Government and Policy - Agri-EPI Centre - Precision Innovation

Government and Policy

Working with the agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture sectors, at Agri-EPI we explore and deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in the UK.

Updating our members and wider interested sectors on evolving Government directives, regulation and policy, we also support seek to inform, educate and influence policy with research, new technology and empirical data.

Agri-EPI appoints farming industry experts to its Board

Agri-EPI has appointed three farming industry experts to its Board: Sarah Calcutt, Tom Hind and Allan Stevenson.

Sarah Calcutt has spent 25 years working in food and farming. Sarah’s experience gives a unique insight into the business development needs and opportunities open to the British food and farming community.

In addition to running her successful business growth and communications consultancy, Partners in Produce Ltd, Sarah holds a number of executive, non- executive and voluntary roles. These include Non-Executive Director of the Covent Garden Market Authority, Executive Chair of the National Fruit Show and membership of City Harvest’s Food Council. She is a monthly columnist in Southeast Farmer and a regular contributor to a range of food and farming publications.

 

Tom Hind was born in Sheffield and now lives in North Yorkshire. He brings a wealth of experience drawn from across the food and farming sector in terms of policy, industry dynamics and commercial drivers. His career in farming has spanned more than 20 years in a variety of leadership roles at the NFU, Tesco and AHDB. He is a recognised expert in agricultural policy and has a significant track record in strategy development and influencing government and the wider food and farming industry.

Having left the farming industry in 2020 Tom is now CEO of the North York Moors National Park Authority where he leads a team of over 130 people charged with conserving and enhancing the landscape, cultural heritage & natural beauty of the North York Moors, one of ten National Parks across England.

 

Allan Stevenson was brought up on a Scottish arable farm and has enjoyed a varied career as a chartered accountant in a broad range of private and public sector business roles. He brings a diverse range of experience and expertise to Agri-EPI. He is a past Chairman of the Farmers Club, and currently Chairman of two pension schemes, advisor/consultant to a few agri-tech companies and running Luffness Mains Farming, an arable enterprise in East Lothian.

After a business and law degree in Edinburgh his accountancy career took him abroad and then to England where he worked in finance and commercial roles in growing private international businesses, finally returning with his family to buy out the family farming enterprise in Scotland.

Back in Scotland, he acquired a portfolio of NED roles, including Chair of AHDB Potatoes and SCRI which merged into the new James Hutton Institute, both these appointments taking him into the agriculture and science policy environment, with an interest in the sustainability of food, farming and technology. These involved some time developing relationships in China and elsewhere on matters concerning the global potato industry.

Agri-EPI Chair Vince Gillingham said: “I am delighted to welcome Sarah Calcutt, Tom Hind and Allan Stevenson to Agri-EPI as Non-Executive Directors. They bring an invaluable mix of skills to the Board, including boots on the ground farming, extensive policy experience and many decades of business experience. As Agri-EPI moves into the next phase of its growth, they will add huge value to the organisation, help deliver impact across agriculture and help us strengthen our connections to the sector’s front line.”

Agri-EPI Centre featured as supporter of Midlands tech innovators in UK Government campaign

As part of a UK Government campaign encouraging UK companies to export their goods, the Department for International Trade has released a short video which we were delighted to see featured Agri-EPI Centre, our partners and our Midlands Innovation Hub.

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 business people 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-EPI CTO among expert speakers at UK food security forum

The potential of digital innovation to support food resilience and security will be the focus of a keynote speech by Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical officer, Dr Shamal Mohammed, when he speaks at the high-profile Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum on Monday November 30.

Shamal, who is one of the UK’s leading experts on agricultural technology and science, is part of a high profile panel featuring speakers from farming, business and policy and R&D, taking part on the event, titled Food security – UK priorities, supporting domestic production and driving innovation.

Shamal will be discussing the sustainable productivity and the challenge and opportunity for smart technologies to improve food security and environmental sustainability.

Shamal said:

“The shift from a linear model of food production systems to a more circular model can significantly reduce environmental impact and also contribute to a net zero carbon economy by sequestering more carbon in our soils, improving biodiversity and helping to sustain our natural capital.

“Smart technologies play an important role in enabling the transition towards a sustainable production system by increasing monitoring and decision-making power, transparency, and intelligence -driven processes. In my talk, I will be explaining in more detail how such technology can enable more resilience, diverse and integrated food production systems.”

Other keynote speakers at the event include John Ingram, Food Systems Transformation Programme Leader at the Environmental Change Institute and NFU President Minette Batters. David Linden MP, Co-Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Food and Drink and Baroness Osamor, Member of the UK Parliament’s Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee, are chairing the event.

For full details of the event and to register, visit the Westminster Forum website.

Agricultural productivity key to unlocking future opportunities

Technology and UK farming

A new report published this week by the Food & Drink Sector Council (FDSC), to which the UK’s Agri-Tech Centres contributed, highlights the critical role of technology in the transformation of the UK’s farming industry.

Agricultural Productivity

The report was prepared for the FDSC by the Agricultural Productivity Working Group (and associated Task and Finish sub-groups), on which Agri-EPI CEO Dave Ross represented the Joint Centres. The report states that the industry and government must together seize the opportunities presented by new policy frameworks and technology to lead the transformation.

With the UK leaving the EU, imminent changes to agricultural policy and the pressure to achieve net zero emissions, the report highlights the steps that industry and government can take together to overcome the productivity challenge that has long faced the British farming industry.

Agri-EPI’s Dave Ross said:

“Alongside fellow industry experts, I worked on this report to outline the priority steps we believe must be taken to maximise agricultural productivity during this unprecedented time for UK agriculture.

“As our report highlights, there is a fundamental need for farming to become more data-driven, allowing performance measurement and the sharing of data for comparison between farms. This will require a range of actions around safe and effective data sharing and use. The report’s further recommendation for an Evidence-Based Farming (EBF) Initiative will be a key part of developing data use in agriculture. I am confident that Agri-EPI’s existing Satellite Farm network, along with the other Centres’ extensive networks, will play an important role in a new EBF programme.”

Speaking on behalf of the UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres (Agri-EPI Centre, Agrimetrics, CHAP and CIEL) Lyndsay Chapman, Chief Executive of CIEL, said:

“We very much welcome the recognition given in this new report to the critical role of agri-tech innovation and data.  As farming faces unprecedented challenges, it is essential that farmers and food businesses have access to accurate information, allowing them to make the best management decisions. The Centres’ shared vision is to drive greater efficiency, resilience and wealth for UK farmers and the wider agri-food sector.”

Read the full report on the FDSC website here.

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.

Kiwi alliance speeds innovation development

Global collaboration plays a vital role in developing solutions for our farming industries – so in September we were delighted to receive 20+ visitors from New Zealand on an innovation-led agri-tech mission. The visit followed our own expert mission to New Zealand in March this year: our nations have many farming similarities, so agri-tech innovators are uniquely placed to share challenges and opportunities.

Farmers across the UK and Ireland already use technology from New Zealand companies like LIC, Gallagher, Waikato and Tru-Test, and there is plenty that our own innovators can do to help farmers across the globe. The challenges are the same whether you farm in New Zealand or the UK: achieving greater productivity and efficiencies, labour availability, environmental pressures and changing consumer preferences. Smart technological solutions can help answer those challenges.

With the help of the Department of International Trade, Innovate UK, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, the Callaghan Innovation-led mission visited the Irish National Ploughing Championships and UK Dairy Day, as well as our Agri-EPI hub in the Midlands and the South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset.

Les Hurdiss, Operations Manager at the Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub, explains:

“Agriculture is New Zealand’s number one industry, so their government really promotes innovation. But the domestic market is small, so they need to expand globally.”

By creating ‘landing pads’ in the UK, employing British staff, receiving British investment and developing new innovations for the British market, everyone stands to benefit.

In addition, having a straightforward entry to the New Zealand market helps our own investors and innovators, while having a presence on opposite sides of the world speeds up technological advances due to the ability to squeeze two seasons of testing into one 12-month period.

Having returned to New Zealand, Peter Wren-Hilton, Executive Director of Agritech New Zealand, has already drafted actions and initiatives to submit to Government ministers. Times are moving rapidly ahead: watch this space.

Logo KTNMission report

Earlier this year, Agri-EPI Centre took part in Agri-Tech Expert Missions to Australia and New Zealand respectively. KTN has delivered two separate publications that summarise the opportunities for UK organisations in both areas and insights gathered during the delegation’s time. Don’t miss out on these insightful documents and download them here.

Innovate UK’s Global Expert Missions, led by Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network, play an important role in building strategic partnerships, providing deep insight into the opportunities for UK innovation and shaping future programmes.

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.