Levi Roots & Julian Dunkerton tip farm safety business tipped for success

Grand Idea judges Charlie Beldam (Cotswold Gold), Christine Cross (independent consultant, formerly of Tesco), Levi Roots (Reggae Reggae Sauce), Julian Dunkerton (Superdry), Prof Joanna Price (Vice-Chancellor, Royal Agricultural University).
RAU Grand Idea 2018 – Judges

An idea to improve safety on farms has won a  Dragon’s Den-style competition for student entrepreneurs.

The Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) 11th Grand Idea competition asked students to pitch their plans to expert judges to secure £2,500 of investment.

Winner Alex Dunn, 21, a third year agriculture student, faced the panel including Levi Roots, of Reggae Reggae Sauce; Julian Dunkerton of Superdry; Christine Cross, former Group Business Development Director at Tesco; Charlie Beldam, a former student and creator of Cotswold Gold extra virgin rapeseed oil and the RAU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joanna Price.

She found success because her business idea aims to improve health and safety on farms at the same time as productivity.

Alex, from Reading, said: “The scariest part of pitching was before I went in. I was nervous sitting outside but inside it went quite smoothly. They asked about financing and my plans to take the business forward.

“What excites me most about the business is to be able to make a difference in the industry. It’s not only agriculture here – there are people studying business and equine and you can learn so much – food production, for example, is going to be so important in the future. The University helps you develop any business idea you’ve got, whether it’s related to the agricultural industry or not.”

Runner up Alex Crawley, 36, a former Ghurka who fought in Afghanistan changed career to farming through the RAU’s Graduate Diploma in Agriculture.

His Grazing Management business helps restore important rare grasslands (including in the Cotswolds) which benefit from being grazed by hardy native cattle.

Levi Roots, who is also part of the RAU’s Advisory Council, said: “I’ve be involved for many years, which I’m very proud of. You see so many diverse and different pitches. The key thing is passion – that the students believe in themselves.

“The business ideas coming along in recent years are much more technology focussed.

“If someone asked me what the difference was between Grand Idea and the pitch I did on BBC Dragons Den – this is not much different. I must have given one of the worst pitches ever – I wasn’t perfect and got some numbers wrong. What the Dragons saw was passion. These students are the same. It’s never just about the product, it’s about the person as well.”

Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of clothing brand Superdry said he was ‘staggered by the quality’ of the winning pitch from Alex.

He added: “I’m enjoying being involved because it is exactly what I believe in for the future of this country, turning entrepreneurial ideas into real businesses and creating jobs.”

Over 11 years Grand Idea has received over 100 business ideas, and enabled many entrepreneurial students to launch and grow a successful business, such as BiJimini, which creates high-protein flour mixed with crickets.