Agri-tech - Agri-EPI Centre - engineering precision agriculture

Agri-tech

Agricultural technology, agri-tech or agritech, describes the use of technology in agriculture, aquaculture and horticulture to help improve efficiency, yield and profitability. The Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation Centre (Agri-EPI Centre) is one of four agri-tech centres established by the UK Government. Agri-EPI Centre focuses on the delivery of research, development, demonstration and training on precision agriculture and engineering for the livestock, arable, horticulture and aquaculture sectors.

UK farmers confident about benefits of agri-tech but unsure of its role in net zero, new research suggests

While most UK farmers are using agri-tech, many are doubtful of its ability to help them meet net zero targets, a nationwide survey by Agri-EPI Centre has revealed.

The Agri-EPI research sought to understand how and why farmers are using agri-tech, shed light on barriers to its use and explore the technologies farmers think will be needed in the future.

The research, conducted through interviews with farmers across the UK, found that 78% are using some form of agri-tech, with the highest adoption rates among younger farmers and those with large farms. The biggest reasons for its use are increased productivity and profitability.

Yet, while the same percentage (78%) of farmers believe that it is important to reduce their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions (rising to 94% of those under the age of 45), only just above a third (35%) are confident that technology will help them reach net zero carbon emissions.

One reason for this could be that farmers need greater skills and support to understand the benefits of technology and to adopt it. The research found only half of farmers rate their skills in using agri-tech as ‘good’, with less than half (43%) of all farmers interviewed feeling well supported in introducing or making better use of existing technology.

Agri-EPI centre’s Chief Executive, David Ross, said: “While the majority of UK farmers recognise that agri-tech has an important role in supporting their priorities of productivity and profit, we are struck by the fact that only around a third felt tech has a role to play in environmental sustainability.

“Technology is one of the solutions to helping farmers reduce their emissions –agri-tech that helps farmers be more efficient and productive usually offers a win-win for sustainability.

“The findings of our research provide important insights for Agri-EPI and our fellow Agri-Tech Centres, as well as for those with a role in developing, evaluating and promoting technology, particularly the agri-food sector, policy makers, agri-tech companies and the R&D community. The farmers we spoke to told us they need accessible training, funding, and more evidence and independent advice to help them make the best use of agri-tech. We want to collaborate with partners across all of areas to ensure the benefits of agri-tech is make clear and the avenues to adoption are easily accessible.”

Of the farmers interviewed who are using agri-tech, popular technologies include machine guidance systems (40% reported they are using this), soil mapping (35%), livestock growth monitoring (30%) and variable rate application (28%).

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm.

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm. The findings of the research will be discussed at Agri-EPI’s annual conference, titled The Path to Sustainability, on 28 October.

Defra opens its Farming Innovation Partnership competitions – how can we support your application?

This week, Defra opens its Farming Innovation Partnerships Feasibility and Small R&D competition strands. With just six weeks to go until the closing date, we want to ensure we are best able to support our members build their project collaborations and funding applications.

We have identified a number of challenge themes, in consultation with our farmer network, which we will use to guide our thinking in supporting and developing projects. These are:

Create tools to track and manage environmental impact
Improve data exchange to track productivity and impact
Develop higher resolution farm management information
Automate processes for creating management information
Automate processes for targeted actions
Improve health and welfare of plants and animals

Agri-EPI can provide access to our farmer network, testbeds and other facilities; help with building up your project and consortium; technical and project management expertise; or support with writing an application, as appropriate.
If you are considering applying to these competitions and would like support from Agri-EPI or to find out how we can help, please complete this form, with as much information as possible. This will help us best understand how we can help and where we can add value. If your idea is still quite early-stage and you don’t have all the information, or if you are looking to join a collaboration that fits into one or more of the themes above, just send us what you have. We will then direct your enquiry to the member of our team best able to advise how to take your idea further.

Your information will be dealt with in confidence and we won’t approach any additional partners without consulting you first.

Please get back to us by 29th October at the latest, but the sooner we hear from you, the better position we will be in to provide support.

A winning solution for autonomous farming safety 

Agri-tech company Agribot AI has won the Agri-EPI and Hands Free Farm (HFF) hackathon tackling safety and security concerns around autonomous agricultural vehicles.  

A hackathon funded by Smart Agri-Hubs, Agri-EPI Centre in collaboration with Hands Free Farm tasked participants to “hack” a safety solution for unmanned machinery.  The teams which took part came from a range of disciplines, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, drones and computer vision. 

Agribot’s winning concept brought together cutting-edge AI and vision technology to provide a cost-effective, anonymised human and animal detection system that could work with notoriously patchy rural connectivity. The company is now in conversation with the Hands Free Farm team on developing and implementing their technology on the HFF site.

Agribot were joined by five other teams that included Epitomical Limited, Continental Industry, NextGenAgri Limited, GMV NSL, MNB Networks Ltd

Agri-EPI Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “The quality of ideas and solutions from the teams that took part in the hackathon has blown away everyone at Agri-EPI, the team at Hands Free Farm and our judges – Clive Blacker, Kit Franklin, Andy Newbold and Sarah Walton. We were particularly impressed with Agribot AI’s proposal which has very real potential, and we are excited to see how it develops at Hands Free Farm.” 

Autonomous vehicles offer arable farmers a wide range of benefits, such as better utilisation of farm staff and increased precision and reduced inputs, all of which combine to improve farm economics. 

However, to ensure the implementation of agri-tech can keep pace with the rate of innovation, the safety, security and reliability of new technologies must be guaranteed. 

The lack of formal safety regulations, codes of practice and other legislation pose a potential barrier to the widespread use of cutting-edge agri-tech, hindering the progress of the entire agri-food sector. 

Hands Free Farm partners with Precision Decisions, part of the Map of Ag group. Clive Blacker, Head of Arable Produce at Map of Ag said:  

“The diverse nature of agriculture and robotics operating in off-road and on-road environments poses many challenges. Our aim with the hackathon was to bring great ideas from any background into agriculture that have the potential to support robotic safety. We have been delighted and inspired by the solutions put forward.”  

 

Agri-EPI appoints Dr Trisha Toop as Chief Technical Officer

Agri-EPI is very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Trisha Toop as its new Chief Technical Officer. 

Trisha, who joins Agri-EPI from Harper Adams University, is an expert in sustainable systems development with a passion in transforming agricultural systems through the use of novel targeted smart technology. 

Taking up post on 1 October, Trisha will provide leadership, drive innovation, and steer Agri-EPI’s technical growth. She will work with project partners, governments, industry and the international agri-tech community to drive help Agri-EPI’s technological vision and strategy. 

Trisha started out in the automotive engineering sector, before completing a degree in genetics and biochemistry. After winning a national competition which funded an interdisciplinary PhD in engineering and biochemistry, the focus of her work has been on the development of novel sustainable products and processes in the agri-food and agri-tech sectors. Trisha has worked with companies of all sizes across these sectors assisting them with innovation and facilitating cutting edge research with a global impact. She has worked as a research scientist, sustainability and techno-economic analysis expert and innovation manager for a number of companies. 

Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive, Dave Ross, said: “We are very much looking forward welcoming Trisha to Agri-EPI. Trisha brings a wealth of knowledge and experience which we know will help to shape and deliver our priorities during this pivotal time for us, and for the agri-food industry.” 

Trisha said: “I am really excited to be taking up my new position with Agri-EPI. This is a time where agriculture faces the greatest change since the first agricultural revolution and the development of technology is key. To be able to work with centre members to develop and implement the game changing technology needed is a great opportunity.” 

Trish succeeds Dr Shamal Mohammed who has taken up a new position as Agri-Tech Director with Silal, an organisation supporting food security in the United Arab Emirates. 

Producing more sustainably: How can tech support farms to reach their goals?

 

The role of agri-tech in the journey towards more economically and environmentally sustainable farming is the focus of Agri-EPI annual conference on 28 October.

The free, online event will bring together farmers and the wider agri-food industry, technology developers and start-ups, investors, and researchers in a series of round-table discussions about the role of data and technology in improving productivity and profit while protecting and enhancing the environment. Farmers involved in Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm Network will join the conversation.

Lisa Williams, Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development said: “Drawing on our links with every part of the agri-tech landscape, Agri-EPI’s aim is to bring together a diverse group of participants to add their perspectives and expertise on what’s required to deliver effective new technology that really makes a difference to farmers as they focus on sustaining their businesses during this time of transition for the industry.”

The winners of Agri-EPI’s Agri-tech Excellence Award will also be announced at the event. Supported by Marks & Spencer, Syngenta, Leyton, Barclays and Kubota, the Awards recognise companies that have had a beneficial impact on-farm.

The shortlisted companies are:

Category 1: UK on-farm impact

Flox AI

Flox use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve bird welfare + flock performance

Oxi-tech Solutions

 Oxi-Tech Solutions has commercialised a novel Patented technology that creates the most powerful industrial disinfectant Currently in use today dissolved ozone created entirely from the water on-farm and low voltage electricity.

Taylor Technologies

Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence based technology system that enables a conventional crop sprayer to become a precise, intelligent and futuristic weed-targeting spot-sprayer.

Bx Technologies

Bx is an ambitious Climate-AgriTech company, fusing technology with nature to transform how we grow food.

Pruex Ltd

Pruex have an innovative approach, using non-infective bacteria, similar to soil bacteria, to outcompete disease causing bacteria, and provide livestock with healthier environments to live in.

B-Hive Innovations

B-hive Innovations is a dedicated research and development company for the fresh produce industry technologies include HarvestEye & TuberScan.

Category 2: International on-farm impact

ALVÁTECH

ALVÁTECH is a revolutionary Eco-friendly water technology for agriculture and livestock, allowing farmers to use saline and hard water to grow more, increase profits and reduce water consumption.Kisan Hub

The KisanHub Platform is a suite of software delivering real-time agri-food supply chain and procurement information to help Producer Groups manage supply and demand.

Onachil Food Store

Onachil makes, sells/ rents solar powered cold chain technologies to farmers which they use to safely preserve their produce after harvest as we link them directly to buyers using our E-Commerce AI conversational chatbot.

Farm ERP

FarmERP is an intelligent and next-generation farm management platform, developed to ready a wide range of entities and stakeholders for the future.

Wicow

 wiCow is a smart, state of art, early warning, and health tracking technology for cattle and buffalos.

Tavant

 Our solutions, powered by Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms, help improve operational efficiency, productivity, speed and accuracy in the interconnected world to succeed in a rapidly changing business environment.

 

Held on the virtual conference Hopin, the conference will also provide a useful networking opportunity.

To find out more and register to join the event visit: Agri-EPI Centre’s Annual Conference | The path to sustainable Farming (hopin.com)

Securing UK farms: Tackling rural crime with NextGenAgri

In the wake of the NFU Mutual report on rural crime, Agri-EPI Centre network member NextGenAgri and partners at O.R.P. CCTV and R-Com IoT have teamed up to develop an innovative new solution to help combat what is an irrefutable blight on the agricultural industry.

With an estimated total cost of £43.4m in 2020 – and with rates rising considerably on certain assets and in certain regions – theft is a real cause for concern. But other crimes such as dog attacks on livestock and fly tipping also cost the agrifood sector both time and money every year.

Jim McClean, NFU Mutual Chairman says: “As a farmer myself, I know from personal experience that rural crime […] is far more than an inconvenience. It’s a major disruption that can have a real impact on a farmer’s work life, family life and mental wellbeing. The anxiety experienced by farming families […] is impossible to calculate.”

Solutions to the biggest agrifood challenges

Agri-EPI Centre works alongside farmers, developers and stakeholders to help solve challenges facing agriculture and safety on farm, including the safety of premises and technology, has been at the forefront of our most recent work – including our upcoming Hackathon.

That means working with Agri-EPI Centre network members, such as NextGenAgri to continually test, adapt and develop systems that can keep agricultural assets safe and secure. From plant, asset and vehicle tracking to CCTV systems and intruder alerts, Agri-EPI Centre has been essential to facilitating NextGenAgri’s innovations in agritech.

NextGenAgri uses agri-tech to enable farms to accelerate the adoption of technology to accelerate business growth, providing a range of solutions that couple innovation with the critical challenges of the UK agricultural community, including farm yields, asset security and worker safety.

The Active AI Enhanced CCTV camera developed by NextGenAgri is at the cutting edge of farm site security, extending the capability of existing cameras to deliver proactive alerts, 24-7.

Utilising AI, this system can detect unexpected, out-of-hours movement and can distinguish between different vehicles (from scooters to large plant), people and even suspicious behaviour. Should the system identify something out of the ordinary, the alarm is raised allowing the stakeholder to check and respond accordingly.

Evolving to meet future threats

Gill Nunn, CEO and Founder of NextGenAgri Limited says: “The solutions we have developed with our partners enable us to deliver a highly capable response to criminal behaviour and activity. They also provide a platform for our evolution to meet future threats.”

Duncan Kirby, R-Com IoT says: “The solutions we have developed with our partners provide end-to-end, integrated, and modular solutions that give land owners and farmers alike a proactive, highly accurate, efficient and effective response to criminal activity.”

Referring to Active AI Enhanced CCTV, Chris Marlow, CEO of O.R.P. Surveillance says: “Agricultural settings can be one of the most challenging environments to secure. The flexibility this system offers is a game changer in its adaptability to different environments and its ability to respond to various threats. Smart, automated, pro-active systems are the future of rural security. We are proud and excited to be a part of that.”

Working alongside farmers, tech developers and a wide range of other companies in the agricultural sector is just one of the many ways we facilitate and enable innovation on farms in the UK and internationally. You can find out more about Agri-EPI Centre’s work on our project pages.