Spotlight on Mid Wales’ Burgeoning Bioscience Start-up Scene
AberInnovation’s BioAccelerate has been incubating some of the most promising bioscience companies in Wales for three years now. Previous successes have included sugar industry disrupters ARCITEKBio and high-end mead producers Shire Meadery, both now resident at the AberInnovation Incubator building on the outskirts of Aberystwyth.
With the second phase of this year’s BioAccelerate now underway, let’s take a look at some of the brightest ideas coming out of the new hub for collaborative R&D and innovation in west Wales.
At the cutting edge of several emerging technologies, Amigrow aims to leverage artificial intelligence (AI), satellite imagery, Internet of Things (IoT) and crowdsourced data to transform the way food is grown worldwide.
Through effectively harnessing these technologies, together with the knowledge and agricultural practices of farmers around the world, Amigrow will provide a platform to its users allowing them to make effective, data-driven decisions which will greatly increase their farm’s efficiency, yields, resilience, and more.
Amigrow is currently piloting its platform in Colombia, birthplace of its founder, Liliana Castillo Villamor. If successful, the technology could provide benefits to many farmers and agronomists.
As Liliana says: “The growing world population is projected to demand an increase of more than 50% in food production by 2050 in comparison with 2010. Amigrow provides a solution to improve the efficiency and use of our farming capacities in a sustainable way.
“Being part of BioAccelerate at AberInnovation has offered unique opportunity for networking with organisations from the business and research sector. It’s not just access to physical facilities, you become a member of a network through which you can access workshops, events, funding opportunities, and more.”
With a growing global population, food security is becoming an increasingly pressing challenge for society. At the moment, there exist significant inefficiencies in agriculture and crop production because farmers do not have access to the right information at the right time to enable them to make the best decisions for their croplands. If Amigrow’s platform can equip farmers with what they need, their mission to revolutionise sustainable food production could become a reality.
Attesting to the range of business models within the cohort, Biosample Hub is a social enterprise hoping to disrupt the biosample industry by developing a transparent, independent platform that allows for the procuring and exchanging of human tissue samples for research purposes. Successfully connecting academic biobanks with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies will greatly aid the development of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, with potentially huge benefits to society as a result.
Biosample Hub’s founder, Dr Robert Hewitt, has found the BioAccelerate programme very useful in developing his enterprise: “With its combination of workshops, one-to-one expert mentoring, and practice pitches, I’ve benefited from the programme in ways I would never have predicted. The feedback I have received on the course has been enormously important for me and has truly accelerated the development of my business.”
Founded in 2016 as the first UK startup in the cultured protein space, Cellular Agriculture’s bioprocess technology has the potential to revolutionise the alternative protein industry with applications for culturing meat, fish, shellfish and milk.
This is an industry that’s moving rapidly with the first cultured meat product securing regulation in Singapore in December 2020. As consumers seek alternatives to traditional animal protein in their diets and become increasingly discerning about livestock production’s effect on the climate, the market is due to see incredible traction in the next few years. Price parity with traditional meat has so far proved elusive and Cellular Agriculture is well positioned to change this with their technology and expertise that enables companies to reach industrial scale.
Boasting technology with a footprint reduction 300x smaller and 70% cheaper than incumbent systems, it’s clear that Cellular Agriculture has vast potential. CEO and co-founder Illtud Dunsford, said: “Cultured protein and its significant environmental benefits offers consumers a nutritious alternative to meat that is indistinguishable from the traditional. Our role is in support of an industry to move from proof of concept to industrial scale. We do this through our next generation bioprocess technology, and by working with partners from across the Agri-Food value chain.”
After a comprehensive two-phase programme, BioAccelerate’s remaining six finalists will hope to demonstrate the progress they’ve made over the course of the programme at the pitch day at the end of May. Up for grabs will be £50,000 in support to help the most promising startups bring their game-changing proposition to life.
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