Trade in Space: Smart coffee trading fast tracked thanks to Innovate UK KTN and Colombia Prosperity Programme Mission

Posted on: 25/11/2021

Scottish start-up Trade in Space has been growing through collaboration and funding following an agricultural innovation mission to Colombia in 2020.

Agricultural innovation mission to Colombia 

The Colombia Mission in 2020 was organised by Innovate UK KTN in partnership with the UK-Colombia Prosperity Programme and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). 16 UK AgriTech organisations travelled to Colombia to meet with key agricultural stakeholders and gain a strong understanding of the needs and challenges of Colombian agriculture. Glasgow-based Trade in Space was one of them.

Trade in Space makes trading between agriculture producers and consumers easier, by integrating remote sensing data into supply-chain management systems and blockchain applications. This supports the sourcing, buying and shipping of goods across continents.

A pilot project is born out of the mission 

During the mission to Colombia, Trade In Space showcased remote data collection and analysis software which could address agricultural challenges such as shortage risks, extreme price volatility and food insecurity.

They made connections with Colombian trade company Cata Café Export and started to discuss a pilot. The two companies collaborated with Dear Green, a small UK coffee roaster and retailer. The innovative pilot concentrated on sourcing, buying and shipping coffee from Colombia to Glasgow. This was all done using the Trade In Space software and the satellite data it provided. All three test batches arrived successfully in the UK. Two of the batches were then sold by Dear Green in Glasgow.

The third phase of the project was supported by a £56k research and development grant from Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, a 2020 funding call to facilitate economic recovery from Covid-19. The pilot led to a follow-on commercial contract that generated commercial revenue of £100K.

“The Colombia Mission 2020 provided unparalleled opportunity for UK agritech companies and the success Trade In Space has achieved is testament to the potential of this kind of activity. Working in partnership with the UK-Colombia Prosperity Programme has ensured ongoing support for the UK businesses, a winning formula to accelerate the adoption of UK innovation expertise in Colombia.”

Debbie Tully, Knowledge Transfer Manager AgriFood, Innovate UK KTN

Aerial observation of Trade In Space's field trials, captured using the Tradewinds application
Aerial observation of Trade In Space's field trials, captured using the Tradewinds application
Snapshot of Trade In Space's app showing farm info for a location in Colombia, including deforestation over time
Snapshot of Trade In Space's app showing farm info for a location in Colombia, including deforestation over time

How Trade in Space benefited from the mission 

In addition to forging new collaborations resulting in a successful pilot, Robin Sampson, Trade In Space Managing Director, met with around 100 potential customers, partners and co-developers during the mission. Trade in Space is now in the early stages of delivering commercial partnerships in Colombia and has opened partnership discussions with several organisations including digital product development company Celerik. Further trips to Colombia are scheduled in 2022 to meet with commercial clients and scope office facilities for a new venture.

The mission also sparked collaborations between UK organisations. Robin connected with another UK company who attended the mission. They are now working together on a collaborative insurance offering for the coffee sector.

Trade in Space gained a better understanding of the opportunities to work in Colombia and an insight into the benefits of choosing Colombia as an operation base for Latin America. The company now has commercial projects active in Brazil, and are also prospecting new opportunities in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Support has been on-going from the UK-Colombia Prosperity Programme with the facilitation of connections to logistic providers and their UK-Colombia ecosystem. Thanks to those introductions, Trade in Space was able to participate in a further mission, the first Scottish Mission to Colombia in June 2020, where important local contacts were made.

“During the UK Agri-Tech Mission to Colombia, we realised that Trade In Space have such great potential to provide its services in Colombia, and not just for coffee. Its technology could be applied to other crops and benefit agricultural producers that are looking to export their products. We hope to continue to be a strong ally to Trade In Space in its operation expansion to Colombia”

Pedro Castro, Agriculture Adviser, UK-Colombia Prosperity Programme

Trade in Space continues to grow 

In July 2021, Trade In Space finalised a corporate investment of £500K from an agricultural supply chain management business. The investor is especially active in the green coffee trade but also in other tropical agriculture species. They have a major commercial and agricultural footprint in Latin America and Africa. Trade In Space developed software that the business used to visualise and manage their supply chain more easily, and this is now generating revenue. Trade in Space has access to data from more than 100,000 coffee farms around the world to support product development. With the support of their commercial partners, Trade in Space’s technology may soon be found in some of the best known high street coffee shops in the world.

Trade in Space is also planning on supporting agroforestry research at Universidad de los Andes by funding a PhD so they can provide agroforestry system advice and guidance within their wider service platform offering.

Trade in Space has grown from four part time employees in March 2020 to 14 full time staff in August 2021. They’re also recruiting for another four roles and plan to open their first commercial base overseas at the end of 2021.

“The mission boosted the company into commercialisation and with the recent investor activity, the company is well placed to capitalise on opportunities not only in the coffee sector but avocado and macadamia nuts as a priority.”

Robin Sampson, Managing Director, Trade in Space

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