The secret to entrepreneurial success: Passion, not Pounds

What is it that makes innovation work? Lots of money? Cutting edge research facilities? Actually, according to speakers at the Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum, it’s a lot more basic than that: Determination, adaptability and passion are the key attributes of a successful innovator.

Delegates were treated to a quick-fire succession of presentations from fresh new entrepreneurs on Wednesday (18 January), to hear about the secrets to success and the barriers to development. Speakers included Aponic’s Jason Hawkins-Row; who has developed a soil-less growing system for fruit and vegetables, and Miha Pipan from Entomics; who has found a way to turn food waste into animal feed using insects.

Will Wells from Hummingbird explained how he had recruited staff from casinos to develop algorithms for use in predicting crop diseases, while John Prewer from Airponix discussed how he had found common print heads from printers produced the best type of water droplets for hydroponic systems.

“It’s clear that adaptability and drive are requisite attributes for successful innovation,” said Chris Dunkley, chief executive of the Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise. “But there are also barriers to development, including lack of investment, an over-restrictive regulatory framework, and in some cases, poor public acceptance and understanding of new technology. By organising the Open Innovation forum we wanted to bring people together to find answers to these barriers and solutions to the big questions facing the agri-food industry.”

Delegates were invited to suggest the key challenges they would like to see addressed, with 22% voting for tackling resistance to pesticides and antibiotics; 15% for soil health, 14% for data and how to use it, and 12% for how to grow more food and protect the environment. Splitting into focus groups, researchers, scientists and farmers from across the globe then brainstormed how to solve such major issues.

BBC presenter Charlotte Smith chaired the first day of the conference, and explained: “The aim of the day was to deliver game-changing solutions to the many challenges we face from field to fork.”

By encouraging multi-national agri-businesses and research institutes to work together, and producing an industry white paper to record best practice and projects to take forward, ROIF expected to see real change taken through to benefit farmers on the ground, said Mr Dunkley. “We are sowing the seeds of innovation, which will help farmers around the globe to produce more food with less environmental impact, which has to be one of the most fundamental goals for our society.”

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