From bedroom experiment to world-first lab

Attendees at the recent Partners’ Summit organised by The Factory’s agritech accelerator Sprout got the opportunity to be part of the opening of a world-first lab in May 2018.

What began as an experiment in the bedroom of Biolumic founder Dr. Jason Wargent has become the first lab in the world to research the beneficial effects of UV Light on plant growth. Surprisingly, the origin of that small scale experiment was Dr. Wargent’s research into the harmful effects the hole in the ozone layer was having on plant growth. Turns out UV light exposure has the opposite effect.

Investors have seen the potential Biolumic technology can have to help with the world's increased food needs in the future. Biolumic have shown their UV systems can increase crop yields by up to 40%. That’s why the interest (and investment) Biolumic has attracted has taken it from a bedroom to its own lab in 6 years.

But taking research which has promise and making it into a business is something that’s tough to do alone. They might have a lab now but for a long time it was just Dr. Wargent and CEO Warren Bebb.  That’s why James and the rest of The Factory team who run Sprout have been so excited to support Biolumic.

We’ve assisted. with everything from investment to governance, strategy and business plan development. Along the way Biolumic has raised close to $10 million, including US$5 million raised in a single finance round this year.

If you think your business could do with its own shot of UV to help it grow talk to us.

Factory programme teams big winners at Fieldays

Between the 12th and 15th of June 2018 some 130,000 people from all over New Zealand and around the globe came to Hamilton for Fieldays. This makes it a great chance for aspiring agritech start-ups to pitch their ideas in the perfect marketplace.

That’s what makes it a great environment for our Sprout programme teams to give the public a taste of what they are working on. Such a great opportunity, three Sprout teams picked up awards as part of Fieldays Innovation Awards.

The 2018 Grassroots Prototype Award went to Acuris Systems. This Auckland-based team is developing autonomous vehicles to help farmers and growers with data collection and crop analysis. Besides the award Nick Woon and Matthew Warner from Acuris picked up $2500 cash. That money is a vital boost at their stage in development.

Holsim is a Waikato based start-up that makes veterinary simulators and AR software. This year they picked up the Callaghan Innovation Collaboration & Partnership Award. Mike Williams and Dave Johnson from Holsim have created a way for vets to train on a lifelike simulator without fear of hurting a live animal.

And the Origin Innovation IP Award went to Auckland based company Micropod. Micropod began when Jeff Xu tried and failed to grow his own micro greens at home. With the help of partner Brian Lai he has now created a soil-less system that uses special seed-filled mats to grow delicious micro greens right on the kitchen bench in under 2 weeks.

Acuris and Micropod also shared first place in the Enterprise Angel Investor Awards.

These companies, as well as another 6 start-ups are part of The Factory’s Sprout programme. Over 6 months these companies receive help on every aspect of their business. Investment, pitching, market research, product validation are all part of the porgramme as well as strategies to tackle all the problems that brand new businesses come across. James and the Sprout folk work with our teams individually as well as with the whole Sprout cohort.

If it sounds like your business could do with some help to win awards and do great things we’re ready to talk

Ideas ready for ignition

Are you one of those people whose carrying around a great idea locked in your head? An idea you reckon could be great, solve a big problem, make people’s lives easier. Then you are just like the entrants for Innovate 2018.

The Factory’s Innovate competition sets out every year to find a great idea and start it on the path to becoming a reality. Over the last six years more than 1300 ideas have come through the competition. Some of them have gone on to become businesses, changing people’s lives in the process.

Entries are whittled down to find a Top 20 who have 3 minutes to pitch their idea. The best 5 pitches are assigned 3 mentors each. These mentors are respected business people,  hand-picked by The Factory team. Theses mentors have just the perfect experience to further develop our entrepreneurs’ ideas.

Now the hard, but rewarding, work begins! Working in tandem with their mentors the Factory team put the Top 5 contestants through 10 weeks of intense mentoring to really hone their idea and their final pitch. Because on the 29th of November Innovate 2018 culminates in a 5 minute pitch from each team to convince the panel of judges why their idea is best.

The winners walk away with a cash prize, but even more importantly a whole lot of assistance from the experienced folks at The Factory to start turning their idea into reality.

Last year’s winner was Paul Simpson of inventory management software company StockTrim. Paul aims to use his win to boost his business from a handful of clients to a business that makes close to $20 million annually by 2019. The Factory will be supporting him along the way.

Who will be the winner this year? Who’s got the ingredients they can ignite with a flame from The Factory and get their business cooking?