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Dorset farmer develops agri-tech app to tackle labour shortages

Written by Leigh Jenkins on 29 July 2020

EEN helps to gain COVID-19 funding for app-based digital recruitment tool after supporting Global Business Innovation visit to Australia.

Two female pickers working in a field of strawberries, placing fruit into blue trays stacked among the plants. Two more workers in the background.

© Cropdesk.

An agri-tech service allowing fruit farmers to track their labour and production on an app has secured a COVID-19 grant from Innovate UK of £50,000, with assistance from Enterprise Europe Network.

 

Dorset blueberry farmer David Trehane is also hoping to attract a further £500,000 from external investors for his innovation, guided by ongoing support from his EEN adviser.

 

As CEO and founder of Cropdesk Technologies, David qualified for Innovate UK’s Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP) and had just returned from a GBIP agri-tech visit to Australia in February when the coronavirus crisis erupted.

 

With support from EEN adviser Jayne Codling, Cropdesk applied for funding through the COVID-19 Rapid Response to develop a digital recruitment tool, Cropdesk Recruit.

 

It matches unemployed people in the UK with farms experiencing labour shortages in the wake of the pandemic. Development of an app is well under way, working in collaboration with Agri-HR, an established recruiter in the sector.

 

Potential agri-tech partnerships in Australia

 

Two developers are newly in post and the project is due to be completed in November 2020.

 

Meanwhile, working with the wider Innovation Team, Cropdesk has submitted an application in response to a Knowledge Transfer Network Agri-Tech Investment Showcase.

 

Having secured a place on this programme, Cropdesk is seeking a £500,000 investment to build products faster and to fund marketing activity in 2021.

 

Cropdesk’s busy start to 2020 looks set to continue as discussions with potential partners in Australia progress and further export opportunities begin to open up.

 

Jayne Codling, Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing Sector Lead, said: “EEN support came at a crucial time. Cropdesk had completed the Innovate2Succeed programme and just returned from an agri-tech visit to Australia as the coronavirus pandemic hit.

 

New funding opportunities

 

“Through our support the company was able to capitalise on new funding opportunities as a result of the pandemic as well as planning a number of business development initiatives for the medium-long term.”

 

Cropdesk operates on a software-as-a-service (Saas) business model where data is uploaded to the cloud for immediate use by managers and is available to payroll and HR.

 

The core product, Cropdesk Production, links automatically to pack-house systems for traceability. Data is presented in easily understood tables and graphs showing yield mapping, climate data, efficiency and performance.

 

Machine learning, algorithms and integration, with climate modelling and sensors, all help to inform decision-making.

 

A second bolt-on product, Cropdesk Predict, has been awarded an Innovate UK Smart grant over the next three years.

 

The market among Cropdesk’s prospective customers in the global fruit and veg sector is estimated to be worth $246 billion and is expected to grow to $400 billion by 2030.

 

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