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Agri-tech advice

Technology and robotics are seen as one of the solutions to some of the stresses in the food supply chain. Robotic systems have been in factory production lines for a number of years – reducing labour costs, increasing productivity and bringing a reliability to product quality for manufacturers.

The agricultural and horticultural sector has similar issues – labour shortages at harvest time, in-field food waste and product damage, plant diseases and forecasting of crop ripening being some of the key challenges faced by todays’ fresh produce growers. Technology can help to provide a solution, and whilst some of the systems are in early stages, we are already seeing on-farm automation making a difference.

But agri-tech projects are not without their own risks and challenges and our experienced team can advise on a range of legals issues relating to agri-tech, from initial discussions and product development to commissioning and post installation disputes.

We have listed below our key considerations for businesses looking to get involved in agri-tech projects.  Like all large-scale schemes, agri-tech projects need to be carefully thought out before decisions are made.  

Key legal considerations for agri-tech projects

  • Develop a clear statement of what the Purchaser wants to achieve in terms of performance from the equipment (eg accuracy rates, throughput rates, specification of products to be handled, operating conditions).
  • Have the supplier provide a written proposal setting out how their equipment will meet the written Purchaser’s requirements.
  • Develop a responsibilities matrix defining who is responsible for what eg site services.
  • Put in place a contract covering the consequences for the possible defaults eg delay, failure to meet performance targets, damage to equipment or surrounding buildings during commissioning.
  • Credit check the supplier and consider use of bonds to cover any advance payments, performance bonds and retention bond to cover the defects liability period.
  • Ensure sufficient money is held off until a final milestone is achieved demonstrating full compliance with the agreed requirements.
  • Agree a comprehensive testing document setting out what has to be proven by the supplier and how to achieve the Acceptance milestone.
  • Post acceptance testing should include monitoring of downtime in real life conditions over an extended period to demonstrate reliability to an agreed level.
  • Be clear about post completion defects liability response times and competencies. Check there is a competent local support team, including hot-line support for software.
  • Where bespoke software is being supplied check access arrangements to source codes in case of supplier failure eg escrow.
  • Agree up front terms and costs for support including preventative maintenance, spares pricing and call out support.

How we can help with your agri-tech project

Our talented agri-tech team can help at all stages of an agri-tech project from initial discussions on options through proposals, contracts, installation and testing.

  • Contracts and agreements between innovators and purchasers including development, testing, and post-installation issues
  • Software licensing agreements
  • Funding
  • Dispute management

If you are considering investing in technology for your food production business, please contact our team.