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.

Agri-EPI and Hands Free Farm announce robotic safety hackathon

While the advancement of autonomous farm vehicles offers clear economic and environmental benefits, its future growth also presents the new challenge of ensuring unmanned machines pose no risk to farmers, and the public crossing their land.

During Farm Safety Week (19-23 July 2021) Agri-EPI Centre and the award-winning Hands Free Farm (HFF) project have announced they will hold a hackathon to identify new solutions for robotic farming safety.

As experts in the development of autonomous farm machinery, the HFF team will integrate and evaluate the winning solution at their Midlands plot.

The event is open to any company or individual from any background.

Registration will open on 30 July on the Agri-EPI website.

 

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director, Lisa Williams, said: “The benefits of autonomous farm machinery are many but as it becomes more commonplace in the future, and while more and more people recognise the mental health benefits of walking outdoors, it’s essential that farm automation poses no threat to the public.

“We’re excited to have Hands Free Farm on board to help us devise the hackathon and look forward to seeing the participants come up with some really innovative ideas.”

Innovate UK-funded HFF is led by Precision Decisions, with partners Farmscan Ag, Harper Adams University and Agri-EPI Centre.  It builds on an earlier project, Hands Free Hectare, in which a hectare of cereal crop was grown without any human entering the hectare of land.

Clive Blacker Clive, Director of lead partner Precision Decisions, said:

“One of the challenges of our project is that, like many typical farms, our 35ha plot includes footpaths and roads with public access.  Safety and security of the operation of autonomous machinery is of paramount importance. Addressing this issue will be critical to implementing autonomous machinery and devices in real-world commercial farming settings in the future, and gaining regulatory, market and public acceptance of the technology. We are very excited to be working with Agri-EPI to develop a robotic safety hackathon and cannot wait to see what new thinking and imagination can be applied to agriculture from any background.”

Data project paves way for improved cow management and breeding

A new project combining the know-how of agri-tech experts at Agri-EPI Centre and genetics scientists at The Roslin Institute hopes to pave the way for more precise dairy cow management and breeding.

The DairyMine Project is seeking to integrate on-farm cow performance data with genomic data, by assembling a pilot dataset from project farms. The project partners will ‘mine’ the dataset (the process of finding patterns, correlations and anomalies within large data sets to predict outcomes) to develop a data-driven cow management and breeding platform for use by farmers. They will also project the impact of scaling the DairyMine to more farms.

This accessible means of viewing the whole range of information about each of their animals in one place could help farmers with day-to-day cow management, such as picking up illness at the earliest possible stage, as well offering medium to long-term impact on animal performance by supporting more accurate breeding predictions.

The project outcomes will also support training of a new generation of farm data scientists at the Easter Bush Campus in Edinburgh. In March 2021, it was announced that the Easter Bush Agritech Hub would receive £27 million from the UK Government, £1.3 million from the Scottish Government, and £31.3 million from the University of Edinburgh, as partners of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Agri-EPI Centre’s Head of Dairy, Duncan Forbes, said: “Information about the health, fertility and performance of the herd at our South West Dairy Development Centre is recorded in a variety of ways, including through multi-sensor embedded milking robots and animal wearables. Combining this wealth of data with each animal’s genomic information, which will be obtained by the team at The Roslin Institute, will allow us to consider the whole picture when it comes to making both short and longer-term management and breeding decisions.”

Gregor Gorjanc, Chancellor’s Fellow in Data-Driven Innovation for Agri-tech at The Roslin Institute explained: “While cow performance and genomic data is already available to farmers, its volume, and the lack of a single means of analysing, integrating and viewing it presents a barrier to farmers. We hope to prove that this can be achieved, bringing benefits to the dairy sector and to future researchers here in Edinburgh.”

This project is supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s Covid-19 Recovery Scheme via The University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation initiative.

New Agri-informatics facility opens to help accelerate digital adoption in agriculture

A new £3.2 million Agri-informatics facility has been officially opened by the Rt. Hon. George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Agri-EPI Centre, Cranfield University and its partners will share the facility to create informatics in support of innovative business, management and policy approaches for the agricultural sector.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice believes that the new centre will ensure that planned agricultural policies are “underpinned with world-leading science.”

Fostering collaboration between the industry and academia

“We are delighted to share this key facility at Cranfield,” said Agri-EPI Centre CEO, Dave Ross. “It will complement our existing facilities and allow us to foster collaborations with both industry and academia to meet the significant productivity and environmental challenges facing the agri-food sector, now and in the future.”

The site has been funded by Cranfield University and Innovate UK through Agri-EPI and the Wolfson Foundation.

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “Cranfield has a world-leading role in driving agricultural innovation and development and I was pleased to open the new facility today. Soil health is central to delivering our objectives on biodiversity and profitable agriculture and this new centre will ensure that the policies we plan are underpinned with world-leading science.”

Leon Terry, the university’s Director of Environment and Agrifood had this to say: “By utilising data science, we can create new technological interventions that will improve crop yields, improve soil health and reduce food waste. All of these things are vital to reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production.”

Accelerating adoption of precision data agriculture

Agri-EPI’s activities at the new site will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. Our work will accelerate the development and adoption of engineering technology and precision data agriculture, which will in turn boost sustainable productivity across the entire agri-food chain.

Ian Cox, Agri-Tech Centres Lead at Innovate UK said: “I am delighted that this new joint facility, part funded by Innovate UK, is now open. It will expand the capabilities of both Agri-EPI and Cranfield University, and will help to address some of the major challenges – facing not only the UK but the world – around how we feed everybody sustainably.

“The facility will help to drive forward the competitiveness of the UK’s growing agri-tech sector into the next decade and beyond.”

UK agri-tech company receives investment boost to agricultural robotics

With the UK agricultural industry facing unprecedented challenges, such as the increasing global population, pressure to achieve Net Zero and a dearth of agri-food labourers, AI and robotics may provide the key to unlocking agriculture’s productivity.

Agricultural robots can undertake short-cycle repetitive tasks that currently make inefficient use of resources; by undertaking tasks that can be costly and limited, or reliant on large diesel-based machinery, agro-chemicals or human labour, cleaner, smarter robotics could enable the feeding of future societies.

The future of farming

In an exciting development for robotics’ use in British agriculture, UK-based startup Antobot, developer of affordable robotics for sustainable agriculture, has secured £1.2 million in their seed funding round following a strategic investment from a leading automotive electronics solutions provider in China, Intron Technology Holdings Ltd.

Founded by embedded controls and robotics experts, Antobot is developing innovative vertically-integrated robotics AI solutions optimised for agriculture aiming to increase efficiency and sustainability whilst maintaining accessibility and affordability with products expected in the market in 2022.

Smart, sustainable solutions

Antobot’s first product line is its fully integrated automotive-grade universal Robot Control Unit (uRCU®), the “brain” of the robot. Once requiring multiple separate modules, the uRCU®’s sophisticated design combines the core hardware and advanced software for agri-robotic applications in one compact single unit.

Antobot’s CEO, Howard Eu, explains: “The integrated design makes the uRCU® smaller, more reliable and affordable than other existing solutions, and the full-stack AI also confers performance benefits with its universal, configurable design that can adapt to different farmer needs.”

Delivering Insight

This funding will also enable Antobot to develop various full applications using its modular platform, starting with its scouting robot, Insight. Focusing initially on the £875 million UK fruit sector, Insight travels autonomously through the farm and, using artificial intelligence, gathers accurate, timely and rich data for deeper insight into crop yield, profile, and pest/disease management.

Unlike manual scouting or scouting using large heavy machinery, Insight is powered by renewable energy and does not require any labour. Working with a selection of partner farms in England, Insight will be trialled in UK fields this summer of 2021.

“The development of Insight has been directly informed by the experiences of our partner fruit-growers in the UK and understanding their concerns over achieving Net Zero and the loss of agri-labour,” said Marc Jones, Business Director at Antobot.

“Insight will provide accurate yield forecasts, real-time crop management and digitisation of the supply chain using this early growth-stage data, which can give growers greater weight in contract negotiations, decrease avoidable food waste and enable more efficient use of limited labour.”

Supporting innovation in agri-tech

From its inception, Antobot has been supported by various organisations including Agri-TechE, Agri-EPI, Innovate UK, Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, St John’s Innovation Centre, ideaSpace of Cambridge University, and Anglia Ruskin University. This strategic investment from Intron Technology will provide valuable support in supply chain, manufacturing and quality assurance to bring Antobot’s uRCU® and Insight to market in 2022.

Eddie Chan, Co-CEO and Executive Director of Intron Technology, said of the investment: “We are strongly committed to Research and Development at Intron, particularly when promoting sustainability. And we are looking forward to working with Antobot, learning from each other, and helping Antobot grow into the leading force in the agricultural robotics sector we know it can be.”

To find out more about Antobot, visit their website and to see more of our work supporting innovation in agri-tech, and see how you can benefit from Agri-EPI Centre’s support, visit our project pages.

Innovative agri-tech companies invited to enter inaugural Agri-Tech Excellence Awards

From yield-boosting robotic milkers to disease-detecting arable drones, the rapid growth of on-farm technology is helping farmers around the world boost their productivity, sustainability and profit.

In celebration of the power of innovation, Agri-EPI Centre, is inviting the most forward thinking small to medium-sized agri-tech companies to enter the inaugural Agri-Tech Excellence Awards.

What are the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards?

Sponsored by Leyton, Kubota, Barclays, Syngenta and Marks & Spencer, the awards will recognise the ground-breaking work of agri-tech companies that have had significant impact on sustainable productivity on-farm, in the UK and internationally, between January 2019 and January 2021.

To be eligible for the awards, companies must have taken their innovations beyond the development stage and be supplying their technology commercially on-farm.

The awards have two categories:

  • Category 1: Agri-tech Excellence demonstrated on a UK farm
  • Category 2: Agri-tech Excellence demonstrated on an international farm (based outside of the UK)

Entries will be judged against a number of areas: impact on productivity, health and welfare; impact on environmental protection and enhancement; and business efficiencies.

Judges & winners

The judging panel will comprise experts in the field of sustainable agri-food and innovation. It will include representatives of the awards sponsors and Charles Nicklin, Chief Executive of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) and Andy Newbold, Director of Farm Smart Publishing and Farm Smart Events, with more to be announced.

The winners of each category will be announced during Agri-EPI’s national conference on the September 30, which is attended by a large audience of companies and organisations involved sustainable agri-food.

Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “The UK has a vibrant and dynamic agri-tech sector.  The UK private investment into the agri-food tech sector is also on the march – and we are European leader in this regard. Agri-EPI is pleased to be involved in catalysing new innovations and our awards seek to celebrate the success that agri-tech companies are achieving in all sectors of farming. We’re very excited to have first class sponsors and an expert judging panel supporting the awards and we look forward to receiving what will no doubt be very high quality entries from a diverse range of companies.”

About the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards sponsors

Agri-EPI Centre is delighted to have such fantastic sponsors on board supporting the inaugural agri-tech event and helping to promote the importance of innovation in agri-tech.

Kubota

Kubota, a agricultural machinery manufacturer, also expressed their pleasure at being a part of the Awards. Business Development Manager Daria Batukhtina, from the Kubota Innovation Centre Europe, highlighted the importance of innovation in resolving “the increasingly serious problems faced by agriculture on a global scale” and Kubota’s dedication to “promoting smart agriculture that realizes ultra-labour saving, high-quality and high-efficiency cultivation by utilising robotics technology and ICT.”

Daria added: “We support agriculture throughout the world by working closely with farmers and developing agricultural machinery that meets their needs in the field. There are many partners throughout the world with advanced technologies that will have a tremendous impact on society in the future. Therefore Kubota joined Agri-EPI Centre Awards for agtech start-ups to support those SMEs that have had significant impact on sustainable productivity on-farm.”

Syngenta

Syngenta’s Digital Agriculture Manager, Sam Grimsdell, noted that innovation in agri-tech will be “instrumental in the continued drive to sustainable agriculture that delivers the efficient and profitable production we need, alongside the protection of essential environmental resources.”

“Through the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards we are actively seeking to help and reward inspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas that can be practically implemented on farms. As a global business, Syngenta is committed to investing in sustainable agriculture and delivering the key breakthroughs to make that happen in the UK and across the world. We would urge all innovators exploring this incredibly exciting area to get involved in the Awards.”

Barclays

Also supporting the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards is Barclays bank, which has been involved in many agricultural projects in recent years. Oliver McEntye, Barclays’ National Agricultural Strategy Director for Barclays said: “Barclays is proud to sponsor the Agri-EPI Centre Awards, not only to recognise the achievements of the entrants and winners, but also to help inspire the next generation of innovators to bring the technology for the farming of the future.”

M&S

Marks & Spencer described their interest in the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards as a way to “celebrate businesses that have made a significant sustainable impact on-farm” and opening up a wider discussion of UK agriculture: “British agriculture is probably seeing the biggest period of change in generations, as we adapt to new trade deals, agricultural support and consumer awareness of animal welfare and the environment,” said Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture & Fisheries Sourcing at M&S.

“Success will come from embracing new ways of farming, being more meaningful to consumers, and continuing to produce quality food in a climate-friendly way … We look forward to seeing the entries.”

Leyton

Founded in 2009, Leyton, is the UK’s largest specialist innovation funding consultancy. To date, their teams of highly qualified tax and technical experts have helped thousands of businesses to successfully claim more than £880 million in tax relief. Agri-EPI Centre and Leyton are proud partners working together to connect agri-tech companies with funding, finance and tax relief to help  bring their agri-tech solutions to market – find out more here.

Enter the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards

  • To enter, please complete the online form on the Agri-EPI website. The deadline is Friday 30th July at 12pm.
  • You will be asked to submit evidence for the social, environmental and economic benefits for impact on farm.
  • A shortlist of entries will be agreed, and a representative from each shortlisted company will be invited for a short on-line interview with the judging panel on Thursday September 9 2021.
  • If you have any questions, please contact awards@agri-epicentre.com

 

 

Innovation Week 2021: Five days celebrating innovation in agritech

Agri-EPI Centre’s Innovation Week 2021 may have taken place entirely online, but the expertise of the speakers and the fantastic response from attendees ensured the week was a huge success.

In five webinars over five days, we were joined by more than 15 speakers from across the agritech sector discussing the latest innovations and advancements in agricultural technology, from robotics and AI to crop sensing and animal health monitoring.

The event was a chance to bring together everyone and anyone with an interest in agritech innovation; we were joined by engineers, manufacturers, investors, business owners and academics eager to learn about the exciting projects Agri-EPI Centre has been involved in around the world.

A webinar a day

For the first session to kick off Innovation Week we explored the use of agritech to monitor animal behaviour and improve the health of livestock on-farm, and were joined by Dr. Chris Cormack of Quant Foundry, Gary McCarten of Pocket Sized Hands and Dr Rick D’Eath from the SRUC.

You can watch Monday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Discussion covered the Behaviour Analytics Project, looking at how AI methods and analytics can be combined to offer farmers crucial insights into animal health, as well as the SmARtview and Tail Tech projects which, although currently in their infancy, have huge potential to improve farmers’ decision making using technology to closely monitor the animals’ wellbeing, whilst also improving the productivity and efficiency of farms.

Tuesday’s webinar explored how robotics, drones and ultra-fine bubble technology can be utilised in agriculture to increase the accuracy of yield prediction, prevent grain loss in storage and improve the efficiency and precision of crop spraying. Jared Bainbridge from Omega Crop opened the session, followed by presentations from Crover’s Lorenzo Conti and Professor Anthony Furness, of MagGrow.

You can watch Tuesday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Wednesday’s presentations on increasing the productivity, quality and consistency of livestock across the entire supply chain. Andrew Loftus, Carol-Anne Duthie and Diego Sprekelsen, the team behind the OPTI-BEEF project, discussed how their work is contributing to improved sustainability and quality in beef production, as well as how the Agri-Tech Innovation Hubs supported both OPTI-BEEF and Healthy Heifer.

You can watch Wednesday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

 

Towards the end of the week the webinars explored broader topics in the agrifood sector. Thursday’s discussion of how the incredible work of SmartFarms around the world, in partnership with academic institutions and government bodies, is supporting farmers across the globe to improve productivity and earnings, was followed by Friday’s session on aquaculture lead by Greg Riddle of Northern Light Consulting.

You can watch Thursday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

From reducing pollution and minimising the environmental impact of fish farms to insights from Innovation Week 2021’s partner, Leyton, on how agritech innovators can source funding and tax relief to get their solutions to market, the final day of Innovation Week 2021 rounded off the week’s webinars perfectly.

You can watch Friday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Until next time!

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all our speakers, including Agri-EPI Centre staff who did a fantastic job chairing the sessions, and also to the guests and attendees and anyone following along on Twitter. We were treated to 15 fantastic presentations and some really engaging discussion at the end of each session, inspired by insightful questions from the audience.

For information on Innovation Week 2022, and to keep up with all upcoming events from Agri-EPI Centre, make sure you’re following us on Twitter or keep an eye on our dedicated events page