Paraguay mission for UK agri-tech

The exciting opportunities for trade with Latin American markets were the focus of a recent successful trade mission to Paraguay involving several UK agri-tech companies.

The mission was led by Agri-EPI Centre, working in close partnership with the Department for International Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It featured the Ministerial launch of the Agri-EPI-led Paraguay Satellite Demonstration Farm at the Paraguay Expo 2019, a major event showcasing the country’s farming, industrial and services sectors.

Partners Paraguay Agri-Tech Mission

Partnership banner Paraguay AgriTech Mission July 2019Agri-EPI Centre has been leading the Innovate UK- supported Satellite Demonstration Farm project in Paraguay since January 2018. It has involved partnering with a farming business to demonstrate UK agri-tech in the agricultural economy of Paraguay.

The farming business, GVasa in San Pedro, spans 85,000 hectares and incorporates cattle, maize, soybean and rice production enterprises.  The initial focus of the Smart Farm project has been on improving finishing cattle efficiency through remote live weight monitoring and improved nutrition. The ability to capture real time live weight data empowers dynamic decision making combined with improved nutrition, leading to better feed conversion efficiency.

The economic outcome of introducing UK technology means more profitable farming systems, reduced environmental footprint and improved economic sustainability.

There have so far been two UK commercial partners involved in trials on the farm. Ritchie Agricultural has provided in field weigh crates for cattle, while Harbro has been trialling its Maxammon feed supplement.

Next steps for the Smart Farm project are to continue with the current trials and to assess the priorities for additional activities. Two areas currently being considered are technology for tracking cattle across the huge swathes of land on typical Paraguay cattle ranches, and gathering harvest data.

Joining the trade mission were Hummingbird Technologies, Brinicombe Agri and AGCOM. With Agri-EPI and DIT representatives, the delegates visited the Smart Farm in San Pedro, attended a reception hosted by the UK Ambassador to Paraguay Matthew Hedges; took part in the Smart Farm launch with the participation of Paraguay Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Denis Lichi, Vice Minister of Agriculture Nicasio Romero and Vice Minister of Livestock Marcelo Gonzáles.

The delegation also had an opportunity for B2B networking with some of the many Latin American businesses attending the Expo, and gave positive feedback about the potential opportunities arising from the trip.

Dr Elizabeth Warham, DIT’s Agri-Tech Lead said:

There is often a reluctance from the end-user – farmer or agri-business distributor – to purchase technology that has not been validated and tested by farmers in the target market, making it difficult for companies to sell technology at a trade event to enter a new export market. A showcase demo smart farm provides a platform for companies to collect data, support claims and illustrate product effectiveness in-country. Where these smart farms are connected to the UK Agri-Tech Innovation Centres – in this case Agri-EPI – academic and research organisations can also be engaged to further develop technologies, so they are appropriate to the local context.

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI said:

There are tremendous opportunities for trade in Paraguay, where there is openness to the UK and great interest in our agri-tech know-how. It is worth highlighting the benefits of the local Maquila regime that affords benefits for UK companies who become active in Paraguay, and then qualify for tariff-efficient access to whole of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market. We thank the companies who took part in the mission and look forward to continuing our exciting collaboration with UK and Paraguay partners.

Ian Cox, Agri-Tech Centres Innovation Lead of Innovate UK, added:

Innovate UK is particularly happy to have supported this Smart Farm in Paraguay. I am heartened by the progress made in demonstrating how UK technology can help to reduce the environmental footprint of farming in Paraguay whilst at the same time improving productivity and profitability. I hope this can lead to further joint collaborations with Paraguay companies to develop further the technologies needed to help solve some of the fundamental problems the planet faces to feed a growing global population.

 

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.

Beef Satellite Farmer shortlisted for Farmers Weekly Awards

Congratulations to Niall Jeffrey of Bielgrange Farm in East Lothian on being named as a finalist in the Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year award for 2019.

Niall was shortlisted in recognition of his commitment to the continuous improvement of his business – something which is also a key driver of his partnership with Agri-EPI.

Beef monitor

During his three years as an Agri-EPI Satellite Farmer, Niall has been trialling a variety of technologies, including the AFI Milk Silent Herdsman Collar for monitoring fertility and health and a quadcopter drone for aerial imagery of fields and stock.  He is also involved in ongoing trials of the Ritchie Beef Monitor, a technology he believes has great potential.

The Beef Monitor is a weigh crate with an integrated water trough, allowing cattle from 350kg to finishing to be weighed every time they drink. It can be used indoors or with animals at grass.

Data can be automatically uploaded to the cloud or exported via Bluetooth, to allow viewing of weights by phone, PC or tablet as well as on the Monitor itself.

Software is currently being developed to analyse the data collected, producing alerts if an animal is underperforming or is nearing finished weight.

Before using the crate, beef farmer Niall was weighing his cattle every three weeks in the run-up to finishing, a 1.5-hour process with EID tags, or a three-hour process without.

The £4,500 Beef Monitor offers Niall a more efficient and precise means of keeping track of animals that are nearing finishing, as well as those that are not performing.

He said:

The potential for the beef monitor is great. If you are a farmer who doesn’t weigh cattle in the run up to finishing, then to go from not weighing to using one of these is a huge leap, but it will help you hit the market spec.

We wish Niall luck in the awards, which take place on Thursday 3rd October at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

 

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.

Agri-EPI supports ground-breaking project Hands Free Farm

Agri-EPI Centre is project managing the innovative Hands Free Farm project at Harper Adams University. Hands Free Farm is the follow-on to the famous Hands Free Hectare project started in 2016 by Harpers Adams and Precision Decisions with the aim to be the first in the world to grow, tend and harvest a crop without operators in the driving seats or agronomists on the ground. The automation farm project has been taken through two successful cropping cycles and won a number of awards, including the prestigious BBC Food and Farming Future Food Award.

Now, thanks to funding from Innovate UK, the project has evolved into Hands Free Farm, a three-year-long project, run by Harper Adams and Precision Decisions and the UK division of Australian precision agriculture specialist Farmscan AG.

The project has just got underway and is based at Harper Adams’ campus in Shropshire. Agri-EPI Centre is providing the team with project management support and development space at its Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub, located on the university’s campus.

Les Hurdiss, Manager of Agri-EPI’s Midlands Hub, said: “Hands Free Farm is a fantastic, ground breaking project which is truly innovative in taking farming into a new era. We are very proud that the project will be developed in our Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub. Robotics and automation are at the forefront of the current transformation of agriculture and Hands Free Farm is one of several projects in which Agri-EPI is involved which are advancing this exciting area.”

Jonathan Gill, Harper Adams Mechatronics Researcher said: “This time, we’re planning to grow three different combinable crops across 35 hectares.

“We’re moving past the feasibility study which the hectare provided us with, to now a vision of the future of farming.

“We want to prove the capability and ability of these systems in reducing the levels of soil compaction and precision application.”

Kit Franklin, Harper Adams Senior Agricultural Engineering Lecturer, said: “We want the farm to become a testbed for agricultural innovation. Once the farm’s established, we’ll be encouraging companies to come and test and evaluate their technologies.”

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.

New OPTIBEEF project aims for improved beef production

A new research and development project involving the beef industry, scientists and precision engineering companies aims to enhance returns for beef producers while helping processors become more efficient.

OPTIBEEF will drive improvements in the productivity, quality and the sustainability of beef production by improving the accuracy of current methods of abattoir carcass grading and creating the first platform for integrating data from ‘calf to carcass’.

Beef monitoring

In the abattoir, the OPTIBEEF system will use new technology – 3D imaging and fat sensing – to provide a more accurate and detailed measurement of carcasses and their components. On-farm technologies will be developed for ‘whole-life’ monitoring of individual animals, including advanced 3D cameras, novel fat sensing, automated weighing and feed intake recording.

The integration of the data gathered on-farm and in the abattoir will shed more light on the factors influencing carcass yield and drive improvements in product quality and consistency. Using this information, farmers will in turn be able to make informed decisions to optimise nutrition, health and welfare, slaughter selections and genetic selections.

The lead partner is HallMark Veterinary and Compliance Services. HallMark recently acquired the UK’s independent carcass classification business, MLCSL (Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Limited) from AHDB. HallMark will work with Scotbeef; Scotland’s Rural College; Innovent Technology Limited; National Physical Laboratory; Harbro; Hectare Agritech; Ritchie Ltd. and Agri-EPI Centre to deliver OPTIBEEF over the next three years.

HallMark Chairman David Peace said:

The established, manual method of classifying carcasses relies entirely on human judgement. It is becoming increasingly challenging to recruit and train enough staff and that process can take a year. So, the development of automated classification technology, as a supplement to our current services, will allow us to maintain service levels to customers, with the objective if continual improvement. A dual approach embracing new technology will provide a robust way forward to meet industry challenges.

The on-farm element of the project is about ensuring that livestock are arriving at the abattoir at the optimum point, reducing the number of animals which don’t, at the point of slaughter, meet processors’ specifications. This will in turn optimise returns for producers by helping them be more selective on-farm, leading to greater efficiencies through processing facilities.

The project will also target the ability to predict yield of primal cuts; something the industry has wanted for a very long time.

The three-year project has won funding of £1.7m from UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of a package to support ‘Productive and Sustainable Crop and Ruminant Agricultural Systems’.

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.