Seed World

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Chief Technology & Innovation Officer,
Activate Ag Labs

Shortly after graduating from the UEA with a degree in physics joined the R&D department at Germains Technology Group, who specialize in seed enhancement technologies. He spent two years investigating other industrial uses for seed treating equipment before moving across into seed coating polymers and application of biologicals to seed. During the nine years as a Research Scientist, he began a Master’s in Science through part-time study via the Open University, which was completed after having moved to the new position of Research Scientist at the Institute of Food Research, working on the DEFRA Link BBSRC project, Multiple Emulsions in Food. Simon has spent at least two decades formulating seed coating polymers which are effective in their attributes whilst maintaining products which have an environmental conscious content.

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My name is Simon Watt. I’m proud to be the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Activate Ag Labs. If you haven’t heard our name before, don’t worry: we have every intention of changing that. 

We are a group of five scientists who together envision a better solution for seed coating research and development. Between the five of us, we have more than 35 years of experience working in the all areas of seed-focused science, including physics, chemistry, microbiology, and soil science. We’ve all worked with big ag-science companies, from major active ingredient suppliers to seed breeding. From that experience, we know that, while big companies often have impressive capacity and excellent ability to build active ingredients, their size makes it difficult for them to be nimble and creative solvers of problems. 

That’s the niche where we fit. A year ago, we set off on our own, very intentionally creating a company that is small enough to be ultra-flexible, responsive, and fully independent but experienced enough to tackle big challenges. 

We see our role as fulfilling two needs for large-scale partners. First, we offer services: quality control, germination, etc, essentially, the areas that save our partners time, money and effort when they offload to us. Second, we offer fully customizable projects: the solving of technological problems through seed coating formulation, from efficacy to safety to sustainability. We’re especially excited about improving environmental outcomes through microplastic-free coatings, the potential in biodegradation and the increased use of biological and microbiological compounds and organisms.

Last week, after chatting for an hour over coffee in my office, I led a potential partner through our warehouse to tour our research and development biolab. Our warehouse is functional but no object of beauty. When we stepped into the biolab, however, I had the pleasure (as I always do) of seeing their eyes widen. We may be a small company, but we’re big in both multi-disciplinary expertise and lab capacity. 

Our biolab, which is currently being upgraded, is equipped to a level that would make even multinationals proud. From mixing and application equipment to production-size machinery for scale-up runs, to dust testing and abrasion machines, to a seed vigour machine that’s ultra-unique, we’re fully set-up to efficiently, cost-effectively and creatively solve our partners’ unique seed coating challenges, whatever those challenges may be.