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International

Agri-EPI collaborates with growers and scientists around the world. Partnering on international projects, as well as initiatives throughout the UK. Supporting agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture, Agri-EPI explores and delivers precision farming engineering, technology and innovation. Discover more about our international collaborations and projects.

Boosting the uptake of Precision Agriculture in Serbia

The limited adoption of precision agriculture is causing a lag in productivity in the sector – something which Agri-EPI is trying to alter through its involvement with the DRAGON project in Serbia. 

The three-year project aims to increase the adoption of precision agriculture technologies, practices and strategies by upskilling and educating young researchers in both hard and soft skills. Funded by H2020, it’s a consortium of four partnersBioSense, a Serbian University that cross-fertilizes two most promising sectors in Serbia: ICT and agriculture, recognising that ICT today plays a pivotal role in ensuring sustainable, smart and inclusive growth of agriculture. The other partners in the project are Agri-EPI Centre, Strathclyde University and Wageningen University in The Netherlands. 

At the end of November, Agri-EPI’s CTO, Shamal Mohammed, attended a four-day training school at the BioSense Institute in Serbia, to sit on the B2B panel. He was joined by Jim Wilson at SoilEssentials, who delivered a talk on online precision farming platform KORE, and Ben Scott-Robinson at the Small Robot Company, who spoke about AI driven robotic services for farming. 

The training school has presented students with technical information about innovation in agriculture, agri-tech and applied science solutions on farm, while also demonstrating how to present and profile research. 

Through further organised trips to the Netherlands and the UK over the course of the project, it is expected that skills and expertise will be transferred to BioSense researchers. The longterm outcome of the project will help them improve their capability to communicate practical big data knowledge across the supply chain and to the non-scientific community.  

For more information about DRAGON, please visit the website: www.datadragon.eu/.  

World-class agri-tech in Africa

Establishing trust between farmers and investors

GRID tool

An innovative digital farming system is helping to increase yields across thousands of hectares of farmland in southern Africa while also creating new jobs locally and in the UK.

AgSpace Agriculture’s new GRID system gives farmers access to the most advanced agricultural satellite mapping and analysis available, backed by independent agronomic advice. The information helps producers to make better management decisions and allows them to offer evidence of their crops’ performance to financial providers to gain access to credit and insurance.

Partners GRID

GRID was developed under a two-year European Space Agency-backed project involving AgSpace, Agri-EPI Centre and RHIZA. It is the first tool on the market specifically allowing farmers and financial providers to track crop performance.

Agri-Tech in Africa

There has been rapid uptake of the product following its launch earlier this year. It is now operational in nine African countries, and involves financial providers including Standard Bank. Further expansion is predicted to create up to 775 jobs between the UK and Africa by 2024.

AgSpace Director, Vince Gillingham, said:

“Some 80% of the African workforce makes a living from agriculture but many are crippled by a lack of access to financial products to develop their businesses. Price fluctuations for inputs and products, along with crop failure, due to pests, diseases, temperature or variable rainfall, hold the entire agricultural ecosystem back. 

“It is very difficult for credit providers to measure risk in the face of such variables without good data from farmers. GRID offers a precision data-driven opportunity for overcoming this barrier, giving providers the evidence and confidence they need to support farmers in increasing yields, growing their farms and ultimately contributing to wider economic development.”

GRID uses high resolution satellite data to monitor crop performance while providing local weather data for every farm on an hourly basis. It provides soil mapping and soil health monitoring, supports fertiliser planning for increased efficiency and higher yields and calculates yield predictions.

Farmers access agronomy advice by smart phone to improve production while financial providers use the same satellite data to monitor crop performance and build a clear picture of each farm, whatever its size and however remote.

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Centre CEO said:

“We are delighted to have contributed to the emerging success of the GRID product. By using our company assets, including our database of high-resolution earth observation data, combined with analytics, this has enabled the optimal refinement of the system, which has now moved rapidly to a commercial offering. We are particularly pleased that Agri-EPI has assisted in the near-future prospect of up to 1000 jobs shared between the UK and Africa. This makes a valuable contribution from Agri-EPI input and continues to show evidence of world-class agri-tech solutions from the UK being exported around the globe.”

Francesco Feliciani, Head of the Commercial Applications Section of ESA, added:

“We are proud for having hosted the development and validation of the GRID service as part of our Integrated Applications Programme. We are convinced that GRID is a game changer in supporting farmers and associated financial services to understand the performance of farming businesses virtually everywhere in the world. This is key especially in times challenged by extreme weather events.

We have directly witnessed how the GRID service is used by farming companies in Africa, and we are fascinated by its capability to turn complex datasets and analytics into easy to understand information through a very intuitive and appealing user interface.”

More information

For further information about GRID, please download the GRID information brochure or contact Vincent Gillingham, AgSpace Director.

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 agri-tech 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.

Paraguay mission for UK agri-tech

The exciting opportunities for trade with Latin American markets were the focus of a recent successful trade mission to Paraguay involving several UK agri-tech companies.

The mission was led by Agri-EPI Centre, working in close partnership with the Department for International Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It featured the Ministerial launch of the Agri-EPI-led Paraguay Satellite Demonstration Farm at the Paraguay Expo 2019, a major event showcasing the country’s farming, industrial and services sectors.

Partners Paraguay Agri-Tech Mission

Partnership banner Paraguay AgriTech Mission July 2019Agri-EPI Centre has been leading the Innovate UK- supported Satellite Demonstration 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.  The initial focus of the Smart Farm project has been on improving finishing cattle efficiency through remote live weight monitoring and improved nutrition. The ability to capture real time live weight data empowers dynamic decision making combined with improved nutrition, leading to better feed conversion efficiency.

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

There have so far been two UK commercial partners involved in trials on the farm. Ritchie Agricultural has provided in field weigh crates for cattle, while Harbro has been trialling its Maxammon feed supplement.

Next steps for the Smart Farm project are to continue with the current trials and to assess the priorities for additional activities. Two areas currently being considered are technology for tracking cattle across the huge swathes of land on typical Paraguay cattle ranches, and gathering harvest data.

Joining the trade mission were Hummingbird Technologies, Brinicombe Agri and AGCOM. With Agri-EPI and DIT representatives, the delegates visited the Smart Farm in San Pedro, attended a reception hosted by the UK Ambassador to Paraguay Matthew Hedges; took part in the Smart Farm launch with the participation of Paraguay Agriculture Minister Juan Carlos Denis Lichi, Vice Minister of Agriculture Nicasio Romero and Vice Minister of Livestock Marcelo Gonzáles.

The delegation also had an opportunity for B2B networking with some of the many Latin American businesses attending the Expo, and gave positive feedback about the potential opportunities arising from the trip.

Dr Elizabeth Warham, DIT’s Agri-Tech Lead said:

There is often a reluctance from the end-user – farmer or agri-business distributor – to purchase technology that has not been validated and tested by farmers in the target market, making it difficult for companies to sell technology at a trade event to enter a new export market. A showcase demo smart farm provides a platform for companies to collect data, support claims and illustrate product effectiveness in-country. Where these smart farms are connected to the UK Agri-Tech Innovation Centres – in this case Agri-EPI – academic and research organisations can also be engaged to further develop technologies, so they are appropriate to the local context.

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI said:

There are tremendous opportunities for trade in Paraguay, where there is openness to the UK and great interest in our agri-tech know-how. It is worth highlighting the benefits of the local Maquila regime that affords benefits for UK companies who become active in Paraguay, and then qualify for tariff-efficient access to whole of Mercosur, the Southern Common Market. We thank the companies who took part in the mission and look forward to continuing our exciting collaboration with UK and Paraguay partners.

Ian Cox, Agri-Tech Centres Innovation Lead of Innovate UK, added:

Innovate UK is particularly happy to have supported this Smart Farm in Paraguay. I am heartened by the progress made in demonstrating how UK technology can help to reduce the environmental footprint of farming in Paraguay whilst at the same time improving productivity and profitability. I hope this can lead to further joint collaborations with Paraguay companies to develop further the technologies needed to help solve some of the fundamental problems the planet faces to feed a growing global population.

 

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.

First China SmartFarm crop to be harvested

The exciting collaboration between the UK and China around Agri-Tech innovation will reach a milestone today, June 10, when the first crop to be grown as part of the SmartFarm Project will be harvested.

The aim of Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept is to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. Beginning with the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ in China, the plan is to create a transferable model for utilising a range of technology to gather data on inputs and outputs, in order to measure and reduce variation and increase productivity at all levels of the supply chain.

China SmartFarm

Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0.

In China, the primary partners are NERCITA, the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture – host of the main elements of the SmartFarm 1.0 – and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) which oversees the Chinese delivery partners.

In the UK, the project is funded by Innovate UK. Partner companies SoilEssentials and RDS Technologies have contributed technology and expertise to the project. As well as academic partners from Strathclyde University and James Hutton Institute. Their involvement has helped to create a platform for UK Agri-tech companies to become involved in Chinese markets.

The initial focus of SmartFarm 1.0 has been technology associated with arable crops to create a better understanding of productivity from the land resource. Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer Dr Shamal Mohammed and Project Manager Freddie Reed, along with colleagues from RDS, will be in China to see the winter wheat crop harvested, yield mapped, and other datasets are collected at the NERCITA Field Station Xaiotangshan on June 10.

They are looking forward to discussing the project with NERCITA colleagues and representatives from the Chinese government during a formal reception.

Dr Shamal Mohammed said:

“Our collective aim has been to develop a smart farming concept using various layer of data layers with a holistic approach to understand current levels of productivity and provide the insight to deliver improvements in term of food production and environmental sustainability. We are very grateful to our Chinese partners for their collaboration and we are looking forward to build a long-term partnership to advance Agri-Tech sector in both countries. We are also grateful for funding and support from Innovate UK.”

 

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said:

“I am pleased that this collaboration between the UK and China is under way as part of the UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge. It is the output of a bold vision inspired by an MoU signed between CRTDC and Innovate UK in November 2016 and has taken of a lot of hard work with colleagues from CRTDC and NERCITA and the UK’s Agri-EPI Centre to deliver. I am sure it will help to deliver positive benefits to the Chinese people as we work together to solve some of the worldwide major challenges facing agriculture.”

Like the UK, China has a strong focus on increasing agricultural efficiency, productivity and environmental standards. Its 13th 5-year plan on Science and Innovation, adopted in 2016, positions Agri-Tech at the heart of the programme, with a significant £1.5 billion of government investment in this area between 2016 and 2021.

Following on from this, Innovate UK and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016, in which both parties agreed to explore mutual collaboration.

SmartFarm is a key component of the Agri-Tech Flagship challenge, one of the major deliverables under the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy signed last December in London.

PartnersPartners SmartFarm 1.0SoilEssentials, NERCITA, James Hutton Institute, University of Strathclyde, RDS Technology, CRTDC and Innovate UK (funder).

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.

Agri-EPI’s Antipodean Missions

Agri-EPI Projects Managers Freddie Reed and Duncan Forbes gained a valuable insight into the antipodean agri-tech sector when they recently took part in Agri-Tech Expert Missions to Australia and New Zealand respectively.

Organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) on behalf of Innovate UK, the aim of the missions was to ascertain the potential opportunities for UK businesses to build Research & Development collaborations with international agri-tech partners. Whilst on opposite sides of the globe, we share a lot of common interests, speak the same language (almost!) and have similarities in climate.

Participating alongside Agri-EPI Centre were other key representatives of the UK, Australian and New Zealand agri-food supply chains.

Agri-Tech in Australia

Australia aims to grow its agriculture sector to a Aus$100Bn industry by 2030 and believe the key to driving productivity is the use of technology. The Australian Government sees agri-tech as a priority due to population growth and climate change, resulting in increased funding initiatives. The agriculture sector is largely export-focused but there is also a small domestic market for produce.

Agri-Tech in New Zealand

In New Zealand, Duncan was struck by just how many dairy farms there were on both North and South Islands, reflecting a shift away from beef and sheep in favour of milk production. New Zealand has similar numbers of milk producers to the UK but places a far higher emphasis of making use of grazing to achieve low cost production. As Duncan’s visit took place in the early autumn, he saw lots of very impressive maize crops being harvested.

Both the Australia and New Zealand missions involved tours to several cities and universities, resulting in some very useful collaborations, with others emerging. Being on opposite sides of the globe presents a clear opportunity to accelerate technical developments though “counter seasonality” or having two growing seasons in a twelve month cycle, one in each nation.

Please contact us if you are interested in finding out more about the agri-tech landscape in Australia and New Zealand.

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.

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Photo: Delegation of the Agri-Tech Expert Mission to Australia February 2019 with in the middle Interim British High Commissioner Ingrid Southworth