Innovations in practice at UK Agri-Tech Centres’ showcase events

A soil testing robot, a drone that collects real-time, leaf-level crop data and a range of sensors aiding precision livestock management were amongst technologies on display at two recent innovation events held by the UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres.

UK AgriTech Centres banner

UK Centres of Agricultural Innovation

Agri-EPI Centre, Agrimetrics, CHAP (Crop Health and Protection) and CIEL (the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) held the two on-farm events in March at Newcastle University’s Cockle Park Farm in Northumberland. The aim was to showcase practical examples of their work to support sustainable global food production.  The first event focused on plants and crops, the second on livestock.

More than 300 delegates from agri-tech, agri-food, science and policy attended across the two days to see and hear about the latest advancements in technologies and capabilities from the Centres and their research partners.

A series of practical demonstrations and talks highlighted the progress that is being made in support of the UK’s Industrial Strategy of ‘Transforming Food Production’.

The aim was to stimulate further opportunities for collaboration supported by the Centres’ capabilities and networks. The demonstrations were well received, with both exhibitors and delegates reporting that new opportunities are emerging as a result of contacts made at the events.

A huge thank you to the Agri-EPI partners who supported the events by demonstrating their projects: Drone AG; Rhiza; SoilEssentials; Wyoming Interactive; Ritchie Agricultural; Ice Robotics; Smartbell: Harper Adams; SRUC; and Cranfield, Lincoln and Strathclyde Universities.

Their contributions at the arable event included a field demonstration of agricultural robots and drones, including Agri-Rover, an autonomous robot developed by Strathclyde University that can conduct chemical soil tests in a timely and cost-effective way. The livestock event included a demonstration of the role of a variety of sensors in precision livestock management, featuring the Beef Monitor being developed by Agri-EPI Centre and industry partners and involving trials at Agri-EPI satellite farms.

partnership banner Four Centres Innovate UK

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres, said:

“The UK is home to research and industries at the forefront of understanding crops and livestock. By highlighting the crucial role of this sector at these events we demonstrate how funding research and innovation projects can transform the precision crop and livestock agricultural sectors. This is a crucial part of the government’s industrial strategy to create the industries and jobs of tomorrow.”

Agri-EPI’s Antipodean Missions

Agri-EPI Projects Managers Freddie Reed and Duncan Forbes gained a valuable insight into the antipodean agri-tech sector when they recently took part in Agri-Tech Expert Missions to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) on behalf of Innovate UK, the aim of the missions was to ascertain the potential opportunities for UK businesses to build Research & Development collaborations with international agri-tech partners. Whilst on opposite sides of the globe, we share a lot of common interests, speak the same language (almost!) and have similarities in climate.

Participating alongside Agri-EPI Centre were other key representatives of the UK, Australian and New Zealand agri-food supply chains.

Agri-Tech in Australia

Australia aims to grow its agriculture sector to a Aus$100Bn industry by 2030 and believe the key to driving productivity is the use of technology. The Australian Government sees agri-tech as a priority due to population growth and climate change, resulting in increased funding initiatives. The agriculture sector is largely export-focused but there is also a small domestic market for produce.

Agri-Tech in New Zealand

In New Zealand, Duncan was struck by just how many dairy farms there were on both North and South Islands, reflecting a shift away from beef and sheep in favour of milk production. New Zealand has similar numbers of milk producers to the UK but places a far higher emphasis of making use of grazing to achieve low cost production. As Duncan’s visit took place in the early autumn, he saw lots of very impressive maize crops being harvested.

Both the Australia and New Zealand missions involved tours to several cities and universities, resulting in some very useful collaborations, with others emerging. Being on opposite sides of the globe presents a clear opportunity to accelerate technical developments though “counter seasonality” or having two growing seasons in a twelve month cycle, one in each nation.

Please contact us if you are interested in finding out more about the agri-tech landscape in Australia and New Zealand.

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.


Photo: Delegation of the Agri-Tech Expert Mission to Australia February 2019 with in the middle Interim British High Commissioner Ingrid Southworth

Agri-EPI drive forward agri-food with new team appointments

Agri-EPI Centre is pleased to announce the expansion of its team following four key appointments. Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “This is an extremely busy and exciting time for Agri-EPI as we drive forward our goals to support a productive and sustainable agri-food sector, so I’m delighted to welcome such high calibre new faces to the team.”

Here an overview of new Agri-EPI team members:

Dr Shamal Mohammad

>Chief Technical Officer

Shamal is a leading expert in digital agriculture with a strong passion for transforming the industry by developing novel and practical solutions, using smart technologies, to help farmers and producers optimise food production and minimise adverse environmental impacts.

He worked with Agrii as a Head of Integrated Crop Technology and recently as a Regional Manager for soil, nutrition and precision agriculture. He led the implementation of Agrii’s Soil, Nutrition and Digital strategy and developed a new digital solution to map soil compaction as part of new soil health service.

Previously, Shamal was a consultant for Origin Enterprise PLC to develop a transformative research partnership with University College Dublin, securing €17.6M funding from Science Foundation Ireland to integrate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning capabilities into decision making in agronomy through a strong multi and inter-disciplinary research and technical teams.

Whilst at AHDB, Shamal developed many new relationships and partnerships in the areas of precision agriculture, soil and water, crop nutrition and the impact of cropping on the environment. He took on responsibility for leading a £1.6m program of soils R&D on behalf of AHDB.

He was awarded a PhD by Cranfield University in 2010 for his work in the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems to map irrigated potatoes in East Anglia and estimate the impact of climate change on future irrigation water requirements. Shamal was also a Visiting Research Fellow at Cranfield University where he researched and published a scientific article on the application of proximal soil sensor to map soil compaction for site-specific tillage.

Shamal will join Agri-EPI as a Chief Technical Officer on 23 April 2019. He will be based at Agri-EPI’s Southern Hub at Cranfield University but have a UK-wide remit. Shamal will with our partners and members to lead our journey to transform the agriculture industry by providing farmers and producers with a wide range of scientifically robust and commercially viable capabilities.

Humaira Raza

> Accountant

Humaira is an Accounting and Finance graduate and has worked in various sectors including Banking & Finance, Industry and Practice. She is currently studying towards her ACCA qualification to become a Chartered Accountant. Based at our Northern Hub in Edinburgh, she is responsible for daily processing of financial data, setting up financial reports and providing financial support to all organisational teams. Humaira believes that communication between all Hubs is key in ensuring the accounts run smoothly.

Philip Cassidy

>Livestock, Food and Aquaculture Project Manager

Phil has more than 20 years experience as a technical manager / director in chilled food manufacturing across a range of proteins; including fish, pork, red meat, poultry into the UK and European retail market. Serving customers such as M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrison’s, Co-op, Delhaize, Albert Heijn and Carrefour.

He has a postgraduate degree in food science and microbiology from University of Strathclyde, a first degree in agricultural chemistry from Glasgow University and a teaching qualification. He worked briefly for Scottish Food Quality Certification on various EN 45011 product quality certification schemes before moving into the food manufacturing sector.

Prior to that Phil was a lecturer in food technology and quality management at Lincoln University and Glasgow College of Food Technology and has experience in curriculum development and applied research projects in the food industry. Most recently Phil worked for Dawnfresh Seafoods, which is the UK’s largest trout producer, where he had responsibility for food safety and quality and latterly R&D. He had close involvement with Dawnfresh aquaculture in a vertically integrated supply chain from egg to plate.

Based at our Northern Hub in Edinburgh, Phil is looking forward to contributing positively to the growth and development of the Agri-EPI Centre. He will be project managing the Tail Tech and the newly launched Opti-beef projects. Phil’s additional responsibilities cover establishment of a food analysis laboratory and aquaculture initiatives.

Simone Foister

>Research and Development Scientist

Also based at our Northern Hub, Simone is a University of Edinburgh graduate and is in the final stages of completing her PhD in pig behaviour and welfare at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College.

She joined Agri-EPI Centre to work on the TailTech project which aims to develop an early warning system for tail biting. Her role is to analyse data derived from 3D cameras and to develop statistical models that identify key risk factors.

Simone believes that automated monitoring of animals in agriculture has great potential for assisting farmers in better understanding and meeting the needs of their animals, which in turn will improve productivity and animal wellbeing.


We expect further expansion of the Agri-EPI team soon, so watch this space for updates. If you have general enquiries about working at Agri-EPI Centre, please contact our HR Manager:

Suzie Brown
T 0131 239 7100

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.

Latest beef technology featured at Scotland’s Beef Event 2019

– Press release –

A comprehensive programme of practical beef demonstrations highlighting the latest technology available to beef farmers will be a major feature of Scotland’s Beef Event 2019 to be held on an Aberdeenshire farm on May 30.

This biennial on-farm event for the beef industry, organised by the Scottish Beef Association, will be hosted by farmers, Robbie and Barbara Milne, and son, James, at North Bethelnie, Oldmeldrum.

The main enterprise on the farm is a suckler herd of 320 Salers and Salers cross cows crossed with Charolais, Aberdeen-Angus and Salers bulls, with all calves either finished on the farm or sold as forward stores.

Features of the extensive programme will include a demonstration by the Agri-EPI centre of the benefits of sensor technology for the beef industry. This will include a new technique of inserting a bolus to measure body temperature for the earlier detection and warning of possible health problems such as pneumonia and Silent Herdsman collars, as used in the dairy industry, for fertility management and pregnancy diagnosis.

The Beef Monitor System, developed by Ritchie of Forfar in a project supported by Scotbeef and M&S, will also be featured. The system enables the performance of finishing cattle to be closely monitored by using technology to have them automatically weighed every time they drink.

The latest update to the system processes all the data using a traffic light system to indicate the performance of individual animals. The next step will be the fitting of cameras to measure conformation and predict the animal’s carcase classification.

A crate fitted with solar panels has also been developed to enable the system to be used in grass paddocks.

Moocall will be demonstrating their calving sensor which attaches to the tail of cows and tracks the tail movement patterns to accurately predict when cows are likely to give birth. An SMS text alert is sent out by ‘phone an hour prior to calving to enable the stock person to be present for the birth. The system is 100% non-invasive and gathers 600 pieces of data per second so that it can accurately predict when cows will give birth.

Other features will include demonstrations of foot trimming by Michael Creighton, drone technology for livestock systems by Mike Swindells of Perfect Pasture, and hydrogen powered machinery by Philip Davies of Water-Fuel Engineering.

The benefits of pelvic measurements as an aid to select heifers for easy calving will be explained by vet, Graham Fowlie, of Meadows Vets, Oldmeldrum, in a Vet Spotlight session, and SAC senior beef consultant, Gavin Hill, will conduct a live discussion with Robbie and James Milne on the management of their beef cattle enterprise.

There will also be a fencing demonstration by Alistair Smart of GP Smart and Son, Alford, and the benefits of wood waste, green waste and paper waste will be featured in an alternative bedding demonstration by A W Jenkinson Forest Products and Keenan Recycling, New Deer.

It is also hoped to include a special demonstration on grassland management, covering treatments, cultivations and applications.

“Technology is the future and Scotland’s Beef Event will provide beef farmers with an ideal opportunity to catch up with all the latest technology as it applies to the beef industry and to discuss its benefits with the experts,” said SBA vice-chairman, David Barron, who chairs the event organising committee.

“We are grateful to those organisations who are arranging such a comprehensive demonstration programme which will be of great interest to all beef producers.”

Other features of the event will include a farm tour, beef breeds demonstrations, a “Beef after Brexit” seminar, stockjudging competitions and an extensive trade stand area.

Gold sponsors already confirmed include ANM Group, Clydesdale Bank, East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition, Kepak McIntosh Donald, Meadows Veterinary Centre, Norvite Animal Nutrition, Ravenhill, Salers Cattle Society and Water-Fuel Engineering.

Bringing together Agri-Tech accelerators

Agri-EPI Centre is inviting all her members to attend this year’s Membership Stakeholder Day. Members will hear about the direction Agri-EPI Centre is taking to fulfil its role within Agri-Tech as accelerator. They will get the latest on the developments within the Agri-Tech industry and can expect to hear about projects and research trials we are working on in conjunction with partners; the (potential) industry impact and how this benefits members.

We can guarantee a full day programme from 9:30 until 16:00, with interactive elements and practical demonstrations. Important funding opportunities for Agri-Tech R&D are presented and members will have plenty of networking opportunities throughout the day. Please read the agenda further down this email.

We ask you to register via the event page on Eventbrite. This event is free to attend and for members-only. If you have questions, do not hesitate to reach out via

We hope to see you there!

Best regards,

Dave Ross
CEO Agri-EPI Centre

> Go to registration page

Time and place

Date and time
9:30AM – 16:00PM on Tuesday 14 May 2019

The event will be held at the Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub on campus of Harper Adams University in Newport-Shropshire. The address is: Poultry Drive, Edgmond, Newport, TF10 8JZ.

Member pitch

Don’t change a winning team. At last years’ event 12 members delivered a ‘member pitch’: a 3-minute pitch to introduce their organisations to and engage with other Agri-EPI members. This year, the member pitch returns. When you register, don’t forget to mark your interest for this particular part of the programme. This is a separate field in the registration form.

Technology demonstration

New this year is the opportunity for members to live demonstrate cutting-edge technology in the exhibition area. This is part of the late afternoon programme between 3-4PM. Please check the relevant field in the registration form, where you can explain in more detail which technology you wish to demonstrate. Relevance and space capacity are factors to consider, before we can confirm a plot.



Session 1

10.00 – Welcome
10.10 – Overview of recent developments at Agri-EPI Centre – Dave Ross, CEO Agri-EPI Centre
10.30 – Innovate UK Funding opportunities – David Telford, KTN
10.45 – European Funding opportunities
11:00 – Member pitches
11.30 – Update on cutting-edge Precision Agriculture projects


Session 2

13.00 – Member pitches
13.30 – Update on cutting-edge Precision Agriculture projects
14.00 – Tour of Agri-EPI capabilities and innovation R&D incentives
15.00 – Agri-EPI Centre drop-in sessions, technology demonstrations and networking

16.00 CLOSE


About the Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

This innovation hub is supporting the development, testing and sharing of agri-technologies, with a focus on encouraging farmer uptake. The location provides company incubation facilities and fully serviced office space. On site there is also the Agri-EPI Midlands Dairy Research Centre. This Dairy Centre is managed by Harper Adams University, exploring the use of next generation dairy technology to understand dairy cow behaviour and welfare.

Conditions of registration

  • Places at this event are strictly limited for members only. Non-member organisations will be asked to join our membership for a minimum of one year. Membership needs to be confirmed one week before the event takes place.
  • There is an optional visit to the Midlands Dairy Research Centre on site, which is operated by Harper Adams University. Members can mark their interest for this part of the programme in the registration form.
  • There is limited space capacity, we can only accommodate a certain amount of attendees. If we exceed the maximum, we will look into the possibility of limiting the registration to one individual per organisation as we get closer to the event. We will co-ordinate this directly with members, if need be. We ask for your understanding in advance.


Logo Innovate UKAgri-EPI Centre Board members

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.