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.

Data-capture and use focus of innovation farm walk

Data-capture and use is the focus of a farm walk at one of Agri-EPI Centre’s technology and innovation trial farms.

The event will take place at Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh, by kind permission of farmers Robert and Jac Neill, on Tuesday 11 October.

Participants will be able to hear about the Neills’ experience of implementing new technology on the farm in conjunction with Agri-EPI Centre, including Crover, the grain-monitoring robot, which burrows into stored grain to check moisture levels and temperature. The Neills also utilise machinery and equipment from Agri-EPI Centre members John Deere, Keenan and Trutest who will talk about their technology.

Robert Neill said:

“The farming industry needs new technology and there are some things that are already delivering really good results at Upper Nisbet. My experience with GPS has been unbelievably good; I can drill crops with much greater precision, meaning I don’t sow in inefficiency at the start of the season. If I know that the combine is exactly where it is meant to be, I can concentrate on other settings, such as keeping the header full. It also means I’m much less exhausted at the end of the day.”

Ross Robertson, head of mixed farming at Agri-EPI Centre said:

“The farming industry needs new technology to become more efficient. Some things have potential and some don’t, but this doesn’t always become clear until they are trialled on working farms.

“Agri-EPI Centre works with arable and livestock farms the length and breadth of the UK, enabling us to undertake and research new technology, commercial trials and data analysis in as many different situations as possible. I am really looking forward to hearing how Robert and Jac are getting on with the technology at Upper Nisbet and to learning about what works and where they see opportunities for development.”

Multi-sensor VTOL UAV

Agri-tech has undergone tremendous improvements with the introduction of remote sensing technologies, making many agricultural properties that were difficult to achieve before now accessible.

Multi-Spectral imaging has been widely used on satellites (e.g. Landsat) for earth observation science at a global scale. In the agricultural domain, UAVs as a platform have played a major role utilising various payload sensors including multi-spectral imaging.

The advantage of multi-spectral imaging is that it extends human sight sensitivity beyond the visible spectrum. Some wavelengths that are widely recognised for applications, such as the normalised difference vegetative index (NDVI), can be deployed into multi-spectral imaging. Nonetheless, it has been proved to be very useful in many other fields, greatly empowering the advancement of agriculture. The adoption of UAVs has made it possible to achieve large-scale mapping and thus better agricultural management.

Agri-EPI Centre has invested in the Multi-spectral VTOL UAV which has a potential use as ground truth technology for other technologies and/or systems.

This UAV and sensing payload system can also be used for a variety of fruit orchard use-cases which include:
• Estimation of leaf area index
• Estimation of canopy volume
• Estimation of water stress
• Fruit biomass estimation
• Temperature variation across the orchard
• Temperature variation of specific plants over time
• Fruit count estimation

It can also be used in other agricultural areas which include:
• Pest infestation detection
• Quantity moisture levels
• Analyse wildlife damage
• Vegetation index creation like NDVI
• Crop counting
• Create 3D photogrammetry maps

For information on renting out our technical assets please contact team@agri-epicentre.com.

Agri-EPI hosts agri-tech focused tour for New Zealand delegation

This month Agri-EPI hosted a visit from Callaghan Innovation and Agritech New Zealand.

Beginning with a visit to one of their satellite farms, Kaiapoi Farm, farmer Robert Hodgkins showcased his new sheep dairy and discussed the realities of farming in the UK and opportunities for deployment of agri-tech.

Agri-EPI works with an extensive network of real commercial farms and research facilities in the UK and internationally, offering a platform through which innovators can verify the effectiveness of their new idea or technology in practice.Their farm network is key to connecting farmers with technology developers, advancing the adoption of agri-tech and enhancing the sustainability of farm businesses.

The next leg of the visit involved a tour of Agri-EPI’s new Agri-informatics building at Cranfield University and the shared Agri-EPI Centre and Crop Health & Protection – CHAP phenotyping glasshouse facility, a superb asset for companies to use for R&D and trials. They were joined there by representatives from the university, CHAP, and Innovate UK.

With a stopover to UK Dairy Day, they watched Agri-EPI members at MilktechNZ showcase their award winning CR-1 electronic cup removers, followed by a visit to Harper Adams University where Hands Free Farm demonstrated their autonomous combine harvester in action.

The final stop was Agri-EPI’s Midlands Agri-tech Innovation Hub where networking and discussions around UK funding and the potential for future collaboration took place.

Jane Lycett, International Business Development Manager at Agri-EPI, who coordinated the visit, said:

“It was great to host an inward mission of innovative agri-tech companies, led by Callaghan Innovation and Agritech New Zealand. The visit provided an opportunity to showcase a number of Agri EPI Centre’s facilities and expertise and discuss areas for future collaboration between UK and New Zealand.”

Specialising in connecting knowledgeable experts and new solutions across the agricultural sectors, Agri-EPI aims to help deliver profitable and sustainable cutting-edge technologies to market.

 

   

Paraguay SMART Farm Project: Adapting Origin Digital’s Contour Platform to the South American Climate

Agri-EPI Centre has been leading the Innovate UK-supported SMART 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. This phase of the SMART Farm project has focused on implementing Origin Digital’s Contour platform across GVASA’s arable fields, providing the farmer with in-depth soil health information, effective crop growth models, and enabling variable rate application.

Origin has worked collaboratively with Agri-Epi and Innovate UK to gather information on 6927 hectares of field boundaries and cropping information in Paraguay. Management zones were created over 1,661 of these hectares using soil brightness technology, and 589.6 had precision zonal sampling done on them for nutrient analysis.

Using crop growth model rulesets developed for Africa, the team were able to deploy these models in Paraguay with high levels of accuracy. Minor localisation of the models further increased the accuracy confirming the localisable value. These models include crop growth stage and yield predictors.

“The African models showed a strong correlation with actual South American yields , says Dan Wood at Origin Digital.

“And accuracy improved further when adjustments were made to the models to begin localising them further to South America, showing that our crop growth models can be successfully deployed in this geography.”

A particularly useful outcome is variable rate fertiliser recommendations, which can lead to significant cost savings, increased soil health, and improved efficiencies, yield and profitability.

“It has been a pleasure to manage the Paraguay SMART Farm project, particularly facilitating Origin Digital’s successful adaption of the Contour platform to the South American climate,” says Emily Laskin, farms technical coordinator at Agri-EPI.

“Seeing British technology provide efficiency and sustainability benefits to farming practices internationally shows us how we can make a difference and is a source of pride for the entire team at Agri-EPI.”

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

 

Read more:

Paraguay case study

Agri-tech expertise yields results for robotics firm

An agri-tech company from Essex is helping farmers overcome labour shortages and practice precision agriculture, thanks to support from the Agri-EPI Centre.

Antobot is developing two robots which will help farmers target valuable resources in the most productive areas, as well as taking some time-consuming tasks off skilled workers.

The Agri-EPI Centre has supported Antobot with knowledge and their network in agriculture, increasing understanding of the sector and facilitating connections with growers, research organisations and other companies.

They have collaborated on multiple grant funding applications with successful joint bids to develop agri-tech innovations. The Agri-EPI Centre’s invaluable knowledge and networking has helped Antobot to develop their business and market potential, contributing to their successful £1.2m seed round in 2021.

Antobot business development manager Zoë Stockton said:

“We first started working with the Agri-EPI Centre in 2020 and have built a great relationship with the team.

“One of the greatest benefits of our relationship with Agri-EPI Centre has been the expert knowledge they have, particularly about funding streams to help us innovate. As a result of that help, we were awarded Project Insight in UKRI and Defra’s Farming Innovation Pathways program which we are working on with Agri-EPI.

“The development of our Insight robot is the focus of this 24-month project, and Agri-EPI are involved as project managers and knowledge experts.

“They were really useful when we were going through that funding application. The relationship has also directly delivered new business for us, helping us to grow and create sustainable jobs. The assistance has been invaluable.”

Agri-EPI Centre, part of the UK’s Agri-Tech Strategy and supported by Innovate UK, helps develop profitable and productive solutions to empower more sustainable farms and aims to support projects which will generate economic growth and help tackle the global issues of sustainability and feeding the world.

There are four centres across the UK, dedicated to innovation.

Antobot has created a modular robot system which can be adapted for different purposes. The first two applications being developed are Insight, a scouting robot, and Assist, which is used for logistics.

Insight is currently in field trials on partner farms, primarily with strawberry and apple crops. It can collect and process data about crop growth and ripeness so precious worker resources can be directed to the areas where yield is likely to be higher.

 

Read more:

Antobot case study

Mirico’s ORION®

The agricultural sector is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, with the IPCC estimating that agriculture and land use are responsible for 21% of all greenhouse emissions, and with 52% of nitrous oxide emissions coming from the sector. To help understand exactly where and how these greenhouse gases are emitted during agricultural processes, reliable measurement methods are needed. As a powerful greenhouse gas with 84 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide, methane (CH₄) needs to be accurately monitored, and its emission response to increased temperature needs to be quantified.

Mirico’s Orion® CH₄ technology has been developed to monitor methane emissions on a continuous basis across a large area, in all weathers. At the heart of all Mirico products is a revolutionary new technology- Laser Dispersion Spectroscopy (LDS). Whereas traditional optical sensing systems measure the intensity of returned light, LDS is measuring the change in frequency of the returned light. The technology provides real-time monitoring of emissions, operating specifically in the mid infra-red spectral region and enables the collection and interpretation of emissions data in all weather conditions. From this data users are able to gain insights based on accurate continuous reporting, even in fog, rain, snow and particulate affected environments. The Mirico Orion® is able to carry out fugitive emissions monitoring, biomethane emissions monitoring, greenhouse gas analysis, and agricultural gas monitoring.

Key benefits:
Compared with conventional methods of monitoring methane and ammonia concentrations, Mirico’s Laser Dispersion
Spectroscopy technology offers:
• Accurate, precise and reliable measurements
• Consistent performance in adverse weather conditions (rain, fog, snow, dust)
• Large area coverage with simple, robust equipment
• Autonomous and continuous monitoring
• Real time, reproducible data for more meaningful analysis

Agri-EPI has invested in Mirico’s Orion® methane measurement system and will be using it in funded project work at its state-of-the-art South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset, which aims to offer a fresh vision for sustainable UK milk production. Our unique version of this sensor, including bespoke additions to the Mirico software suite, will be available for research use at SWDDC and can be used for trials such as outdoor and indoor methane monitoring, feed trials, herbal leys trials and ground truthing of novel sensors and monitoring methods. For information on renting out our technical assets please contact team@agri-epicentre.com.