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.

Is the fourth Agricultural Revolution upon us?

Agriculture is always changing with the introduction of new technologies. From the first farmers learning to rotate crops and mastering irrigation to today’s use of sensors, cameras and AI, agritechnology has been essential to improving the quality and productivity of food production.

The first agricultural revolution started around 12,000 years ago, when humans first began cultivating the land for food. Following millennia of farming, the second agricultural revolution saw the reorganisation of farmland in the 17th Century while the third came in the 1950s and 60s with the introduction of farming machinery, fertilisers and pesticides. As we increasingly rely on remote sensing, data gathering and autonomous robots to maintain and improve agriculture, many are seeing the rise of agritech as the fourth agricultural revolution.

A new agriculture?

Robotic milking machines have drastically changed the workload of the dairy farmer; it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the impact on the arable, horticulture and other sectors if robots are able to plant, selectively weed, spray by drone and harvest crops, further reducing reliance on manpower.

The appetite from big business, media, and governments worldwide seems to suggest that digital is progress in the right direction, if the agriculture industry is to boost sustainable food production and protect the environment simultaneously. Adding to this is the significant amounts of both public and private investment the agriculture sector is currently attracting, and the sudden overlap of agriculture and other, previously discrete sectors, such as space, sensor development, computer software, hardware developers, robotics, engineering and manufacturing.

A fair playing field

Despite the obvious benefits of increased productivity and profitability for many farmers, the onset of agritech solutions raises questions and challenges, too. 

Ensuring that agricultural technology is available to all is key. Preventing large farming businesses swallowing up the market and pushing out smaller, family-owned farms, who simply can’t afford to invest in large-scale agritech, serves to benefit very few individuals.

Further, if agritech is widely available and used ubiquitously, what then happens to the data? Many food producers are questioning who would own any data gathered for agritech purposes, and whether it is secure. There’s no point collecting vast amounts of data if they cannot be used for decision-making, so digital platform developers must avoid the creation of data silos that could ultimately stifle innovation and collaboration.

Connecting the world

There is also a wider issue of digital connectivity. While urban vertical farms with high-speed fibre internet are able to hit the ground running with many agritech solutions, rural farmers can struggle to access 4G services, let alone broadband. Farmers without the means – or the inclination – to digitally connect could find themselves at an unfair disadvantage.

Even when increasingly connected, the introduction of automation and AI looks set to transform the face of agriculture and put an end to traditional farming methods. If robots in the fields become a viable alternative to human employees, farming life after the fourth agricultural revolution could be a lonely place.

Smarter agritech solutions

The Agri-EPI Centre network brings together researchers, academics, start-ups and larger companies from across the supply chain to explore the future of agriculture and technology, develop the ideas that will drive innovation and take those ideas from paper to prototype.

Our satellite farm network is essential to engaging with end-users, giving us on-the-ground feedback from commercial farm businesses and allowing us to trial new and disruptive technology and assess the impact of agritech. This delicate, informed and reflective approach must be the foundation for all agritech solutions, from animal health to aquaculture.

Shimpling Park Farm

John Pawsey is the owner of Shimpling Park Farms, one of our satellite farms in Suffolk. A keen farmer and agritech enthusiast, John welcomes the opportunity to trial many of the cutting-edge technologies being developed within Agri-EPI Centre’s network. 

“From a purely personal perspective, I can see the benefits coming through and I am hugely excited by the potential developments I hear being discussed,” says John. “But [I am] acutely aware that without bringing the whole industry along with us, the divide between haves and have nots could potentially be damaging.”

So far, John has tested a number of new agritech, including the System Chameleon, CropScan, UAV technology and precision farming platform KORE, deployed by Agri-EPI Centre in partnership with Gothia Redskap, Precision Decisions and SoilEssentials Ltd.

You can find out more about our ongoing research and development work at Shimpling Park Farm, and John’s experience of the technology, in the video below.

Further information about Agri EPI Centre, our solutions and capabilities, the member network we can connect you with and the work we undertake, please feel free to contact Duncan Ross, Crops Business Development Manager at duncan.ross@agri-epicentre.com.

World Water Day 2021: Agritech solutions for better resource management

The 22nd March is World Water Day, an observance day established by the United Nations to highlight the importance of fresh water and raise awareness of the millions of people around the world who still don’t have access to the crucial resource.

World Water Day was established in 1993 to bring greater attention to water scarcity, water pollution, sanitation, water supply and climate change, with each annual event centring on themes from improving hygiene to sustainability.

Events take place around the world to celebrate the day, including fundraising events, campaign launches, volunteering opportunities and discussion in both the real and digital world on key water issues.

World Water Day 2021

Taking place largely online, World Water Day 2021 is focused on ‘Valuing Water’, with activities designed to support the achieved of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.

Whether it’s household or industrial use, water is integral to how we live, eat and work, with wider impacts on education, health and economics. Safeguarding this essential – and crucially, finite – resource is at the heart of World Water Day 2021, as climate change and peak population levels put global water supply under more pressure than ever before.

Sustainable and Equitable water resource management is of particular importance to the agriculture sector, and the UN World Water Development Report 2021 underlines just how often water is overlooked.

Working with agri-tech partners for greater sustainability

Agri-EPI Centre works with a range of aquaculture and agritech specialists, supporting farmers, academic institutions and a range of other partners to improve the sustainability, efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture. this World Water Day, we’re celebrating the incredible work agri-tech companies are doing to preserve precious water supplies and benefit the entire planet.

ALVÁTECH 

ALVÁTECH is a leading supplier of affordable technology that enables farmers to use water with higher salinity for irrigation and livestock, so they can save fresh water and improve crop growth. Currently operating in 11 countries around the world, ALVÁTECH’s EMF Active Water System is at the forefront of improving water management in agriculture.

Aqua Innovation Ltd

Developing innovative solutions for the salmon farming industry, Aqua Innovation Ltd. support aquaculture farmers to create the best environments for fish farming, through projects such as the SeaCAP 6000. From fish welfare to waste management and regulatory issues, the work of Aqua Innovation Ltd is driving growth of the aquaculture sector.

Aquapulse

Aquapulse’s natural, non-chemical water technology for the agriculture, fish farming and horticulture sectors, delivering environmental benefits as well as improving sustainability, hygiene and greater profit margins. Naturally cleaner water systems mean healthier animals and crops, and better quality produce such as dairy , fruit and vegetables.

Oxi-Tech Solutions

Emerging UK tech company Oxi-Tech Solutions is currently commercialising a game-changing water disinfection system set to improve animal hygiene and water quality for a range of sectors. Their development of the most powerful oxidant in use today, Dissolved Ozone, removes chemicals and plastics found in water, eliminating the need for chlorine for dairy farmers.

SEM World

Hugely relevant to the 2021 World Water Day theme of ‘Valuing Water’, SEM Energy Ltd works to recycle waste into new products and contribute to a circular, waste-free economy. From meter installations to rust removal, SEM’s solutions usue the latest technology for outstanding results.

Agriculture and World Water Day

Both now and in the future, agri-tech will be key to better management of water resources; from improving crop productivity relative to their water consumption to crop resilience to flooding and drought. Real-time monitoring of crop, soil and weather data can ensure optimal use of water, while biotechnology will enable farmers to produce more with less water.

To find out more about World Water Day and UN-led events you can get involved with, visit the UN Water page. To discover our network (or join it!), you can see our full list of network members and see how agri-tech is transforming agriculture through our projects.

Lead sponsor for Scottish animal health, agritech & agriculture event announced

The A3 Scotland conference, the country’s first dedicated global event dedicated to the animal health, agri-tech and aquaculture (AAA) sectors, is delighted to welcome the world’s largest animal health company Zoetis on board as its Platinum Sponsor.

“The organising committee for A3 Scotland 2022 is thrilled to have Zoetis as our Platinum Sponsor. As a global leader in animal health, aquaculture and agri-tech, Zoetis is the perfect partner and we look forward to working closely to ensure A3 Scotland 2022 is a success,” said  Lawrence Brown, Veterinary Surgeon and Consultant and Innovation Manager for Health at Edinburgh Innovations, co-founder of the event alongside John Mackenzie, CEO of the Roslin Innovation Centre.

“”Zoetis’ shared enthusiasm for driving innovation, investment and collaboration across AAA has been hugely encouraging and their commitment to A3 Scotland 2022 demonstrates the important role that Scotland will play in the future of sustainable food security and animal health.”

A unique AAA-sector event

The inaugural non-profit event is being organised by the Roslin Innovation Centre, part of the University of Edinburgh, in partnership with the Life Sciences Scotland AAA Industry Leadership Group. The Group represents numerous organisations across Scotland, including: Scotland’s Rural College, James Hutton Institute, Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Scottish Association for Marine Science and UK Agri-Tech Centres CIEL and Agri-EPI Centre.

While the event was initially planned for September 2020, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic until April 2022. The conference’s theme is ‘transition to net zero’, bringing the latest research and development from across the AAA industries to investors and policymakers from around the world to discuss strategic partnerships and sustainability.

About Zoetis

Zoetis is a global animal health company with over 65 years’ experience delivering quality medicines, vaccines and diagnostic products to businesses from veterinarians to livestock farmers. With biodevices, genetics tests and precision livestock farming complementing their offering, Zoetis’ dedication to supporting the care of animals made them an ideal partner for the animal health, agri-tech and aquaculture conference.

As a world leader in cutting-edge animal health technology, drawing on both on-the-ground experience of their technical and veterinary specialists, Zoetis is committed to the development of agri-business and the sustainability and longevity of agriculture

Sarah Heming Zoetis Public Affairs Director for Northern Europe said: “We are delighted to be supporting such an important event in Scotland and we are most definitely looking forward to having the chance to be there in person with many other great minds tackling the challenge of transitioning to net zero. Join us in Edinburgh for some productive discussions.”

To join the conference and find out more about the event, visit our events page.

UK agri-tech expertise boosts essential grain production in Kenya

A collaborative project involving UK agri-tech businesses is transforming finger millet production in Western Kenya, providing agronomic support and precision farming technology to 2,000 farmers.

The 18-month project, funded by Innovate UK’s Agri-tech Catalyst Programme, is designed to improve the productivity and profitability of finger millet farming in the Busia and Siaya regions, boosting supply of finger millet grain to meet overwhelming demand.

Finger millet grain is a highly nutritious superfood, favoured by and recommended to breastfeeding mothers and often fortified with other grain as a supplementary food for infants. Packed with protein, calcium and dietary fibre, finger millet grain provides essential nutrition that aids the prevention of under-5 stunting, anaemia in pregnancy and calcium deficiency.

Failing grain supply

Nationwide demand has piled pressure on finger millet farmers, which is further compounded by a wide range of agricultural challenges. Finger millet farmers in Kenya operate in a segmented value chain; with many farmers operating smallholdings in remote, rural areas, they cannot easily access inputs and agronomic services. 

The result is low grain yields from a variety of fragmented sources which frequently fail to meet market quality requirements, and finger millet farmers operating on a subsistence basis.

A collaborative agri-tech solution

Agri-tech experts from Agri-EPI Centre and Harper Adams University worked with Nairobi’s Strathmore University, agronomic services provider Newscape Agro Systems Ltd. and technical services provisions company USOMI Ltd. to boost Kenya’s finger millet production. 

“It is our desire and obligation to ensure rural communities achieve nutrition beyond subsistence,” said Dr. Denis Mujibi, Chief Executive of USOMI, of the project’s aims. “We are targeting smallholder households to ensure year-round access to a nutrient-dense food. We aim to grow our impact through our Nutrigen programme to 30,000 farmers by 2025.”

As well as the participating companies’ expertise, the project is based on the results of field trials and demonstration plots, using “many years of experience in the field of crop improvement across Africa, Asia and Latin America … for the betterment of the smallholder farmers in Kenya,” explains Dr. Peter Okoth, Agronomist with Newscape Agro Systems.

Smarter farming for smallholders

By offering access to agricultural technology, better farming processes and ensuring smallholders a guarantee of selling their grain to millers and processes, the project will support Kenya’s farmers throughout the supply chain to improve both yield and profitability. Dr. Sven Peets, Senior Lecturer at Harper Adams University, described the solution as “state-of-the-art agricultural technology” tailored into “an appropriate technology package which is commercially viable in the long-term”.

Farmers will receive free agronomic support, data driven advice from remote sensing and weather data, delivered through a purpose-built precision farming platform. The project will connect farmers with mechanisation service providers and introducing forward contracting, with USOMI Ltd. guaranteeing the purchase of the finger millet.

Participating farmers will also be supported to produce poultry as an additional income source, feeding the poultry lower-quality grain to turn wasted product into profit and ensure the longevity and sustainability of the farming system. Ultimately, the project will bring wider economic and social benefits to Kenya.

A “transformational” agri-tech project

“This is a potentially transformational project which aims to provide farmers in Kenya with a new tool and better knowledge of finger millet management to increase productivity and profitability,” said Agri-EPI Centre’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Shamal Mohammed. “By integrating sensor technologies such as satellite imagery, automatic weather station data and local agronomic data to better understand the soil-crop interactions, [we can] develop an affordable mechanism to increase nutrient use efficiency for finger millet crops.” 

UK dairy agri-tech businesses to showcase technology in Ukraine event

UK-based agri-tech companies that provide agri-technology solutions to the dairy farming and dairy processing sectors are being sought to develop a dairy centre of excellence in Ukraine’s Berdychiv district.

The centre, currently in the approval stages, would replace an existing dairy farm owned by leading agricultural company and grain production and export specialist, Nibulon. As well as increasing the dairy farm’s herd size, the centre will act as a centre of excellence to showcase innovative agri-tech in the dairy industry.

Declining milk production in Ukraine combined with rapidly increasing demand for dairy products has resulted in a critical need to improve the productivity and profitability of Ukraine’s dairy industry. In order to stimulate Ukraine’s dairy sector, UK agri-tech experts are being invited to demonstrate technical agricultural solutions on a commercial farm and processing unit. 

An exciting opportunity for UK agri-tech businesses

In partnership with the Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock (CIEL), Agri-EPI Centre has been asked by the Department for International Trade (DIT) to connect with leading agri-tech businesses in the UK, inviting them to become a part of Agri-EPI Centre’s UK Smart Farm project in Ukraine and explore unique export opportunities in the country. As one of the UK’s two Agri-Tech Centres, Agri-EPI are well-placed to produce a blueprint for modern, efficient “smart” dairy, with a high health-status herd and integrated farmhouse cheese making.

“This is an exciting call for UK agri-tech businesses to potentially showcase their technology,” said Agri-EPI Centre’s Business Development Director Lisa Williams. “The UK has access to a wide portfolio of technical solutions that can help Nibulon and the wider dairy sector in Ukraine reach its aspirations.”

Jane Grady, HM Deputy Trade Commissioner for Eastern Europe and Central Asia:

“We want to bring together a group of innovative British companies to showcase UK excellence in dairy management and cheese making and become part of our new innovative UK Smart Farm project in Ukraine.”

Interested companies are invited to join a webinar to find out more about the project, Nibulon and agri-tech export opportunities in the Ukraine dairy sector. The webinar takes place on March 17th, from 12 – 13:15 GMT (14:00 – 15:15 EET).

The webinar will cover:

  • An overview of UK agri-tech export opportunities
  • UK agri-tech companies already successfully exporting to Ukraine 
  • The dairy sector opportunity in Ukraine
  • An overview of Nibulon
  • How Agri-EPI Centre & CIEL can support your agri-tech in Ukraine

To find out more about the webinar, visit our dedicated events section. To register to take part, go straight to the webinar registration page.

Event partners

Agri-EPI Centre is partnering with CIEL to showcase UK agri-tech business in UkraineAgri-EPI Centre is partnering with DIT to showcase UK agri-tech business in Ukraine

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.

A3 Scotland 2022: Save the date

As sponsor and event partner, Agri-EPI announces the inaugural A3 Scotland for this year to be postponed to 26-27 April in 2022.

Transition to Net Zero

The conference, themed ‘Transition to Net Zero, focuses on encouraging innovation, investment and collaboration in animal health and sustainable food production and brings together industry, investors and policymakers from around the world to discuss strategic partnerships and discover the latest R&D. 

Initially the event was scheduled to take place on 21 and 22 April this year. However, with the ongoing uncertainty around international travelling, face-to-face networking and site tours, the organising committee has made the decision to postpone the event to a safer and more opportune time. The conference will be held next year on 26-27 April 2022. 

The rescheduled event will offer the same exciting programme based around the theme of ‘Transition to Net Zero’, with an exciting and engaging line-up of committed thought leaders from across industry, science and policy. If you are interested in being involved as a speaker, sponsor or delegate, do not hesitate to get in touch and be sure to follow on social media for the latest updates.

A3 | Animal health, agri-tech and aquaculture

‘A3’ refers to animal health, agri-tech and aquaculture and no coincidence for this event to be held in Scotland. With the largest cluster of animal bioscience/aquaculture researchers in Europe, Scotland is already a global player in the ‘A3’ sector. The Roslin area in particular, are internationally recognised as having strengths in A3, both in the research and commercial environments. 

The conference programme offers two core days 26-27 April of expert speakers from across the sectors, panel discussions and networking opportunities. Wrapped around this are optional pre-and post-conference tours showcasing some of Scotland’s world class A3 facilities and expertise. The A3 conference is taking place on the doorstep of our Northern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub in Edinburgh.

A3 Event partners

A3 Sponsors

The not-for-profit event is being organised by the Roslin Innovation Centre, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, the University’s Roslin InstituteMidlothian Science Zone, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. Agri-EPI and its fellow UK agri-tech innovation centre CIEL are amongst the event’s sponsors and are providing input to the programme.

Other partners involved are: Visit Scotland, Highlands and islands Enterprise (HIE), Data Driven Innovation (DDI), Global Academy of Agriculture and food security (University of Edinburgh); Scottish Africa Business Association (SABA), European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) food, Moredun Research Institute, SRUC, SEFARI and most recent signed up partner Zoetis.

Agri-EPI is proud partner and encourages her industry, academic and governmental network to keep an eye out on event promotion closer to date and be sure not to miss this first ever A3 event!

Interested?

For more information and to register for A3 Scotland 2022, the inaugural conference for the Animal Health, Agritech and Aquaculture (AAA) sectors, please visit: bit.ly/A3Scotland2022.

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.