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Agritech start-ups must dig deeper to find the right people

Start-up businesses which are driving innovation in agritech must dig deeper if they want to attract the people they need to turn their dreams into reality, according to a specialist recruitment firm.

Efforts to tackle the global issues of climate change and a growing population are resulting in innovations that are transforming agriculture in ways never seen before, with much of that being driven by small start-ups with new ideas that need to be funded, developed and tested.

This innovation is being supported by a wave of government-backed grants, injecting tens of millions of pounds into the sector. In many cases, grants are empowering visionary entrepreneurs and pioneering start-ups to turn their dreams into reality, resulting in some amazing inventions.

Jonathan Lee Recruitment has been helping these businesses to overcome the various recruitment challenges often faced by grant-funded start-ups.

The business is based at Telford’s Agri-EPI Centre, which was established as part of the Government’s agritech strategy to bridge the gap between the people creating these new technologies and those who benefit from them. This involves supporting the wider commercialisation of ideas to ensure concepts make it onto the farm in a way that is profitable and sustainable.

Some impressive projects have been assisted by the Agri-EPI Centre partnership, including a robot that analyses conditions in bulk grain stores, automated lettuce harvesting, early illness and disease detection in calves and an intelligent water trough.

Matt Johnson, agritech recruitment specialist at Jonathan Lee Recruitment, said: “A key part of getting innovations off the ground is recruitment. But finding the right people can be more challenging for a start-up venture, perhaps with limited job security to offer, uncertainty around funding and contract lengths and the need for incredibly specific skills.

“This is where it’s worth partnering with a specialist firm to help solve that recruitment challenge. For example, we recently worked with an agritech start-up which was struggling to find a design engineer to take its prototypes forward.

“UPP has pioneered new technology which uses AI and automation to harvest broccoli crops more efficiently while significantly reducing waste by collecting the previously discarded parts of the plant to turn into sustainable proteins.

“The smart machinery fully automates the spotting, cutting, lifting and carrying process at a rate of up to 3km/h, and allows for the 80% of the plant that is normally left behind to be upcycled into a product that can now be sold.

“We were able to find the perfect candidate with an agricultural and engineering background who, not only had the right skillset, but was also looking to escape the city rat race.

“With start-ups in particular, it’s often as much about finding people with similar values as specific sets of skills.”

Finding the right fit

If you’re a start-up, building the right team to turn your vision into reality is crucial, and you won’t have time for endless rounds of failed recruitment. You need people who share your ethos and vision, and this goes beyond matching skills and qualifications.

It’s about taking time to dig deeper in that job search by developing recruitment strategies that are built on an understanding of your company ethos and mission and using this to find people with a shared passion, as well as the right skills, or transferable skills.

Tailored recruitment strategies

Recruiting for an agritech start-up can be complicated by the fact that grants might be paid in stages, or cash flow is restricted, so having a tailored strategy that prepares for the staffing needs over a six or 12-month period can help with effective budgeting, as well as the building and nurturing of a talent pool in advance.

Retention strategies 

Grant-funded projects operate on specific timelines, potentially adding to the uncertainty for employees. Transparency from the beginning, with clear timescales, goals, and career development plans, is crucial for retaining top talent. Building a cohesive team that believes in the project’s mission can be a powerful retention strategy.

Flexible recruitment

Because of the limitations that often come with grant funding, or the uncertainty associated with the development of a new idea, it could be that the answer lies in a more flexible recruitment solution, such as short-term contracts, freelancers, or the hiring of consultants for specific phases of the project. As well as helping to overcome any perceived risk of joining a start-up, this approach can make it easier to access specialist skills and knowledge as and when it’s needed.

To find out more about how Jonathan Lee Recruitment can support agritech businesses, visit www.jonlee.co.uk, or contact agritech recruitment specialist, Matt Johnson, on 01952 987033, or email matt.johnson@jonlee.co.uk.