AgriTech: the emergent economy in the rural east

AgriTech is the sector resulting from the adaptation of new technologies for agriculture. From drones, which facilitate precision farming, to developments in the field of biotechnology; companies working in AgriTech are modernising the way we produce food.

Knowing who is driving change and from where is key to managing these transformations. Our AgriTech RTIC, produced with the machine learning functionality of The Data Explorer, provides critical insight into the organisations that build up the sector. We captured 864 companies across 7 industry verticals that make £14bn in turnover and employ 29,500 people in the UK.

The RTIC data taught us that a significant number of Local Authorities classed as rural by the ONS specialise in AgriTech. Furthermore, it suggests the existence of a cluster of specialised Local Authorities in the east of England.

Measuring regional specialisation

Location quotients help us understand regional specialisation, so we added them to the analytic functions of our platform. Location quotients compare the concentration of employees, businesses or turnover in one Local Authority with the national equivalent. The result is a number that represents the degree of specialisation of the Local Authority relative to the national. If the result is greater than 1, the Local Authority has a higher degree of specialisation than the national average. If the result is 1, it indicated that both regions have the same degree of specialisation. And if the result is below 1, the nation is more specialised than the region.


The map above displays the location quotient values for employees by Local Authority, the ONS rural-urban classification for available Local Authorities and the percentage of rural population (ONS Rural Urban Classification, 2011). This data can be accessed by clicking on the desired location. The rural census only covered Local Authorities in England, therefore no rural classification is available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In addition, some Local Authorities, like Dorset, experienced boundary changes that make the 2011 classification unrepresentative of the current territory. This explains the NA values shown in the map.

Regardless of these limitations, we have been able to identify the cluster of highly specialised and rural Local Authorities in the East of England, showing the regional rural economy in a different light.

AgriTech’s rural home: the east

We have identified 9 Local Authorities in the East of England highly specialised in AgriTech: Stevenage, South Norfolk, South Cambridgeshire, Rutland, Boston, Mid Suffolk, North Norfolk, South Holland and South Kesteven. All these Local Authorities have been identified as Mainly or Largely Rural by the ONS, except for Boston (Urban with Significant Rural). While the average employee generates more than 480k in turnover a year for the UK while employees in these Local Authorities make 536k.

Furthermore, 6 of the AgriTech companies located in this area received the 21% of all private funding (Dealroom) raised by all 864 companies captured in the AgriTech RTIC. Tropic BioSciences and Eagle Genomics are two of the companies that raised more funding, conveying that venture capital places priority over agricultural sciences. Available Life Science’s capital in the region may have attracted innovative AgSciences companies, showcasing a relationship between the sectors.

Thurne Pump Drainage Mill

A new economy for the UK’s countryside

Exploring the data available for AgriTech companies has made us realise that there is an opportunity for many rural Local Authorities to dominate in a high-tech sector. Even though we have not talked about them, the Isles of Scilly, Angus and West Berkshire are also highly specialised in the area.

We also want to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of readily accessible and updated information about the rural areas in the UK. There is strong evidence that, after the Covid pandemic, more people have chosen rural areas as their home and their workplace. In order to be able to create efficient policies that empower the economic capabilities of the rural UK, we need data that represents those changes in both rural Britain and emergent economic sectors, like AgriTech.

If you want to know more about AgriTech in your region or you want to share your experience in the field, we would love to hear from you.

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