Tech start-up wins innovation finance for its bio-acoustic listening device

Casey Woodward

York-based pollination and insect biodiversity innovator, AgriSound, has won funding from Tesco and the WWF to pilot its agri-tech listening equipment in the supermarket’s supply chain.

This aims to cut the environmental impact of the average shopping basket and enhance the resilience and sustainability of the UK food system.

AgriSound secured funding as part of ‘Innovation Connections’, a new accelerator programme created in a collaboration between the international supermarket and the global environmental charity.

The programme pairs pioneering start-ups with Tesco suppliers to fast-track innovation in the supply chain.

The business was paired with AM Fresh, one of Tesco’s fruit suppliers, based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

AgriSound is deploying its bio-acoustic listening devices, called PollyTM, across AM Fresh’s orchards to listen for and identify sounds of pollinating insects, to pinpoint areas where there are too few, so remedial action can be taken, naturally increasing the yield of crops and so reducing costs.

Founder and CEO, Casey Woodward, said: “At a time when biodiversity, including pollinating bee populations, is declining rapidly and the cost of food production is soaring, winning this funding from Tesco and the WWF is a great achievement for our young company.

“It is exciting to be able to introduce our technology to the Tesco fruit supply chain to help growers encourage pollinators to the right areas at the right time is boosting yields, without the need for additional fertilisers or pesticides.

“We are looking forward to showcasing the technology to the wider Tesco supplier base and helping farm businesses to streamline biodiversity monitoring and promote nature inclusive farming practises.”

He explained that the Polly device operates in a similar way to how a smart speaker functions.

It is equipped with a microphone and environmental sensors, measuring temperature, light and humidity. Each one is completely solar powered.

“Polly listens 24/7 for the sounds of insects and uses advanced sound-analysis to translate the data into activity scores,” he said.

“These are automatically sent back to the cloud, where the farmer or food producer can view them via an app or web application.

“This information, available in real time, can be used to target the introduction of pollinator-protection measures to the areas of greatest need, and also determine actions such as the planting of wildflowers or creating new habitats.”