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.

An Introduction to the new Agricultural Transition Plan

As a member of the British Agri-Tech community, Kasi McReddie has literally been on the edge of her seat waiting for DEFRA’s announcement which sets out Government’s plans for the transition from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The announcement, of which details can be found at The Path to Sustainable Farming: An Agricultural Transition Plan 2021 to 2024, lays out plans for adaptation in the English farming community over the next seven years. Kasi is Agri-EPI’s Business Development Manager Livestock and Aquaculture and has formulated what this means for farmers and the agri-tech community and what opportunities there are for agri-tech companies going forward.

Farmers in England will see a phased-out reduction in Direct Payments over 4-years starting in 2021, with money saved in reduced BPS payments being used to fund grant and schemes to boost farmers’ productivity and reward environmental improvements.

What does the announcement mean for the agri-tech community?

One of the main barriers to the uptake of technology on farm is cost. In my experience, farmers are very good businesspeople and, quite rightly, are rarely convinced to purchase a novel or innovative piece of equipment. The Agricultural Transition Plan gives us more details of some schemes which aim to financially incentivise farmers to look towards technology to improve the sustainability of their production.

Looking forward, the Environmental Land Management (ELMs) will include the Sustainable Farming Incentive (beginning 2022), which will support approaches to farm husbandry that deliver for the environment, such as actions to improve soil health, hedgerows and integrated pest management.

Future plans will also include the Farming Investment scheme, which is aimed at improving productivity in agriculture, addressing the underlying causes by supporting businesses to invest in equipment, technology, and infrastructure.

This will include:

  • Farming Equipment Technology Fund – small grants to contribute towards the purchase of a list of specified items
  • Farming Transformation Fund – larger grants towards the cost of more substantial investments in equipment, technology or infrastructure

The Farming Investment Fund for Equipment and Technology and Transformation will be open for applications in autumn 2021. From 2022, farmers will also benefit from an increased investment in agricultural Research & Development that will enable more farmers and agri-food businesses to drive innovation.

What does the announcement mean for farmers?

Under the new plan, farmers will be encouraged and incentivised to embrace changes to production techniques and practices which will reduce any negative environmental impacts. Significant emphasis is being put on innovation over the several years ahead. Farmers will be incentivised to explore how technology can be used to improve productivity whilst simultaneously delivering for the environment.

Agri-EPI have a unique network of 27 ‘Satellite Farms’ – a group of forward-thinking farmers who have welcomed the use of technology on farm and are paving the way for a more sustainable future. From milking robots to animal health sensors, and from infrared technology to drones, Agri-EPI have delivered innovation to the British farming community in this way. The Satellite Farm network is a thriving example of how the adoption of technology can support the productivity, efficiency, and sustainability of food production.

How can Agri-EPI support tech companies?

The report states that, by 2028, all farmers should be “managing their whole business in a way that delivers profitable food production and the recovery of nature, fusing the best modern technology available today with the rediscovery of the traditional art of good farm husbandry”.

As an example, technology to improve animal health will be eligible under the new Farming Investment Fund. Agri-EPI are working with a number of innovators to enable the development of solutions for monitoring the health of calves, adult cows and pigs using motion sensors, 3D imagery, augmented reality and more. Such solutions allow ‘early detection’ of health issues before a farmer could with the naked eye, thereby enabling early intervention leading to improved animal welfare, improved productivity, and efficiency. and cost savings on-farm.

Agri-EPI combines technical expertise, technology, and on-farm ‘test beds’ to provide a unique offering to support tech developers and farmers alike to co-develop solutions to some of farming’s most prominent challenges. The Government have now clearly laid out plans which will underpin our mission, by providing grants to farmers to purchase innovative solutions.

Agri-EPI also provide business support, project management and access to world-class research and innovation facilities and research assets, and builds links between research, agri-tech innovation, industry and the value chain, through its membership of >150 companies across agriculture, technology and the value chain.

The announcement should be welcomed by the farming and agri-tech community alike, with shifting policy clearly focussed on incentivising the use of innovation on-farm.

The industry faces unprecedented challenges, the likes of which some will only experience once in a lifetime. During the coming period of change, Agri-EPI will continue to support innovation in agriculture.

More information

If you want to learn more about how we you can get involved in R&D, learn more about our Satellite Farm network, or simply contact us to find out more about how we can support your own business.

Agri-tech Conference explored food resilience in COVID age

Together with the Agri-Tech Centres, Agri-EPI organised the Virtual Conference ‘Innovation for Food Resilience’. The event, hosted by BBC Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith, was designed to showcase and discuss a host of new technologies and techniques helping farming and food production to become more resilient and sustainable. The conference gathered an incredible interest: over 1200 delegates attended the conference and over 20 countries took part. Recordings are made available on demand for those unable to join on the day.

Accelerating agrifood innovation

‘Innovation for Food Resilience’ features insights into key challenges and opportunities for the food and farming sector from industry thought leaders and how new technologies and solutions being developed across the family of UK Agri-Tech Centres could play a pivotal role in supporting productivity and sustainability.

Professor Tim Benton, from international affairs think tank Chatham House, has a clear message about the need to adapt to frequent and unpredictable change and how building resilience is a key strategy for being able to effectively adjust.

NFU President Minette Batters focuses on UK trade and transition and the seismic impact that the current unknowns will have on farming businesses. She highlights how data and innovation can empower farmers to avoid risk and the opportunity for farming to offset carbon for other sectors

Ellen Wilson, Microsoft UK’s Sustainability and Smart Cities Lead highlights the importance of measuring your own journey to sustainability to effectively manage and understand the impact achieved.   Evidence points to sustainability being better for business.

Food resilience and innovation in agriculture

The 4 Agri-Tech Centres explored different aspects of the work underway to promote innovation throughout the food supply chain. Themes covered are climate smart food systems, sustainable productivity, crop and livestock health, and food provenance and quality.

In particular, CHAP’s Dr Harry Langford, spoke about Climate Resilient Food Systems, highlighting the work of CIEL’s Duchy Future Farm; Agri-EPI Centre’s Hands Free Farm and Gelponics, a CHAP project focusing on developing an autonomous, hydroponic system centered around a novel hydrogel growing media. Another project he talked about was the Agrimetrics’ regenerative agriculture platform regenagri, an initiative aimed at securing the health of the land and the wealth of those who live on it.

Stuart Blyth, Head of Business Development of CIEL, covered Food Safety and Provenance, using CIEL’s Agriplas, a cold plasma research facility investigating the potential uses of the antimicrobial properties of this pioneering technology for the food industry. He also spoke about CHAP’s NLG Centre and Crop Storage facility, and Agri-EPI Centre’s Opti-beef project as a good example of the wide range of work being done in this area. The Opti-Beef project is about creating an enhanced decision support platform to modernise, standardise, and drive efficiency improvements across the UK beef supply chain.

Dr Shamal Mohammed, Chief Technical Officer at Agri-EPI Centre looked at Sustainable Productivity, including CHAP’s Soil Health Facility, Agrimetric’s Verde Analytics and CIEL’s Precision Grazing. Last but not least, Anna Woodley, Agrimetrics Head of Sales, covered Crop and Livestock Health with a focus on looking at whole systems rather than managing risks in isolation.

Presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session, with lots of interaction from delegates across the globe. Closing remarks, by Dr Ian Campbell, interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK, provide the key ‘takeaways’ from the event. In particular, he notes how collaboration is key and how the combined capability of the UK Agri-Tech Centres offers the front door for industry to world leading expertise and capabilities.

View on demand

The event can be viewed in its entirety on the UK Agri-Tech Centres YouTube channel.

Event impression

Get in touch

Let us know what Agri-EPI, together with the Agri-Tech Centres, can do for your organisation or how we can inspire innovation in agriculture even further and fill out our contact form.

UK Agri-Tech Centres showcasing latest agri-food innovations

From a robot that can ‘swim’ through grain stores to the ‘wonder’ technology cold plasma, the UK Agri-Tech Centres’ most exciting collaborative projects will be showcased at their joint conference, ‘Innovation for Food Resilience’, this Thursday, November 19.

Experts from Agrimetrics, Agri-EPI centre, CHAP and CIEL will discuss a host of new technologies and techniques helping farming and food production to become more resilient and sustainable. They will focus on advancements in four key areas: Net Zero; sustainable production; crop and animal health; and food quality and provenance.
The free, virtual event will also feature sessions from keynote speakers NFU President Minette Batters; Chatham House Director of Energy, Environment and Resources, Prof. Tim Benton; and Microsoft’s Sustainability and Smart Cities Lead Ellen Wilson.

Speaking on behalf of the four Agri-Tech Centres, Lyndsay Chapman, Chief Executive of CIEL said:

“As the UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres it is our mission to support collaboration and innovation right across the food supply chain. Our aim in holding this conference is to bring together all those with an interest in food resilience to discuss the opportunities, challenges and priorities for action during this unprecedented time.

“We’ll be highlighting some of the latest developments in agri-tech that the Centres have achieved in collaboration with our wide range of partners. This is helping to support sustainable and profitable farming and food production.”

Agri-Tech Centres Event | 'Innovation for Food Resilience' | 19 November 2020

Driving agri-food innovations

The four Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation are the result of a unique collaboration between UK Government, academia and industry to drive greater efficiency, resilience and wealth across the agri-food sector. A £90 million investment from the UK’s strategic innovation agency, Innovate UK, is enabling the Centres to harness leading UK research and expertise as a well as build new infrastructure and innovation.

Together, the four Centres aim to:

  • Join-up existing excellence and invest in new innovative research and resources that don’t exist elsewhere
  • Address challenges that no single part of the sector can address alone
  • Open up opportunities for transformational change
  • Position the UK as a global leader in sustainable food production

For more information about the UK Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation, please visit www.agritechcentres.com

 

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. For further information visit www.innovateuk.gov.uk

NFU Vice President to join agri-tech conversation at innovation conference

NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw will deliver a keynote address on the value of agri-tech to profitable and sustainable farming at Agri-EPI Centre’s annual conference on October 6.

Tom, who farms in partnership with his wife, Emily, and his parents in North Essex, is one of a group of expert speakers to be taking part in the conference, titled:

Agri-tech: Connecting Farmers with Technology

 

Held virtually due to COVID19 restrictions, the panellists include farmers and other experts from across the agri-food sector.

Agri-EPI’s aim is that the day will provide valuable insight and build collaboration as agri-tech is discussed candidly in the context of policy, investment, on-farm uptake, processor and retailer perspectives – and much more.

Together with National Farmers Union, and event partners Landmark Systems and Lloyds Bank, we warmly invite you to attend this Annual Conference. The event runs from between 9am and 3pm on October 6, is free-of-charge and open to all. For more information about the programme and panel line-up, visit the event website or register here.

This event is supported by

Landmark Systems
Lloyds Bank

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.

Things to consider – recruitment in Agritech

Sam Clayton, Managing Director and Recruiter at AgRecruit shares his views on recruitment in agritech

Running an AgriTech specific recruitment business means that I spend my time working with companies in the AgriFood domain when it comes to recruiting for roles that are non-traditional for the sector. This sees me working on roles in Software Engineering, AI & Robotics, Data and various Engineering disciplines, as well as commercially oriented roles focused on a tech service.

For start-ups, or perhaps more established entities delving into the tech market for the first time, recruitment can mean stepping outside of the Agri world and into a wild-west where you’ll be fighting tooth and nail for the in-demand talent you need, against companies across the likes of Banking, Retail, Energy, Healthcare and any other sector you can think of.

This post focuses on elements that need consideration before you even dip your toe into the water and start engaging with candidates. Some may seem obvious, but hopefully there’ll be one or two you hadn’t thought of which will help you on your way…

Does what you’re looking for exist?

You may have 3-4 business needs that require addressing, varying from Sales through to Software Development – but, if you’re expecting one miracle worker to solve all of these, you might have to think again. With the odd exception, generally people will specialise in one discipline; so you need to decide which of these is the most pressing, or work out if you can recruit for more than one post.

How challenging is the role to fill?

You’ve decided that your requirements are feasible and it’s all systems go. Will it be straightforward though? Software Engineers and Data Scientists, for example, are established role types – but are still notoriously hard to find and attract. Are you looking for a skillset that is abundantly available, or is this a highly specialist role that could prove challenging?

Can you make life easier for yourself?

If, based on the above point, you’ve deduced that this could be challenging, can you take measures to open up the pool of viable candidates? Some flexibility on aspects such as remote working or the role requirements (could elements be learned on the job?) can significantly facilitate your journey.

In agritech recruitment, what do you have to offer?

What is standout or unique about you and your proposition that will be enough to not only convince somebody that the upheaval of changing jobs is worthwhile, but also that you should be their first choice versus the other parties vying for their attention? How are you making your ‘USPs’ (Unique Selling Points) apparent to candidates?

Do you have an interview & selection plan?

What type of interview(s) do you want to carry out and across how many stages? Are all decision makers agreed on what is needed and reading from the same hymn-sheet? Will your process give people a chance? Of course, the barrier for entry can’t be set too low… but, on the other hand, a process that is overly arduous or drawn out may result in great candidates being ruled out for minor imperfections or becoming disengaged.

Do you have the time?

You doubtless have other tasks and responsibilities that require attention; do you have the time to make this a priority right now? Can you review CVs in good time? Do you have time to vet candidates on the basics (e.g. salary expectations, are they serious about looking or just ‘window shopping’, etc) before committing to interview? Are you and all other decisions makers available to move through the interview process at sufficient rapidity?

Will you need help?

If you’ve exhausted your own network and your job ad isn’t yielding results, you may need to enlist help and look at going down the Recruitment Agency route. It will need to be a sufficiently attractive proposition for an agency to invest time & resources into. Surprisingly to many, the fee % you’re willing to pay is not the most important thing here; experienced Recruiters are more likely to prioritise the prospect of a healthy working relationship and partnership. To aid this, consider whether you’d be happy to work with one agency exclusively, or will there likely be further assignments to come should they deliver for you?

All the above points could lead to a blog post on their own, but hopefully this is enough to help make your life easier and start to maximise your chances of success. We are passionate about building further relationships in the AgriTech space and lending a helping hand where possible to growing companies in this domain, so will always be happy to provide advice and guidance for free on the topics mentioned here. Happy hunting!

Contact Sam Clayton at AgRecruit for help on anything covered in this post, or any other recruitment related enquiries:
(+44) 01908 035950
sam.clayton@agrecruit-ltd.com

Farmers to help identify key agri-tech areas in Scotland

With a survey focused on key agri-tech areas of Scotland, as part of a wider project funded by Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI), beef and sheep farmers, consultants, vets and researchers are being asked for their views on the use of modern technology. Information collected in a new survey will be used to identify key areas for the use of agri-tech to improve productivity, efficiency and sustainability in both beef and sheep production systems in Scotland.

Survey agri-tech Scotland

We invite farmers and food producers to fill out the agri-tech survey. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete and can be completed anonymously. This survey can also be completed by respondents outside Scotland and closes on 31st of August.

 

SRUC’s Jenna Bowen, who is leading the study, said:

“The potential benefits of using agri-tech in the beef and sheep sector are far reaching. This survey will help us to understand industry views and experiences with existing systems from participants who use these systems on a regular basis, and help identify where research should be prioritised.”

Project partners

The project team includes Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), The Moredun Research Institute and Agri-EPI Centre.

Agri-EPI Logo Primary Square
Moredun Research Institute

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.