Business idea to help farmers move to organic wins investment for student

20 May 2019

A business that provides a dedicated label of quality for farms in the process of becoming organic has won a prestigious competition for student entrepreneurs.

The Royal Agricultural University’s (RAU) 12th Grand Idea competition, sponsored by Strutt and Parker and Harrison Clark Rickerbys Law Firm asked students to pitch their plans to expert judges to secure £2,500 of investment.

Winner Constantin Huet, a third year Real Estate student, faced the impressive panel including Levi Roots, of Reggae Reggae Sauce; Christine Cross, former Group Business Development Director at Tesco; Dave Meneer, ex CEO of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall restaurant, and the RAU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joanna Price.

Constantin found success with his company Pre-O, a new badge of quality for farms undergoing the lengthy transition to becoming fully organic. Pre-organic foods will be able to charge a slightly higher price than non-organic, giving the consumer greater choice.

Constantin, from Switzerland, said: “Our revolutionary business model, unlike other agricultural certification schemes, does not charge farmers. Farmers subscribe free of any charge - no strings attached.

“Pre-O is beneficial to the consumer who perhaps can’t pay regularly for high-end organic produce, and beneficial to the farmer who is in the 'organic-transition' period yet suffering from non-organic prices.

“Until now, no outright 'pre-organic' offering has existed in the food market. We are making that change.

“I love life at the RAU. I’m humbled to win this award as the competition was so strong from the other students. The Enterprise Programme here is second to none. They were willing to guide me through every step of my journey to becoming an entrepreneur. The range of mentoring and networking is outstanding – and competitions like today are just one part of that.”

Runner-up Maria Perry, impressed the judges with her GLITTAGLO eyewear business, which makes and markets designer sunglasses. 

Maria, a postgraduate at the RAU, said: “The idea came about when I was searching for a new and exciting pair of sunglasses both to spice up everyday outfits and to add a bit of sparkle when going out! The eye-catching designs use different coloured tints with contrasting jewels around the outside.

"The eyewear label champions unique self expression and encourages the wearer to have fun with their style. The social media pages are a platform for our customers to share their style and memories created in their sunnies.” 

Katy Duke, Head of Enterprise at RAU said: “There were some absolutely inspirational ideas to choose from this year. Our recent survey found that 88% of RAU students want to start their own business, so entrepreneurship is right at the heart of what we do here.”

Levi Roots, a regular judge for the competition, said: “The RAU is not an old-school University, and it’s just great for the students that it’s one that looks forward. My connection with the RAU has been one of the best I‘ve had over the last ten years. I enjoy working with the students and I still try to get my message across that if Levi Roots can do it, anyone can.”

This year the RAU became just the sixth – and the only small, specialist – university to be made a Centre of Excellence by the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE).

Its extra-curricular Enterprise Programme has created over 50 successful businesses at the Cirencester campus.

Last year’s Grand Idea winner Alex Dunn created a farm safety app which helped her to win the Farmers Weekly Agricultural Student of the Year title, she also scooped the Grow It award sponsored by Strutt and Parker at the RAU Enterprise Awards this year.

The RAU offers a range of business degrees at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate level, including a BSc in Business Management, where student satisfaction outscores the national average (National Student Survey 2018).

The University also offers an MSc in Business Management and an MBA in Innovation in Sustainable Food and Agriculture.