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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.

Collaboration with China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC)

An Agri-EPI team, led by Agri-EPI Chair (Willie Thomson) CEO (Dave Ross) and Business Manager (Claire Lewis), have recently returned from a Science and Innovation Network facilitated visit to China. The visit marked the start of an Agri-EPI Centre and the China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) demonstration project that will bring together both Chinese and UK farming technology.

The visit, superbly co-ordinated by the FCO in Beijing, included visits to Shunyi National Agricultural Science and Technology Park, Xiaotangshan National Precision Agriculture Research, Yanqing National Agricultural Science and Technology Park, China International Technology Transfer Centre /Beijing Science and Technology Commission, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (where Theresa May visited the week prior).

We (jointly and) formally launched the concept of SMARTFARM 1.0, as an exemplar and direct focus for measuring and understanding agricultural productivity in China. This farm-based initiative (near Beijing) is also intended to be a base from which UK companies can show and market products for the vast Chinese market, as well as view Chinese technologies.

You can find out more about the smart farm approach here.

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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.

DawnFresh Seafoods signing up to Agri-EPI Farm Network

Stephen Burns (Senior Project Manager) had a great visit to Loch Etive a few weeks ago where he discussed how we would be working with DawnFresh Seafoods as part of our satellite farm network. Dawnfresh is one of the UK’s largest producers of fish and seafood, and the largest trout producer in Britain. Projects discussed included wireless connectivity across the loch to collect sensor data such as water quality and fish health.

Satellite Farm Network

Thirty-two commercial farms have signed up to form the Agri-EPI Centre satellite farm network. They have been carefully selected to provide a wide geographical spread within the UK and give a representative cross-section of UK agriculture. Poultry, pigs, dairy, sheep, beef, cereals, vegetables, horticulture and fish farming are all represented.

Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm Network can be of benefit to its customers is by providing huge potential for large scale field trials, creating opportunities to benchmark and gauge the commercial impact of new technologies as applied to real world production systems.

Perhaps the most important role that the network plays, is the real connection it gives to industry. Not only does this provide a stream of ideas and problems that farmers have encountered in the field, it also represents an invaluable source of industry knowledge and experience that can feed into other activities.

The list of putative projects continues to grow and it will be very interesting to review the impact of the connected satellite farms on the Centre’s performance in a few years. The satellite farms themselves will continue to be independent, production-orientated businesses throughout. The Agri-EPI team believes this production focus is important and will enhance the commercial impact of the Centre’s work.

~ This synopsis was extracted from an interview with Agri-EPI that was published in the Food and Science Technology Journal in August 2017.

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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.

Workshop Emerging imaging technologies in Agri-Food

Imaging technologies are developing rapidly and their increased use in agri-food could help increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste and improve food quality. A recent workshop organised by Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) brought together the Agri-Food and Imaging communities to explore opportunities for innovation using emerging imaging technologies across the agri-food sector.

Agri-EPI Centre CEO Dave Ross set the scene for the day, showing the amount of food that will have to be produced in the coming years to feed a growing world. The power of imaging technologies in agri-food is one of the key ways yields can be increased. The future of farming was hinted at with a video showing the ‘Hands Free Hectare’ at Harper Adams University.

Event synopsis

You might be interested in the blog that was written of the event by KTN, written by Charlie Winkworth-Smith, Knowledge Transfer Manager – Emerging Technologies, KTN. Posted on 5 February 2018:

‘Emerging imaging technologies in agri-food’

Increased use of imaging technologies in agri-food could help increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste and improve food quality.

Imaging technologies are developing rapidly and their increased use in agri-food could help increase agricultural productivity, reduce food waste and improve food quality. The event highlighted how emerging imaging technologies are vital for continued innovation in the agri-food industry. Professor Simon Pearson from the University of Lincoln, who chaired the workshop, commented that imaging technology is the backbone of precision agriculture as DNA is to bioscience.

Dave Ross from the Agri-EPI Centre set the scene for the day, showing the amount of food that will have to be produced in the coming years to feed a growing world. The power of imaging technologies in agri-food is one of the key ways yields can be increased. The future of farming was hinted at with a video showing the Hands Free Hectare at Harper Adams University.

Dr Martin Whitworth from Campden BRI showed how imaging technologies are being implemented in the food industry, with ovens being placed inside medical X-Ray CT scanners to monitor the structure of cakes during baking, hyperspectral imaging used to map the composition of food and thermal imaging being used to validate cooking instructions.

Dr Dorian Parker from M Squared Lasers showed how imaging technologies originally developed for the defence sector are now being adapted to detect the whisky escaping from casks. Optical fingerprinting is now able to differentiate whiskies by brand, age or even type of cask used. The first use cases of single pixel quantum imaging were also discussed, from methane imaging to seeing through tinted glass.

Opportunities for the space sector in precision agriculture were highlighted by Mark Jarman from the Satellite Applications Catapult. Hyperspectral imaging, thermal imaging and synthetic aperture radar are all technologies that are now being utilised to give farmers more information about their crops to help increase yields.

The use of imaging in the ruminant sector was explored by Dr Carol-Anne Duthie from SRUC. Time of flight 3D cameras can be mounted on water troughs which automatically capture images of animals to monitor the health of the animal. Thermal imaging can be used to identify inflammation, bruises or tendon injuries days before they will be visible to the farmer. After slaughter, visible and near infra-red spectroscopy is a non-invasive technique that can help predict cooking loss, composition, mechanical tenderness and sensory traits.

Dr Wenhao Zhang from the Centre for Machine Vision at the Bristol Robotics Lab showed that facial recognition of pigs is now possible. He also showed that 3D imaging can be a valuable tool for plant phenotyping as it will help indicate plant health and reveal gene induced traits. Imaging technologies are beginning to be used for weed detection in fields which could potentially reduce herbicide use by in excess of 90%.

Dr Simon Plant from Innovate UK and Dr Katherine Lutteroth from BBSRC updated the audience on all the funding opportunities available, in particular, the Emerging & Enabling and Health & Life Sciences competitions that are currently open, as well as the LINK scheme and Industry Partnership Awards. Dr Russ Bromley also highlighted the extra funding for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships that is currently available.

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.

Sensor technology at Dairy Parkend Farm the new norm

Sensors that make sense: from farming to water control

Dairy farming has been a family affair at Parkend Farm in Scotland for three generations. But keeping an eye on the cows has never been easier. On his smartphone, Brian Weatherup receives automatic emails from the farm’s computer system, that alert him of any changes in the cows’ health or fertility status. The data is collected by collars the animals wear around their neck.

Collars for cows

“The collar indicates that there’s been a drop in a cow’s average eating time or average rumination time or average activity. And any one of these factors could be a primary indicator that the cow is either sick or just starting to get sick, and the key factor in these collars is that they can pick up these problems before they become very serious,” Brian explains.

When the animal eats, its neck muscles move – the movement is captured by the collars’ sensors, and wirelessly collected and processed. The collar’s developers are planning to add location tracking, which would be particularly valuable for free-grazing cows.

Milking cows: a robot’s affair

Milking robots measure the volume and composition of the milk produced by each cow. Farmers use this data to boost productivity and improve the well-being of their animals. These and other smart innovations are being studied at farms across Britain as part of an EU-funded research project aimed at making agriculture more sustainable and more efficient.

Ivan Andonovic is a researcher in communication systems at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, which is a partner of the project.

“What’s happened with the technological evolution over the last ten years is that processing power has become cheaper, the energy spent in processing has dropped, and the functionality – the form factor, the shape, the size of it – is much more manageable. It’s only under those criteria that you can use technology to create an economic solution for the farming sector,” he says.

According to Freddie Reed, project manager and part of the Agri-EPI Farm Network Team:

“The first stage of it is to find the extent of issues, collect the data over the farms, so we know what’s going on on the farm, then we can identify the causes of inefficiencies on the farm, and once we know the causes we can find the problems to solve those solutions.”

Brian says that in the six months since he adopted the new technology, production has increased by one fifth and his animals’ health has improved, too. Researchers see even greater potential in integrating sensor data along the production chain, by developing a common standard for data exchange.

“The way we can have a real impact and make life even easier for Brian and his colleagues in this sector is to create a consistent and coherent database which takes both the data coming in, the collar system, and the output, the robot system, and then match input to output, says researcher Ivan Andonovic.

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Source: this is a synopsis of an article that has been published on Euro News on 6 November 2017. Read the full article.

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.

Work starts on new high-tech Precision Dairy Farm

Ground has been broken on the Harper Adams University farm, signalling the start of building work to create a new high-tech dairy unit.

The £750,000 facility, which will operate alongside Harper Adams’ existing research dairy unit, will serve the Agricultural Engineering Precision Innovation (Agri-EPI) Centre, which received £17.7 million investment under the Government’s Agri-tech Strategy to help the UK’s agri-food sector develop advanced technologies that will increase productivity and sustainability in UK agriculture.

The Centre will have hubs in Edinburgh, Harper Adams University (the Agri-Innovation Hub, already under construction) and Cranfield University, but will also be served by a series of farms and processing facilities equipped with the latest sensing and imaging equipment – including the new precision dairy unit at Harper Adams.

The new dairy will be one of three such units within Agri-EPI, with the South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset which is operated by Kingshay and a calf research facility in conjunction with SRUC in Dumfries involved in establishing the others.

Professor of Applied Animal Behaviour, Mark Rutter, explained:

“The new dairy facilities within Agri-EPI will enable scientists, the dairy industry and agri-engineering companies to work together to develop the next generation of dairy housing and management.

A key concept will be developing technology that facilitates cow choice, as research has shown that this can improve milk production efficiency as well as improving animal welfare.”

The Agri-EPI Centre is a consortium of key organisations in the field of precision agriculture and engineering. It brings together expertise in research and industry, as well as data gathering capacity in all areas of farming, to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the land-based industries.

By uniting organisations in all sections of the supply chain – 76 companies and institutions in all – it will become a world-leading centre for excellence in engineering and precision agriculture for the livestock, arable, aquaculture and horticulture sectors.

The new building is costing nearly £520,000 to construct, with the project total reaching £750,000 once equipment and other associated works are taken into account.

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Source: this article has been published on the Harper Adams University website