News

Discover all the latest news from farming, innovation and technology with us.

Agri-EPI news explores new precision engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across crops, land management and livestock for improved welfare and increased productivity. We have a broad memberships from the farming, manufacturing and retail sectors, as well as collaborating on projects around the world.

Radical Bubble Technology for Agricultural and Environmental Sustainability

Exciting possibilities for more profitable, sustainable and productive farming are being offered by the emerging technology ‘ultra-fine bubbles’ (UFBs). The technology is being explored in a £250,000 Innovate UK-funded project, led by MagGrow UK in association with Agri-EPI Centre and the Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP).

UFB Technology

UFBs, also known as nanobubbles, are tiny, very stable and long-lasting bubbles, 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair, or about the size of a virus. Unseen by the naked eye, even when present in large numbers in water-based liquids, they do not rise to the surface and burst, but remain stable and buoyant for long periods of time, typically days and weeks.

The bubbles can carry gases, and substances of different kinds on their surfaces. Their stability and longevity offer great potential in agriculture for environmentally friendly spraying and irrigation, along with other applications that help address food security and environmental problems.

The use of UFBs containing ozone is already established in medical and industrial disinfection processes to kill bacteria and destroy viruses. UFBs are also used in oil, gas, and mineral extraction processes; pharmaceutical processes; food-flavouring; the production of cosmetic fragrancies; and in wastewater treatment.

While the technology is already generating huge market value in these sectors, its use in agriculture is still in its infancy. The purpose of the new project is to explore the potential for agricultural applications and integration with other technologies to provide innovative, environmentally friendly solutions for sustainable food security.

Project partners

 
Agri-EPI
CHAP
MagGrow

The project will initially focus on irrigation for delivery of the UFBs. Using Agri-EPI and CHAP’s shared soil and crop technology facilities alongside soil science expertise at Cranfield University, the project will compare the growth of plants treated with oxygen-containing UFB-water, with that of plants given untreated water. The aim of the study is to determine the effect on root development, nutrient absorption, growth and overall crop yield.

Farming application

The project team believes UFBs potentially have a host of additional applications in farming, including supporting a reduction the quantity of chemical inputs required when spraying and irrigating crops to control pests and diseases.

Dr Anthony Furness, MagGrow’s Chief Scientific Officer, said:

“From time-to-time a technology comes along that offers potential for revolutionary change and disruptive economic benefit, such as CDs and smart-phones. We believe that UFB technology has similar transformative potential for agriculture. The versatility of UFB technology, and recent advances in UFB research which have further validated its significance, suggesting too that there is huge potential for their use in advancing spraying and irrigation processes.

“Not only will this help serve to address global food security challenges and the question of how farming can be more sustainable, productive and profitable, it also offers huge potential for new enterprises and job creation across the UK.”

CHAP Innovation Hub Lead, Richard Glass, said:

“Using the unique Phenotyping and Soil Health facility, CHAP, supported by key soil experts from its partner Cranfield University, will assess and explore the application of this innovative technology and its potential role in transforming UK crop production.”

Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr Shamal Mohammed, said:

“We’re excited to be contributing our expertise and capabilities in plant phenotyping – the ability to measure the structure and function of plants – to this project. UFBs offer great potential within agriculture and our research will allow us to greatly progress knowledge and understanding of useful UFBs treatments.”

New project explores innovative approach to salmon production

An innovative aquaculture project has been launched to prove the engineering for a new way of producing salmon off the Scottish coast that improves fish welfare and is more environmentally friendly.

Aqua InnovationInverness-based SME Aqua Innovation, with the support of several partners and an industry-led steering group, has secured funding via the UK Seafood Innovation Fund to undertake the detailed design stage of the ‘SeaCAP 6000’ – a new floating, contained 6,000m3 pen to grow salmon smolts to full harvest weight.

The SeaCAP 6000 aims to provide the optimum environment for the fish through controlled water quality and exclusion of external biological factors which can impact on fish health. Faeces and waste feed can be captured and disposed of safely.

Transforming UK Seafood industry

The innovation is aligned with national agendas to support sustainable growth of the sector to double production and economic contribution by 2030.

Rodger Taylor, the inventor of the SeaCAP said:

“Although significant progress has been made in recent years, current salmon farming still encounters various challenges associated with ‘open water’ production, related to water quality, environmental pollution, and fish escapes. The unsecured perimeters of current production systems also make the salmon vulnerable to disease, algae, sea lice, jellyfish and predators.

We believe the SeaCAP has the potential to transform both Scottish and global salmon production. It has been in development for a number of years and we’re delighted that its potential has been recognised.”

 

Aquaculture project funders

The funders of the SeaCAP 6000 Salmon Aquaculture project are Cefas, DEFRA and UK Seafood Innovation Fund

The project is funded by the UK Seafood Innovation Fund, which supports bold and ambitious tech-driven projects that will enable a step-change in the productivity and sustainability of the UK seafood sector. Administered by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the UK Seafood Innovation Fund supports projects with a long-term vision to improve the UK seafood, fishing and aquaculture industries.

Seafood innovation partners

SeaCAP 6000 Salmon Aquaculture Innovation partners | Agri-EPI, Aqua Innovation, Sterner AquaTech, Lloyds Register and QED Naval

 

Agri-EPI is supporting the project by organising an industry-led expert steering group to ensure the innovation is developed in-line with supply chain needs and challenges. Business Development Manager for Aquaculture & Livestock, Kasi McReddie, said:

“New technology can offer salmon producers solutions to major challenges by essentially eliminating outside threats and giving the farmer more control over their sites. This collaborative approach to innovation is at the heart of Agri-EPI’s vision to support productive, sustainable and profitable food production.”

QED Naval, responsible for the Naval Architecture and Hydrodynamics, said:

“We have had a long-standing relationship with Aqua Innovation and its associated company, Concrete Marine Solutions (CMS), we have a similar innovative approach to the manufacturing of large marine structures, which is the case of CMS is based on 40+ years of experience and ingenuity. We are delighted to be involved in the development of this innovative SeaCAP concept and help bring this revolutionary idea to the market where it can have a dramatic impact on fish wealth fare in an environmentally sensitive, and commercially viable way.”

Sterner AquaTech, who are designing the Water Quality and Life Support systems, said:

“Sterner are delighted to be continuing our involvement with this project having been working since 2019 on concept designs with Aqua Innovations. Our ethos has always been to seek to innovate and improve on our equipment and methods in the industry, and to be involved in a project such as this is a natural progression. Environmental pressures are only going to increase in our industry, and SeaCAP is a unique answer to many of those concerns and could be the model for sustainable farming in the near future.”

Another partner, Lloyds Register, will be undertaking validation of the design in a subsequent stage of the project.

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.

Idea to reality: what’s stopping tech getting onto farms?

The intractable issue of getting useful new technologies onto farms – and how the barriers to success might be overcome – will be the subject of a webinar led by tech innovation company Cambridge Consultants and Agri-EPI Centre on Thursday 28th January.

The event will feature expert panellists representing different stages of the innovation ‘pipeline’:

  • Ben Scott Robinson, Chief Executive of The Small Robot Company*(concept)
  • Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics at Cambridge Consultants (supporting concept development)
  • Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive (‘enabler’ bringing together public and private sector partners)
  • James Green, Group Director of Agriculture at G’s Fresh (on-farm end user)

The panel will explore some of the key issues involved in ensuring a new idea can move from concept stage right through to being put to effective use in supporting efficient, productive and sustainable farming.

Connecting early tech development to farming

They will be looking at a host of challenges along the innovation journey, including a disconnect between early technology developers and farmers; difficulties in companies finding the right business models and return-on-investment for their products; regulatory issues; skills gaps; and challenges with product testing in a seasonal farming environment.

Event host, Cambridge Consultants’ Head of Automation & Autonomy Sajith Wimalaratne, explained:

“We’re excited to have a strong panel of experts who will be discussing why it takes so long to get new technological solutions onto farms, and why, despite no shortage of concepts, there is currently so little farmers can use.

“We hope to identify ways of easing some of these issues that will help to ensure new technology which really meets farmers’ needs can be deployed more quickly and effectively.”

Agri-EPI Chef Executive Dave Ross said:

“Agri-EPI’s role is to bring together those with the know-how to drive innovation in farming and food production and our webinar promises to be a really exciting journey around the key challenges and potential solutions to getting technology in place that really meets farmers’ needs.”

The free webinar runs between 11am and noon on 28th January. Further details and registration can be found here.

On demand

This event is now closed. Missed it? Here, you can view a video registration of the webinar:

 

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Agri-EPI member Small Robot Company BBC The One Show 18 Jan 2021BBC The One Show

You might have missed it. Small Robot Tom and roboteers have appeared on the BBC The One Show this Monday 18 January 2020. The appearance saw the weed zapping robot in action and an interview with Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Craig Livingstone. Small Robot Company is a British start-up that makes robots for agriculture. They design and produce machines that could, in the future, replace tractors and harvesters. The founders developed the idea after talking to farmers about the growing costs and decreasing profits of farming. More background about Small Robot Company in this case study.

EIT Food welcomes Agri-EPI to their community

Agri-EPI has joined the EIT Food network and aligns with EIT Food’s sustainable agriculture and aquaculture focus areas to guide and accelerate innovations in food production and farming practices.

EIT Food aims to drive the digital transformation of our food systems, as innovations in data and technology are needed to futureproof the sector against global challenges. This includes the creation and adoption of revolutionary agricultural technologies to help farmers improve the efficiency, profitability and sustainability of their businesses, to address challenges such as the impact of a rising global population and climate change on yield demand and output.

Both EIT Food and Agri-EPI Centre visions are closely aligned – collaboration with a wide range of partners leads to exciting innovation. EIT Food’s strength comes from its partners, which represent many of Europe’s leading agrifood companies, research institutes, universities and startups. A diverse community that spans the entire agrifood chain, enables key players with different skills and capabilities to collaborate with one another to solve some of most pressing food system challenges. EIT Food is delighted to welcome Agri-EPI centre to its fast-growing community, to help them to grow, enhance and contribute to relationships and collaboration which help to drive innovation in their shared interest of sustainable food systems.

Dave Ross, Chief Executive of Agri-EPI Centre said:

“Agri-EPI truly recognises the value of collaboration in driving innovation and we know that our membership of EIT Food will allow us to grow our existing networks and contribute our know-how to leading innovation initiatives.”

In particular, Agri-EPI Centre is excited to contribute to all aspects of the research, development, evaluation and dissemination of information about new technologies and techniques which support efficient, sustainable and profitable farming and food productions. Agri-EPI Centre looks forward to building relationships and contributing expertise in support of sustainable food production.

Dr Jayne Brookman, Acting Director of EIT Food’s North-West Co-Location centre said:

“EIT Food is delighted to welcome Agri-EPI to Europe’s leading agrifood innovation network. Our shared commitment to collaboration in the digital transformation of agriculture will strengthen innovation in agri-tech, to drive towards more sustainable food systems.”

A real game-changer for dairy cow health

Dairy farmers and vets have enlisted the help of video gaming experts to enhance cow health in a unique new study.

The Innovate UK-funded SmARtview research project sees Agri-EPI Centre and UK Veterinary Group VetPartners join forces with experts at award-winning games developer Pocket Sized Hands and Abertay University’s School of Design & Informatics.

The project aims to develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system that can recognise a cow by its skin patterns and use a ‘HoloLens’ Augmented Reality (AR) headset to display health and productivity data about an animal as a user views it.

Agri-EPI’s innovative South West Dairy Development Centre is the project test-bed.

Agri-EPI Head of Dairy Duncan Forbes explained:

“By using the type of technology that is becoming extremely advanced in the video gaming world, we hope to be able to take the care and treatment of dairy cattle into a new era.

The beauty of this project is that it combines farmers’ and vet’s experienced ‘eyes’ with real-time data: technology is being used to enhance, rather than replace, human skills. In addition, SmARtview could provide a solution to one of the key challenges of on-farm technology – while different devices like robotic milkers, sensors and collars can already collect plentiful data, its lack of integration limits insight to drive decision-making.”

Typically, a vet or farmer faces the time-consuming process of examining a cow then going to the farm office to review a variety of paper of PC-based records before determining what kind of intervention may be needed. SmARtview would make the whole process much more efficient and effective.

The new system will be trialled by vets and allied professionals from VetPartners’ practices around the UK. Rachel Dean, VetPartners’ Director of Clinical Research and Excellence in Practice said:

“The farming industry is changing and VetPartners wants to support farmers through this change by offering the best capabilities in terms of health, production and welfare. SmARtview has huge potential for vets and allied professionals, such as foot trimmers and veterinary technicians, who work on farms of all types and sizes. It is a unique and very innovative project which could transform the way they practice.”

Abertay is a world leader in applying games technology to the business, education and healthcare sectors and the University is ranked number one in Europe for videogames education.

Pocket Sized Hands and Abertay University’s School of Design and Informatics are bringing world-leading expertise to the project. Abertay’s Professor Ruth Falconer explained that the first challenge is to develop the AI technology capable of recognising an individual animal. She said:

“Our aim is to put new technology to best use in order to solve problems in the real world. This project brings together our research areas of AI, User Experience and games technology. We aim to develop ‘marker-less’ technology which can achieve the difficult task of recognising a cow by the patterning of its skin and shape in an environment where it is likely to be dirty and the light and weather conditions change frequently.”

When the researchers have cracked the challenge of cow-recognition, Pocket Sized Hands (PSH) will lead the prototype AR development and lend their expertise to the User Experience (UX) aspect of the technology. Their skills with ensure the augmented reality display of data is presented to the user in an engaging way.

PSH Chief Executive Gary McCartan explained:

“It’s really exciting to be applying technology we normally use in game development to the world of farming. AR combines the real world with digital assets – information that is usually tied to a screen can now be viewed in the real world. Use of the technology is in its early stages. For example, current headsets are quite bulky which would not be practical in a farm situation. We will be looking at ways to allow cow data to be easily accessed and understood.”

The initiation of this project was supported by video games cluster InGAME.