About the company
AgriSound was set up in January 2020 by Dr Casey Woodward, who is an expert in animal health and agriculture. Casey, who had studied at the University of York, before doing a PhD at Hull University, was working with companies looking at using sensors in livestock farming to optimise animal health and productivity. He realised that very few organisations were using technology to monitor bees, which are generally kept in beehives in remote areas.
With more than 90 million beehives across the world and more and more people taking up bee-keeping in lockdown, Casey thought there was a gap in the market. As well as bee keeping for honey, Casey was interested in the vital role bees play in pollinating food crops, particularly in developing countries, but also with high yield crops such as almonds, cashews and coffee, as well as beans and other legumes.
“Bees are not often seen as livestock or as a simple solution to improve crop productivity for farmers. So, when it comes to innovation and research into their welfare, they fall between the two. But healthy insects support pollination that is vital for many farmers,” says Casey.
“Our technology means both new and experienced beekeepers can gain an understanding of what is going on inside the hive, and can protect against disease, predation and losses.
“For people using bees for pollination, early detection of changes can lead to quicker treatment. And quicker treatment leads to healthier pollinator numbers.
“And if you think that without pollinators, bees, butterflies, moths and other bugs, we’d lose more than 70 per cent of all food crops, you can see why their welfare is so important.”
The sensors that AgriSound supply will monitor factors like humidity, temperature and weight of hives, then analyse that information and send it via 3/4G to the client. New innovations by the company are also allowing the automatic detection of wild pollinators in the field which will support sustainable agricultural practices.
The company, which is currently a team of five, is headquartered in York.
Casey turned to AD:VENTURE because he realised he needed support with the practicalities of running a business.
“I knew I would need support to bridge my own skills gap. I had done business development before, but I had no understanding of certain things like admin or raising finance,” says Casey.
Casey wanted help to grow the business and move into markets around the world, as well as within the UK.
He was given a mentor, Alice Ingram, and access to AD:VENTURE’s support programmes.
Casey attended a range of workshops on topics including marketing and finance, and was given one-to-one support by Alice.
AgriSound was awarded a £3,000 grant by AD:VENTURE to pay for a 3D printer, and also given a grant by Innovate UK through the Sustainable Innovation Fund.
AgriSound’s operations manager Samantha Jackson joined Accelerate, which is a six-month programme of support including pre-recorded masterclasses, weekly live webinars and one-to-one support, along with advice on grants and funding. Casey says Accelerate has clearly had an impact.
“Since Samantha went on the programme she’s implemented protocols and procedures that we needed. She’s made sure we are Covid-secure and developed a new company handbook for employees. I’d recommend sending staff on the programme. It has made a great difference to us.”
The company now has clients around the world, including in the US, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and closer to home in western Europe. And Casey is particularly keen to work in Africa.
“Bee keeping is really important in Africa. If you can improve pollination and improve yields and have less need for herbicides and pesticides, you can actually go a long way towards alleviating poverty and hunger.”
“In the long term, we see ourselves as a pollinator brand, also working with wild bees, and not just a brand for beekeepers,” says Casey.
As well as running the business, he uses his passion to give talks to schools about the role of bees.
The medium-term plan is to grow to a team of 20 within the next 18 months.
“We’ve had lots of support from AD:VENTURE and their help has been really valuable. Working with them has helped us open lots of new doors and make new contacts,” says Casey.
“And it is about supporting the whole company, you get support for the team, which has been amazing and led to some real growth.
“It has also been about bringing small businesses in York together and linking us with other schemes, such as Make It York. So, as well as the direct support we have had, AD:VENTURE is also brilliant at putting local businesses in touch with each other.
“I really recommend anyone setting up a business turns to AD:VENTURE for help.”