A new agri-tech competition, the Digging for Innovation Challenge, has been launched with a £5000 cash prize.

The competition hopes to find innovative tools and approaches to address soil health and productivity across the agricultural sectors.

Organised by AgriTech incubator Farm491 and sponsored by BASF, shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend a boot camp. During the camp they will work with innovation specialist Sarah Carr, to build a strong pitch, focused on their vision and why their solution is unique.

They will also join a session with BASF’s agriculture sustainability manager Mike Green (pictured top) and independent soil scientist Jenni Dungait to look at the soil challenges currently faced by the industry.

Farm491 centre and events manager, Verity Payne is coordinating the challenge.

Payne said: “With a world population expected to reach over nine billion by 2050, much of the current debate around the future of farming focuses on the duality of sustainably providing enough nutritious food for this growing population, whilst conserving the natural resource base upon which we are all dependent.

Initiatives such as this challenge prize are designed to give a ‘leg-up’ to those companies working on novel solutions to the issue of productivity versus biodiversity.

BASF’s market manager for agricultural solutions and services Louis Wells said: “Innovation is at the forefront of our work at BASF, ensuring that we continue to develop and deliver solutions and services that are fit for the future.

"This means they need to be practical for use, have longevity and complement the existing portfolio of tools that are on offer to farmers.

“Whether your idea is new or existing but requires further development, we want to hear from you. Soil is our most precious asset on-farm and we need to do everything we can to protect it for future generations.”

In addition to the cash prize, the winner will receive 12 months of business support and mentoring from Farm491.

The deadline for applications is November 15, following a shortlisting period, six finalists will be selected and invited to attend the boot camp. The final pitch will take place in January 2021 when a panel of industry experts will interview each finalist.

Farm491 is the innovative agri-tech incubator, offered by the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.

The incubator provides cutting-edge facilities for budding entrepreneurs and agri-tech start-up companies.