News

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.

Grain ‘swimming’ robot offers solution to global food loss

New Innovate UK-funded project tackling the global problem of post-harvest grain losses

Poor Autumn planting conditions, a Spring drought and the recent heavy rains have led to a very difficult UK harvest. And the challenges don’t end once grain is in store – uncontrolled temperature and moisture levels can lead to pests and mould which, due to the notoriously difficult task of monitoring the condition of stored grain, contribute to global post-harvest grain losses of more than 20%.

Now, a new Innovate UK-funded project is tackling the problem. Technology start-up Crover Ltd, Agri-EPI Centre and East of Scotland Farmers have teamed up to develop the first robotic robot able to safely sample grain bulks at various depths and while still in storage, where existing methods cannot. Each one of the robotic devices, called the “Crover”, is expected to be able to save a total of 380 tonnes of grain (wheat and barley) every year.

Over the next 18 months, the grain robot Crover will be trialled at the East of Scotland Farmers co-operative in Perth & Kinross, at a farm in Northumberland and within Agri-EPI’s network of partner farms. The project is being supported with £250,000 of Innovate UK funding.

Lorenzo Conti, Crover’s Managing Director, explained:

“Post-harvest losses have serious financial impacts for cereal storage sites such as farms, grain merchants, millers and breweries. But they also have significant social and environmental consequences, which are becoming ever more even more pressing due to threats such as increasing global food demand, intense price volatility, and harvest unpredictability due to climate change. Four and a half billion people per year are exposed to dangerous mycotoxins from grain moulds which contaminate 25% of the world’s food supply. The carbon footprint from cereal storage losses equates to 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions from food waste.

“Like a plane’s wings in air, or a boat’s rotor in water, the patented technology behind our Crover robot allows it to fluently “swim” through bulk solids, like cereals and grains, monitoring their condition while they are still in storage and without leaving any grain unchecked. Our aim is to improve grain storage systems, helping to build the resilience of the grain supply chain and the wider global food system.”

Unlike current grain solutions that can only reach near the surface pose a safety hazard to operators collecting the samples, Crover’s remote probing device will be able to autonomously collect samples throughout the whole silo/shed. This gives early detection of potential spoilage allowing steps to be taken to reduce losses and maintain quality.

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

“Cereal grains are the basis of staple food, yet post-harvest losses during long-term storage are significant and high. Through this new and very exciting collaboration, the partners will blend their technological and industry expertise to investigate how the Crover can respond to that challenge by working effectively in commercial grain storage sites, with potentially huge benefits to the agri-food industry and wider society.”

Robin Barron, General Manager of East of Scotland Farmers said:

“We have a special interest in obtaining representative samples from silos and stores full of malting barley, so that we can accurately assess their recovery from dormancy before being dispatched to maltster customers.”

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Agri-Tech Centre Policy Lead said:

“Innovate UK is pleased to have been able to support this innovative and exciting project. It has the potential to deliver significant impact in terms of improving food safety and security as well as helping to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. “

In this video, the project partners explain the technology and project impact:

More information

For further information or interviews, please contact Jane Smernicki, Agri-EPI Centre Communications Manager on 07985 691 765 or jane.smernicki@agri-epcentre.com.

Agri-EPI CTO becomes food network champion

Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr Shamal Mohammed, has been appointed Champion for Collaborative Projects for the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Food Network+ (SFN).

STFC Food Network logo

In this newly created role, Shamal will foster collaboration between members of the SFN to increase its success in winning grants for large projects. This will involve identifying potential projects, helping to bring together partners from academia, government and industry to support them and advising on funding applications.

Shamal Mohammed CTO Agri-EPI Centre

Shamal said:

“I’m very proud to have been appointed as an SFN Champion. Agri-EPI Centre firmly believes that collaboration is the key to successful innovation, and I am looking forward to helping create new partnerships that contribute to the network’s important role in sustainable food.”

 

Gareth Crockett, SFN Network Co-ordinator said:

“We are delighted to welcome Shamal as Champion for Collaborative Projects. At the SFN, we share Shamal’s passion for transforming the agri-food industry with novel and practical solutions. His experience of partnership and consortia building will be an important asset for the network, helping us to upscale our innovative scoping projects, and develop new links with partners in government and industry.”

Shamal has become one of 23 SFN Champions covering the themes including data science, innovative technology, food & supply chains, and innovation & knowledge exchange.

Enquiries

For further information, please contact Jane Smernicki, Agri-EPI Centre Communications Manager on 0131 239 7030, 07985 691 765 or jane.smernicki@agri-epcentre.com or stfcfoodnetwork@sheffield.ac.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.

 

The conference, which is supported by Landmark Systems and Lloyds Bank, runs from between 9am and 3pm on October 6, is free-of-charge and open to all. Register here.

This event is supported by

Logo Landmark Systems
Logo Lloyds Bank

Agri-tech hackathon seeks solutions to Covid’s impact on farming

Registration now open for an agri-tech Hackathon aimed at developing technological solutions to problems posed by Covid-19

Winners will receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre. 

The Hackathon will focus on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Participating teams will be challenged to explore solutions in two areas: the shortage of labour supply for field operations in horticultureand the restrictions on how vets can travel to conduct farm diagnoses and prescription.  

They will have the 12-hour duration of the Hackathon, on 23 and 24 September 2020, to come up with proposed technical solutions within their chosen stream which, if deemed by the judges to have winning market potential, will become the focus of the year-long ‘product launch programme’ delivered by Agri-EPI. 

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director Lisa Williams explained:

“We invite any businesses, organisations and academic institutions with an involvement or interest in agri-tech to take part in what promises to be a really exciting event, with the aim of delivering new products that address some of the serious impacts of Coronavirus on the farming industry. Collaboration is key to innovation and we look forward to working with the participating teams, and the winners, to develop new ideas. 

“The winning teams will have 12 months of access to Agri-EPI’s technical and project management expertise, our world-class research and innovation facilities, testbeds and research assets, and our extensive network, which includes a membership of more than 120 companies across agriculture, technology and the supply chain. 

The Hackathon is supported by the European Horizon 2020 project Smart AgriHubs. The Challenge partners for the veterinary Hackathon are Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network and Landmark Systems. For the horticulture Hackathon, the challenge partners are Bardsley, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

To find out more and register, visit: www.agri-epicentre.com/hackathon-2020.

Hackathon launch webinar

If you’re a business or academic institution with an interest in agri-tech, join us today (18 August) at 2:00pm to hear more from Agri-EPI Centre’s CEO, Dave Ross, as he goes into more detail about the Hackathon and challenges faced by many in the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Register now at register.gotowebinar.com/register to secure your space!

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

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-Tech innovation at the heart of sustainable food production

As agriculture faces its greatest ever demands, data-driven technology is crucial to sustainable and profitable food production

The changing global economic environment is going to mean that farmers must change their approach to how they manage their business. By the year 2050, the world population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion, two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. To meet increasing demand, the annual world agricultural production would need to increase by 60%. Technology has an important, if not vital, role to play in the transformation of the UK’s farming industry.

Together with the UK government and as one of UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation, Agri-EPI Centre works on facilitating the creation of profitable and sustainable agri-tech businesses.

In the next couple of months, as part of the ‘Agri-Tech Enabler’ campaign together with our wide partnership network, Agri-EPI Centre will demonstrate the practical and commercial benefits of farm technology innovation, applied across all major commodities. We invite technology companies to bring forward new ideas that have the potential to directly, or indirectly, impact UK Farming and result in sustainable food production. Be sure to look out for #agritechenabler related news on social media in the weeks to come!

As the leading agri-tech enabler, Agri-EPI Centre supports all kinds of businesses to help maximise their innovative ideas. Unlocking the potential of agritech innovation, if you would like to discuss opportunities for your business, big or small, or have something to contribute, please contact team@agri-epicentre.com. We will be delighted to talk to you.

 

Agri-EPI Centre DairyTech webinars July 2020

DairyTech webinars

One of the sectors currently being challenged, where innovative technologies are key to improve efficiency, sustainability and resilience is dairy farming. We would like to invite you to a series of webinars where we highlight the use of novel technologies and management systems designed to improve dairy herd health, wellbeing and sustainably increase milk yields. Read more about the different webinars held in July and how to register:

The webinars give an insight into a range of projects rolled out on our various UK dairy facilities, which are operated in conjunction with our partners Kingshay, SRUC and Harper Adams University and our Satellite Farm Network.