Agriculture is a very traditional sector and so has been slow to take advantage of technology. However, tech in agriculture, or AgTech, has begun to grow rapidly in the UK. Investment in AgTech start-ups in the UK, for example, reached £1.3 billion in 2021, a substantial uplift from previous years. Growth has been driven by a variety of issues, both old and new:
- labour shortages;
- pressure on cashflow created by rising prices for fuel and fertilizer, along with the loss of EU subsidies;
- war in Ukraine;
- environmental and biodiversity pressures;
- climate change; and
- increased government support, such as the creation of Agri-Tech innovation centres and funding for projects aimed at boosting sustainability.
Solutions have proliferated rapidly. Examples include:
- Sensors to monitor soil and plant or animal growth and health;
- Pest management solutions;
- Autonomous tractors and other farm vehicles;
- Crop-harvesting and weed-killing robots;
- Greater use of satellite imagery AI to model growth and improve efficiency;
- Vertical farming;
- Alternative proteins, such as insects;
- Lab-grown meat;
- Farm management software; and
- New bioproducts to cut greenhouse gases.
WiTT’s January 2023 event featured a panel of experts who examined some of the new technologies and solutions being developed to improve global food supply; support sustainability, and help farmers improve efficiency and increase margins.
Our panel was chaired by Annette Nabavi, WiTT board director and Non-Executive Director at Eleco. She was joined by:
- Penelope Bossom, Managing Partner, Overbury Enterprises;
- Addy Windsor-Clive, Investment Manager, Regenerate Ventures; and
- Marion Regan, Managing Director, Hugh Lowe Farms.
WiTT would like to thank Moore Kingston Smith for hosting.
You can watch a video of the event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92ALHqRFLes
Annette has a broad range of public and private board experience and currently holds a number of Directorships. has held several Non-Executive Director roles, including a seven-year tenure at AIM-listed Maintel Holdings Plc, a cloud and managed services company, where she also chaired the Remuneration Committee. She has substantial experience in this area through her involvement with the Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA), where she supported the update to the Remuneration Committee Guide. In 2018, she was shortlisted for The Sunday Times’ Non-Executive Director Awards as AIM Director of the Year.
Her other Non-Executive Roles include RemCom Chair and Senior Independent Director at Gemserv Ltd, a professional services company providing policy advisory and digital transformation services to the energy and health care sectors and EFI Limited, a high growth fintech company. She is on the Advisory Board of the National Media Museum, part of the Science Museum Group, and a Director of Women in Telecoms and Technology (WiTT) Ltd.
Annette is a Partner with AHV Associates, a firm of corporate finance advisors specializing in Mergers and Acquisitions, Capital Raising, Structured Finance and Derivatives Advisory work for privately owned businesses. She specializes in corporate finance projects for small and medium privately owned enterprises in the IT, technology, telecoms and media sectors.
Annette previously held the position of Head of Telecoms Global Business Development for Corporate Finance at ING Barings where she gained significant experience in M&A, private equity, structured debt and public equity transactions.
She later became the founding director and CEO of XchangePoint Holdings Ltd, a Venture Capital backed Internet Interconnect company providing broadband metro peering services to ISPs and carriers. Annette was responsible for tripling revenues every year for 3 years, and grew the customer base to over 100 customers while expanding the company into Germany. She successfully achieved two rounds of VC financing.
Her early years were spent with the PA Consulting Group where she specialized in strategic partnerships, business planning and marketing strategy. She became a Senior Partner with PA before moving to Barings.
Annette holds an MA from Oxford University and a Doctorate from the University of Dijon.
Addy started her career in corporate finance before moving in to ventures at Imprimatur capital, where they commercialised IP from a global university network.
Addy then moved in to the food industry where she setup her own business in the ‘Grab & Go’ restaurant space.
In recent years Addy has been working with and for a range of AgTech companies in sales through to fundraising.
Addy has developed specialized skills having worked in agri-tech, VC and regenerative agriculture businesses.
Hugh Lowe Farms
Having studied Botany and Horticulture at Oxford, Maryland and Wye College, I was an active field biologist before joining our UK family farming business, Hugh Lowe Farms Ltd. I became Managing Director of HLF in 1996 and later, its associated plant propagation company Blaise Plants Ltd. I am also on the boards of an Australian fruit growing business, Burlington Berries Pty Ltd, and of the agricultural robotics start up, Dogtooth Technologies Ltd.
I am a former Chairman of Berry Gardens Growers, the largest UK berry marketing co-operative.
I am currently a Director of the Oxford Farming Conference, and have served in various industry roles with a particular interest in the environment, research and development. I am a former Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and of the East Malling Trust for Horticultural Research. I was awarded an MBE for services to the fruit industry in 2014, and am a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.
Penelope is the Managing Partner of Overbury Enterprises, which has a 1,590 Ha in-hand farming operation on the Worcestershire Gloucestershire border. In 2012 she encouraged Overbury’s farm manager Jake Freestone to do a Nuffield Scholarship to increase the arable efficiency. This led to becoming an early UK adopter of what is now known as Regenerative Agriculture.
Penelope believes technology has had, and continues to play, a big part in the evolution of the farm and other enterprises. She has campaigned for rural connectivity, getting local ADSL in 2003 and Overbury’s own full fibre connectivity in 2013.
Overbury Enterprises is an Agri-EPI Satellite farm for trialing new ideas and innovations. It is a member of Agritech E for being connected to a wide range of other tech and farming businesses.
Overbury was the recipient of the 2009 RASE Bledisloe Gold Medal for Landowners and Penelope is a member of Council of the Three Counties Agricultural Society.