy, themselves and the university. Liaising with organisations both locally and globally, Cambridge Enterprise offers expert advice and support in commercialisation and social enterprise, including help with academic consultancy services, the protection, development and licensing of ideas, new company and social enterprise creation, and seed funding.

 

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

Agri-Tech Global

Collaborating with Universities of Lincoln, Cambridge and East Anglia to develop a truly global Agri-Tech cluster in the Greater Lincolnshire and East Anglia region with £1.49m from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund (CCF) RED fund.

Agri-Tech Global designed to translate agri-tech research from the Universities Lincoln, Cambridge and UEA and build international academic and commercial links to support the onward development and commercialisation of their agri-tech innovations.

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.

https://www.cam.ac.uk

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.

http://uea.ac.uk

Image © UEA 2020. External view of the Enterprise Centre.

Part of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge Enterprise supports academics, researchers, staff and students in achieving knowledge transfer and research impact. It does this by helping innovators, experts and entrepreneurs use commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise for the benefit of society, the economy, themselves and the university. Liaising with organisations both locally and globally, Cambridge Enterprise offers expert advice and support in commercialisation and social enterprise, including help with academic consultancy services, the protection, development and licensing of ideas, new company and social enterprise creation, and seed funding.

 

Agri-tech Global is funded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund RED (CCF-RED) programme, which aims to deliver a step change in identification and adoption of university commercialisation best practice, and hence in success, across 2 the university sector.

Visit this link to find out more

New funding will prepare the runway for commercialisation success – UKRI

Our People

The Ceres Team works closely with researchers and Portfolio Co-ordinators across all our partner universities to develop projects for pitching to the Investment Committee. When projects win Ceres funding, the Ceres Team continues to support and manage them, and reports on their progress to the Investment Committee. The Ceres Team also convenes the Management Committee and Investment Committee, liaising with both to develop the Ceres project as a whole.

Louise Sutherland

Director

Louise Sutherland

Director

Louise Sutherland

Louise is the Director of Ceres Agri-tech based at Cambridge Enterprise, the commercialisation arm of the University of Cambridge.  Louise has worked extensively across UK food supply chains with growers, suppliers and retailers helping businesses to address challenges and develop innovative solutions.

Her experience includes senior roles in food retailing, the former Chair of Red Tractor Fresh Produce Scheme, the current Chair of translational research groups, British Berry Growers R&D Board, the Raspberry Breeding Consortium at James Hutton, and a director of Horticulture Crop Protection UK Ltd. Louise has a research background and a PhD in Plant Pathology.

Contact: info@ceresagritech.org

Catherine Eyre

Catherine Eyre

Catherine is a Commercialisation Manager for Ceres Agri-Tech. Catherine previously worked for ADAS as Associate Director in the Horticulture team. There she designed and managed applied research projects. This included collaborations with growers and retailers funded through Innovate UK, Defra, AHDB and industry clients. Prior to that she worked as a molecular plant pathologist as part of the Global R&D breeding team for Driscoll’s Genetics Ltd. focussing on soft fruit breeding for Europe, Middle East and Africa based in Kent.

Catherine has a PhD in Molecular Ecology from Cardiff University followed by postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact: info@ceresagritech.org

Emma Garfield

Emma Garfield

Emma is a Commercialisation Manager for Ceres Agri-Tech.  Previously, as Head of Research at G’s Growers, Emma pioneered applied research and led successful high impact farm-focused projects. Emma Chaired the BLSA R&D committee, was on Waitrose Agronomy Group and led the Collaborative Training Partnership for Sustainable Agricultural Innovation. Emma is a Nuffield Scholar, BASIS and FACTS qualified and holds an MSc in Horticulture (Reading University).

Emma runs an independent consultancy business, is on the VEGIN advisory board, CPCA Business Board, BBSRC Special Advisory Group for Sustainable Agriculture and Food.

Contact: info@ceresagritech.org

Polly White

Polly White

Polly is a Research Project Manager at the University of Lincoln. Prior to joining the team over the past 5 years, she has held roles in within College Finance and support of the BASIS short course delivery at the University. Polly has over 15 years experience in purchasing and supply chain management across a range of industries including IT, Aerospace, Pharmaceuticals.

Polly holds a BSc Molecular and Cellular Biology from University of Bath and Professional Diploma in Procurement and Supply (CIPS.org).

Jonathan Bates

Jonathan Bates

Jonathan is an Innovation Development Officer at the University of East Anglia. He brings over 15 years of experience in industry, previously holding product management roles at BT. Jonathan’s expertise lies in identifying and fostering innovative solutions, with a proven track record of investment management and monitoring commercial success.

He holds a BSc in Software Engineering from the University of East Anglia, bringing a strong technical foundation to his innovation-focused work.

The Investment Committee is responsible for all project funding decisions. The Investment Committee determines whether or not to award initial funds when projects are pitched, and assess milestone achievement during the lifetime of funded projects.

Louise Motala

Louise Motala

Louise is CEO of Bridge Farm Bioscience.  She joined Bridge Farm Group in 2017 to support the growth of the business, including the £45m development of the Clay Lake glasshouse facility. She became Group Managing Director in 2019 and alongside developing the Horticulture business, she led the creation of Bridge Farm Bioscience.

Following five years of R&D, she recently oversaw the development of a £10m project, building a unique GMP compliant facility and has developed partnerships with global personal care and pharmaceutical businesses to commercialise Bridge Farm Bioscience’s activities.  Alongside scaling a business from R&D phase to commercialisation, she has direct experience of private equity ownership, being part a NASDAQ listed business and equity fundraising.

Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke

Gemma Clarke is a passionate advocate of organic and regenerative British food and farming. She champions crop varieties and agricultural practices that are nature friendly, which means they need little or no inputs, helping to build biodiversity, and improving our valuable soils.

As Managing Director of Cope Seeds and Grain, the largest organic seed producer and supplier in the UK, Gemma is dedicated to ensuring farmers are getting the best varieties and support for a new era in agriculture.

Danny O’Brien

Danny O’Brien

Danny serves as the Managing Director of EMEA and Global Programs at SVG Ventures | THRIVE, a prominent investor in the agri-food tech sector. In this role, he oversees the firm’s European portfolio and leads THRIVE’s accelerator programs in Silicon Valley, Calgary, and Melbourne, which are pivotal in generating substantial deal flow and fostering innovation.

Prior to his current role, Danny expanded his expertise in corporate innovation with firms in London and New York before becoming an entrepreneur, founding two startups, including a venture capital platform catalyzing investment in emerging startups which initially led him to AgTech in 2018.

Jim Godfrey OBE – Independent Chair

O.B.E. (Chair)

Jim Godfrey OBE – Independent Chair

O.B.E. (Chair)

Jim is a highly experienced Chair, providing an invaluable link between public and private sectors. Public experience includes chairing several national and international agricultural research centres. Private sector experience includes a lifetime of practical farming as a director of RJ and AE Godfrey, a family farming business in Lincolnshire.

His wealth of agri-tech experience includes membership of Technology Strategy Board’s Innovate UK Sustainable Agriculture, Food Innovation Platform, Agri-Food Technology Council, BBSRC Council, Commercial Farmers Group, a director of the Lincolnshire Rural Support Network (LRSN), and the Lincoln University Industry Agri-Food Technology Group. Jim was awarded the OBE for services to Scottish agricultural research in 2002 and is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors.

Mark Suthern

Mark Suthern

Mark has more than 35 years of commercial banking experience at Barclays plc. As Managing Director & National Head of Agriculture his focus was on evaluating and funding farming businesses and Landed Estates investments in agri-tech, sustainable energy and environmental approaches.

Through his current portfolio of roles, he brings a wealth of insight into Government Departments and Agencies, civic partners and farming organisations. His roles include: a member of DEFRA Farming Innovation Programme Strategy Group; Non-Executive member of the Rural Payments Agency Advisory Management Board; Non-Executive Director at the Environment Agency; Chair of Farming Community Network (FCN).

Sarah Blanford

Sarah Blanford

Sarah is Head of Technical for Produce and Horticulture at Sainsbury’s Supermarkets. She brings significant customer, food retailing and supply chain experience from her 15 years’ experience across different Sainsbury’s food categories and from her previous technical roles in the food supply base.

Previously as Head of the Crop and Agriculture Data at Sainsbury’s she oversaw the development of partnerships with centres of excellence to deliver innovation to benefit the Sainsbury’s supply chain; constantly evaluating investment decisions to deliver the projects with the highest rate of return for Sainsbury’s customers. Sarah brings her unique experience and insight of UK and global agri-food supply chains to bear when evaluating potential agri-tech innovations.

Richard Williamson

Richard Williamson

Richard has more than thirty years’ experience in large scale agriculture operating at the cutting edge of applied technology. He was previously Managing Director of Beeswax Dyson Farming, the UK’s largest farming business with an asset base of £600m, where he oversaw the development and application of agricultural technology to drive sustainability; making Dyson Farming carbon neutral.

Richard currently holds several roles in agriculture and agri-tech companies. He has experience of commercialising university research in his role as CEO of Fruitcast Limited an AI/Crop Forecasting company; a Ceres spin-out from the University of Lincoln. He has successfully raised both grant and private investment to bring this Ceres funded agri-tech innovation to fruit growers.

Vivek Dogra

Vivek Dogra

A corporate venture builder with varied leadership experiences in the venture capital and the consumer goods industry, Vivek is the Co-founder and General Partner of an innovative climate-tech VC fund – the Defossilisation Development Fund. He is based in Switzerland and in his most recent corporate role, he was the Head of Incubation & Venturing at Nestle’s global headquarters.

Previously, he set up and led Nestle’s pioneering Open Innovation Hubs in London & Singapore. While based in Singapore, he held general management roles, with Asian markets P&L responsibility, with Diageo, Red Bull and Heineken.

David Lawrence

David Lawrence

David brings a wealth of investment experience across the agri-tech sector from large corporates to start-ups. His corporate experience includes as a Non-Executive Director at Syngenta and Syngenta’s Head of Research & Development; where he was a member of the investment panel for the joint venture fund established with Life Science Partners. David was instrumental in the creation of Syngenta Ventures.

David consults for and advises number of early-stage start-up companies. In the recent past, he was Chair of the Knowledge Transfer network (KTN), member of UKI2S Advisory Committee, Agri-tech Leadership and Industrial Biotechnology Leadership Teams and a Director of Rothamsted Research.

Iain Thomas

Iain Thomas

Iain is Head of Technology Development and Licensing (TDL) at Cambridge Enterprise and manages a team of 35+.  The TDL team, work with researchers to commercialise their work from all areas of Cambridge’s research base.  The team have spun-out Nybolt, Xampla, Impossible Materials, Mission Therapeutics, XO1 Therapeutics (sold to Janssen), Phoremost, Predictimmune, DIOSynVax, Storm Therapeutics, Gyroscope Therapeutics (sold to Novartis), NoBACZ, Zomp, Morphogenix, Apcintex and Z‑Factor.

Iain founded Apollo Therapeutics which raised £40m (2016), $145m (2021), $250m (2023) with colleagues from Imperial College and UCL.  He developed Ceres-Agritech based on Apollo Therapeutics to do the same in agritech.