News - Agri-EPI Centre | precision farming & innovation

News

Discover all the latest news from farming, innovation and technology with us.

Agri-EPI news explores new precision engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across crops, land management and livestock for improved welfare and increased productivity. We have a broad memberships from the farming, manufacturing and retail sectors, as well as collaborating on projects around the world.

Beta Bugs takes flight with Agri-EPI Centre support

  • Agri-EPI Centre supported growth for a sustainable and carbon neutral agri-tech business
  • Membership offered high level networking and exposure for Beta Bugs
  • Friendly and supportive environment for innovation

A specialist UK agri-food supply chain business which is improving insect genetics to tackle one of the world’s biggest challenges has expanded thanks to support from the Agri-EPI Centre.

Beta Bugs has developed a pioneering insect breeding facility at the centre’s Scottish site which is also home to the company’s growing team.

CEO and Founder Thomas Farrugia said the insect farming industry is helping to combat three major areas contributing to the climate emergency: food waste, deforestation, and carbon emissions.

And he says being part of the Agri-EPI Centre has delivered collaboration, funding and access to new market opportunities – as well as space to grow its operations specialising in the genetics of insects destined for feed at the Centre’s Northern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub in Scotland.

The Agri-EPI Centre, part of the UK’s Agri-Tech Strategy and supported by Innovate UK, is a membership organisation which aims to support projects which will generate economic growth and help tackle the global issues of sustainability and feeding the world.

Beta Bugs focus on breeding an improved Black Soldier Fly is part of that mission to generate a sustainable alternative protein source that can be used in aquaculture, pork, and poultry feed.

The growing company is a member of the Agri-EPI Centre, based at the Easter Bush Campus site near Roslin, which offers a host of benefits to members, from employment and lab space to support with funding bids.

Thomas said:

“Agri-EPI provided us with a great office and space for us to be able to grow, both the team and also the space for the bugs. It’s helpful to be on site with other agri-tech businesses because it’s good to be able to build up connections, share peer-to-peer learning and there are collaboration opportunities between us.”

Thomas said being a member of the Agri-EPI had been a huge factor in the growth of the company.

He said:

“It’s great to be able to work with a team that’s so motivated to enable agriculture to innovate further and develop, and to be able to leverage that.

“What I really like about Agri-EPI is the physical space, being able to build connections into the agri-food supply chain. The ability to build relationships with key stakeholders such as Innovate UK and DEFRA has been really important too and one which we accessed via the platforms that Agri-EPI Centre gave us.

“We’ve had assistance with leveraging grant funding and managing building projects, as well as engineering support. Importantly, they’ve helped us expand and helped the company to grow and create jobs.”

Annabelle Gardener, Membership and Events Manager at the Agri-EPI Centre, added:

“Beta Bugs is a great example of a company which has really benefitted from our dedicated support and assistance. The business is growing, creating jobs and developing new products and services to supply other companies in our sector – it is a real supply chain success story.

“By working together, we have shown we can support agri-tech companies to scale and Beta Bugs is just one of 142 different projects we’ve helped since our launch, supporting collaborations providing access to R&D funding of £36 million into the sector.”

Farm Tech Circle launched by Agri EPI Centre

Agri EPI Centre has launched a free membership network for farmers to discover and connect on topics that focus on enhancing the profitability and sustainability of agriculture.

Agri-EPI has identified that there is a need to bridge the gap between academia, research, technology development and the farming community to support technological adoption on-farm.

“From a recent farmer-led survey conducted by Agri EPI Centre, 78% of those questioned believe reducing greenhouse gas emissions was important to their business. However, only 35% have confidence that technology will help them reach net zero.

“These results highlight the disconnect between those creating technology and those that are using it to support the sustainability of their business. This is where being part of Farm Tech Circle will help.” – Trish Toop, CTO at Agri-EPI Centre

Agri EPI Centre has worked in collaboration with farmers, growers and producers since its conception.

“We have a network of 25 Satellite Farms which are commercial farms that we engage with to trial and validate innovative technologies.

“Farm Tech Circle is an extension of our current engagement with farmers. It is an inclusive membership for any farmer looking to enhance the sustainability of their farm business through knowledge exchange and the support of technology.”

As part of the free membership, farmers will be able to connect, learn and engage through access to the following benefits:

  • Priority registration for Agri-EPI Centre hosted events
  • Engagement with our technical team
  • Quarterly newsletters featuring information and articles on technology, systems or processes to help support business decisions
  • Member networking opportunities

Those wishing to find out more about Farm Tech Circle and/or join are encouraged to visit: https://agri-epicentre.com/membership/farm-tech-circle/

Aquaculture Innovation Centre opens on Scotland’s Argyll coast

An array of aquaculture specialists, academics and industry representatives gathered at Loch Fyne on Scotland’s Argyll coast yesterday, 15th June, to witness the formal opening of Agri-EPI Centre’s new Marine Aquaculture Innovation Centre (MAIC).

 

Guests of the launch event were welcomed by Managing Director of Otter Ferry Seafish, Alastair Barge, and CEO of Agri-EPI Centre, Dave Ross, who introduced the new centre.

 

“The facility is scaled and configured to bridge gaps identified by industry, including testing of instrumentation and validation of operational welfare indicators, and other trials, under controlled conditions with near market-sized farmed fish. The proposed investment is industry led – responding to industry demand and taking design and direction from that demand.”

 

Guests enjoyed a tour of the facilities, a networking lunch, and the witnessing of the formal opening of the centre.

 

In conjunction with independent aquaculture company, Otter Ferry Seafish (OFS) – and jointly funded by Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre – the Marine Aquaculture Innovation Centre offers fully serviced research and development facilities to aquaculture producers and technology providers and is aimed at helping to drive sustainable solutions and improve efficiency for the UK aquaculture industry.

 

Alastair Barge, Managing Director of Otter Ferry Seafish, explained:

“Research has been at the heart of the company since day one, but our recent collaboration with Agri-EPI has added new impact and a new species in salmon. We have a great mix of industry and research, and together we can forge the way as innovators in sustainable aquaculture.”

 

Agri-EPI Centre has over 220 industry focused stakeholder members spanning retailers, supply chain associations, and high-tech companies, large and small, and this collaboration helps drive innovation and solutions within the sector.

 

“Enabling assets such as the new Marine Aquaculture Innovation Centre provide industry and academia with bespoke industry-focused facilities to perform development testing, validation and solution-finding.”

 

If you would like more information about Agri-EPI Centre, please visit: https://twc.agri-epicentre.com/

Jane Lycett joins Agri-EPI Centre

Jane Lycett has joined the Agri-EPI Centre team as our new International Business Development Manager.

Born on a Shropshire dairy farm, Jane graduated from the Agriculture Department at Reading University. She worked in dairy sales before pursuing a career in business support, funding and inward investment. For the past decade she has worked with the Department for International Trade, initially based in the British Embassy in Paris and then in the UK, to work for DIT’s Investment Services Team. More recently she worked as their Agri-food Specialist.

Through her role with DIT, Jane worked closely with the Agri-EPI Centre, and since joining the AEC team as International Business Development Manager last month, has continued to develop international relationships and identify collaboration opportunities with overseas partners. This includes leading on the International SmartFarm initiative to support efficient and sustainable approaches to farming and food production across a range of countries, working with UK agri-tech innovators.

“I’m looking forward to identifying opportunities to deploy world class UK agri-tech expertise overseas and also collaborate with companies from other part of the globe – working with the hugely talented and dedicated team at Agri EPI Centre” – Jane Lycett, International Business Development Manager at Agri-EPI Centre

Ross Robertson joins Agri-EPI Centre

We are delighted to welcome Ross Robertson as our new Head of Agri-Tech (Mixed) and the newest member of our Agri-EPI team!

Coming from a farming background and working on farms from a young age, Ross graduated from SAC Craibstone with an HND in Agriculture and went straight to work on a pedigree Aberdeen Angus farm. He progressed into sales after several years and then into area management and product development with a local manufacturer of quality Livestock Equipment. Working with Technology equipment at development and design stages in an IUK project then lead to furthering his career into the job role of Head of Agri-Tech at Agri-EPI Centre.

In collaboration with our Head of Crops and Head of Dairy, this Mixed role will support our livestock farmers with a focus on regenerative agriculture and agricultural sustainability, with the aim of developing and and delivering Agri EPI’s offerings across the mixed farming sector including beef, sheep, pigs, poultry, grassland and combinable crops.

“Agri-Tech has a very exciting future ahead. The technologies that we are a part of developing will help the UK Agri Sector massively to carry on being one of the best in the world” — Ross Robertson, Head of Agri-Tech (Mixed) at Agri-EPI Centre

New innovation centre unlocks aquaculture opportunities

Agri-EPI Centre’s latest innovation hub at Loch Fyne on Scotland’s Argyll coast will help to drive sustainable solutions and improve efficiency for the UK aquaculture industry.

In partnership with independent aquaculture company, Otter Ferry Seafish (OFS) – and jointly funded by Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre – the Marine Aquaculture and Innovation Centre (MAIC) offers fully serviced research and development facilities to aquaculture producers and technology providers.

For further information on the MAIC facility or to enquire about research collaboration please contact Charlie Bowyer.

charlie.bowyer@agri-epicentre.com

“We’ve been involved in aquaculture innovation and new species development since 1968,” says Alastair Barge, Managing Director at OFS.

“For this initiative, we did market research to see what the sector needed to deliver sustainable solutions – R&D requires facilities, and most businesses can’t afford to run their own research stations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The MAIC comprises a series of replicated small and large land-based tanks, located indoors under programmable lighting.

“The tanks have water capacities of two cubic metres and 20m3, respectively. In the 12 smaller tanks we can test four different regimes or diets, in triplicate, as commonly required for scientific evaluation,” Mr Barge explains. “In the six larger tanks, we can rear salmon and other farmed species to near-harvest weight.”

The tanks have a water flow-through system, incorporating pre-treatment using sand filtration and UV sterilisation. They are fitted with particle separators to measure uneaten food and fish waste.

Eduardo Jimenez, OFS’s Research and Development Manager, says:

“Land-based tanks offer greater environmental control than cages or other sea-based growing systems, improving the reliability of trials data. Interference from environmental factors is minimised because we can control and replicate conditions like lighting, water exchange rate, and oxygen levels.”

And the first trials are already under way.

“At the moment we are running a benchmarking feed trial for a commercial client comparing three diets, to assess which is best in terms of fish growth and feed conversion efficiency.”

As well as helping to improve diets and treatments for farmed fish and shellfish, the MAIC is well suited for evaluating different strains of commercial farmed species and for developing rearing methods for up-and-coming species like seaweeds. It also provides a platform for validating new aquaculture technologies for counting and observing livestock and monitoring water quality.

“This is a great new resource supporting UK aquaculture innovation and we’re going to keep improving the facilities, bringing in new species and trials,” says Dr Jimenez.

Improving aquaculture sustainability is at the core of the partnership and the MAIC.

“I think this centre can be a model for innovation, all with a background of sustainability,” adds Mr Barge.

Lisa Williams, Director of Business Development at Agri-EPI, is excited about the range of R&D projects which the centre can help with.

“It’s one of a kind in the UK. The centre will facilitate a range of trial work that will enable us to really look at efficiencies within the sector. It also opens the opportunity to carry out near-market trials, as well as linking into the long-term sustainability of the sector and wider ecosystem within that supply chain.”

“The partnership is a perfect combination to drive forward change and is a valuable resource to aquaculture businesses that want to initiate and progress R&D projects. If any business is interested in undertaking a project, then we encourage them to get in touch.”