‘Affordable’ precision soil map takes off following UK agri-tech partnership

A collaborative project to help farmers and landowners make a more affordable entry into precision farming has resulted in the commercial success of a high-tech soil mapping service.

Precision agriculture company RHIZA is now offering an affordable precision soil mapping service utilising satellite data which was developed as a result of their Innovate UK-funded research project involving AgSpace, Agri-EPI Centre, Cranfield University and James Hutton Institute (JHI).

The two-year project joined high resolution satellite data together with the UK’s most comprehensive soil datasets from Cranfield and JHI to produce a new ‘precision soil map’, an economically viable alternative to the traditional, labour intensive method of field soil surveys.

Since the project concluded in August 2018, RHIZA has developed a commercially available product which it says can cost farmers up to 50% less than traditional soil mapping.

Max Dafforn, RHIZA Business Manager, said:

“The precision soil mapping service has really taken off: it is now providing data on around 800,000 ha of farmland across the UK, helping growers to increase yields with lower input costs and reduced environmental impact.”

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI Centre said:

“Our aim in collaborating with academic and commercial partners is ultimately to see greater uptake of precision agriculture technologies which deliver benefits for productivity in farming and food production. The results of the project tick all the boxes in this regard and we’re proud to have been involved the development of the precision soil map as a commercially viable product.”

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.

Boosting livestock production efficiency with new project

A new project has been launched to boost production efficiency within the UK’s dairy-beef sector.

Livestock production

Well-Calf will develop precision technologies for optimising livestock production efficiency through improvements in health and management throughout an animal’s life.

Approximately 50% of beef production in the UK originates in the dairy herd. There is large variation in productive weight-for-age and health status of young calves entering rearing units from dairy farms.

As a result, disease incidence and antibiotic use is high. An animal’s early life health status influences it performance efficiency in later life. Projected industry losses due to suboptimal early-life management is £120M per year, while the impacts of disease costs the industry £80M per year.

To tackle such losses, Well-Calf will develop the first system for integrating data from different stages of a dairy-beef animal’s life through to slaughter, with an early-warning health detection system specifically designed for calves to detect diseases such as scour and pneumonia. The aim is that the cloud-based system, the first of its kind, will support decision making at various levels, from on-farm to wider farming policy and practice.

Jose Chitty, Chief of Operations for project lead Smartbell, said:

“We are very excited to work on calf health. Pneumonia and scours are the biggest calf killers and severely affect an animal’s lifetime productivity. Through the Well-Calf project we will directly address this problem and expect to increase productivity, improve welfare and reduce antibiotic usage.”

The project has won support totalling £1 million 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’. It will run for two years. The lead of this livestock production project is Smartbell and the partners are Agri-EPI Centre, Co-op Food Group Ltd, Dunbia (England), Parklands Veterinary Ltd. and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

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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.