Project - Agri-EPI Centre - Engineering Precision Innovation

Project

Learn about our projects, the impact and results around the UK and abroad as we support and enable agri-tech innovation in farming and food supply. World-leading projects in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture.

Kaiapoi Farm hosts Agri-EPI’s second farm walk

Agri-EPI celebrated another successful and sunny day on-farm at Kaiapoi farm on Thursday, 19th May. Farmers Rob and Jo Hodgkins led a group of our Agri-EPI community including tech developers, farmers and industry representatives on a farm tour leading discussions around transitioning to regenerative practices, inter-row hoeing, novel sheep breeding techniques and more. Marcus Travers from Soil Essentials also led a fascinating talk on soil carbon and nitrogen retention.

‘Kaiapoi’ is Maori meaning ‘food over water’. Rob and Jo Hodgkins set up Kaiapoi in 2013 with 200 ewes on 60 rented acres of grass, and have imported Romney Rams from New Zealand to create the ultimate outdoor lambing ewe for the UK climate. They have driven the business forward hard and now run 2250 ewes across 1000ac semi improved grassland and solar panels and farm 1600ac of arable crops around North Hertfordshire.

“Getting people together on farm is incredibly important to showcase first-hand the opportunities in tech development that will deliver big impact on farms” – Claire Hodge, Head of Agri-Tech (Crops) at Agri-EPI Centre

 

Agri-EPI and DIT host International Export Advice Centre at LAMMA

Last week Agri-EPI shared a stand at LAMMA with the Department of International Trade (DIT).

LAMMA is the UK’s leading farm machinery, equipment and agricultural services show, attracting over 40,000 visitors to its venue at NEC Birmingham and celebrating its 40th year this year.

Agri-EPI Centre, in collaboration with DIT, hosted the International Export Advice Centre, where officers from Latin America, Africa, and the Eastern European and Central Asian Network, were present on the stand for business-to-business meetings about UK export. Dr Elizabeth Warham, Head of Agri-tech for DIT, was in demand as businesses lined up to speak with her, and Agri-EPI supported on talks with information on their innovation projects and how agri-tech can have an impact on-farm.

Additionally, delegates including the State Minister for Agriculture of Uganda along with a Ugandan delegation, were welcomed to Agri-EPI’s Midlands Agri-tech Innovation Hub for a tour of the facilities and networking with other companies to find out about some of the UK’s most cutting-edge Innovate UK funded projects. Presentations were given by Lisa Williams, Director of Business Development at Agri-EPI Centre, Rebecca Geraghty, CCO of Agrimetrics, and Kit Franklin, Senior Agricultural Engineer and Principle Investigator for Hands Free Farm, who took delegates to see the workshop they use to develop and work on the autonomous tractors for their world-renowned project.

New innovation centre unlocks aquaculture opportunities

Agri-EPI Centre’s latest innovation hub at Loch Fyne on Scotland’s Argyll coast will help to drive sustainable solutions and improve efficiency for the UK aquaculture industry.

In partnership with independent aquaculture company, Otter Ferry Seafish (OFS) – and jointly funded by Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre – the Marine Aquaculture and Innovation Centre (MAIC) offers fully serviced research and development facilities to aquaculture producers and technology providers.

For further information on the MAIC facility or to enquire about research collaboration please contact Charlie Bowyer.

charlie.bowyer@agri-epicentre.com

“We’ve been involved in aquaculture innovation and new species development since 1968,” says Alastair Barge, Managing Director at OFS.

“For this initiative, we did market research to see what the sector needed to deliver sustainable solutions – R&D requires facilities, and most businesses can’t afford to run their own research stations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The MAIC comprises a series of replicated small and large land-based tanks, located indoors under programmable lighting.

“The tanks have water capacities of two cubic metres and 20m3, respectively. In the 12 smaller tanks we can test four different regimes or diets, in triplicate, as commonly required for scientific evaluation,” Mr Barge explains. “In the six larger tanks, we can rear salmon and other farmed species to near-harvest weight.”

The tanks have a water flow-through system, incorporating pre-treatment using sand filtration and UV sterilisation. They are fitted with particle separators to measure uneaten food and fish waste.

Eduardo Jimenez, OFS’s Research and Development Manager, says:

“Land-based tanks offer greater environmental control than cages or other sea-based growing systems, improving the reliability of trials data. Interference from environmental factors is minimised because we can control and replicate conditions like lighting, water exchange rate, and oxygen levels.”

And the first trials are already under way.

“At the moment we are running a benchmarking feed trial for a commercial client comparing three diets, to assess which is best in terms of fish growth and feed conversion efficiency.”

As well as helping to improve diets and treatments for farmed fish and shellfish, the MAIC is well suited for evaluating different strains of commercial farmed species and for developing rearing methods for up-and-coming species like seaweeds. It also provides a platform for validating new aquaculture technologies for counting and observing livestock and monitoring water quality.

“This is a great new resource supporting UK aquaculture innovation and we’re going to keep improving the facilities, bringing in new species and trials,” says Dr Jimenez.

Improving aquaculture sustainability is at the core of the partnership and the MAIC.

“I think this centre can be a model for innovation, all with a background of sustainability,” adds Mr Barge.

Lisa Williams, Director of Business Development at Agri-EPI, is excited about the range of R&D projects which the centre can help with.

“It’s one of a kind in the UK. The centre will facilitate a range of trial work that will enable us to really look at efficiencies within the sector. It also opens the opportunity to carry out near-market trials, as well as linking into the long-term sustainability of the sector and wider ecosystem within that supply chain.”

“The partnership is a perfect combination to drive forward change and is a valuable resource to aquaculture businesses that want to initiate and progress R&D projects. If any business is interested in undertaking a project, then we encourage them to get in touch.”

 

Agri-EPI Centre and CIEL delighted to host Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive of UKRI today.

We took the opportunity to provide insight into work of the Agritech Centres in their role of translation of science into best practice and related agri-food sector benefits

Ottoline visited the Agri-EPI Northern Hub and CIEL-supported LARIF building and met Dr Mark Young of CIEL and Dave Ross of Agri-EPI, who provided examples of work the Agritech Centres are doing to benefit sustainability and commercial impact, leveraging our networks including key academic partners.

We are grateful to the University of Edinburgh for the overall co-ordination of the visit. Pictured are (left to right):

Prof. David Argyll, William Dick Chair of Veterinary Clinical Studies, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Dame Ottoline Leyser, Chief Executive, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)
Professor Moira Whyte, Head of College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh
Dave Ross, CEO, Agri-EPI Centre
Prof. Jonathan Seckl, Senior Vice Principal, University of Edinburgh
Helen Dundas, Data Driven Innovation Sector Lead in Agritech, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Bruce Whitelaw, Interim Director, The Roslin Institute
Dr. Thomas Farrugia, CEO, Beta Bugs Ltd
Dr. Mark Young, Head of Innovation, CIEL

NEVONEX announced as Agri-EPI conference sponsor

NEVONEX, powered by Bosch, has been announced as the sponsor of Agri-EPI Centre’s annual conference on 28 October.

The conference, titled ‘The Path to Sustainability’, will focus on the role of agri-tech in the journey towards more economically and environmentally sustainable farming.

The free, online event will bring together farmers and the wider agri-food industry, technology developers and start-ups, investors, and researchers in a series of panel discussions about the role of data and technology in improving productivity and profit while protecting and enhancing the environment. Farmers involved in Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm Network will join the conversation.

Bosch supports farmers productivity and sustainability through its NEVONEX platform, an open, manufacturer-independent ecosystem providing seamless connectivity and automation of work processes and machines on-farm. You can find out more and register for the event here.

Green Asparagus Harvesting Robot Successfully Demonstrated in the UK by Muddy Machines

Muddy Machines, a UK agri-tech startup and Agri-EPI member announced that they have successfully developed a prototype robotic harvester for green asparagus, which they’ve named “Sprout”. Working closely with major asparagus grower Cobrey Farms in Herefordshire the company has spent the last year developing and testing their machine on-farm.

Farms require a high volume of seasonal workers for a variety of tasks, primarily for weeding and harvesting. Asparagus is one of the most labour intensive crops as harvesting occurs daily throughout the 12 week season. While other companies have largely ignored asparagus, because by itself it is a relatively small volume crop, Muddy Machines believe that starting with the crop most suited to robotic harvesting is best, before iterating to develop harvesters for more challenging crops.

Sprout uses the latest in deep learning technology to detect and delicately pick asparagus spears according to growers’ specifications. The robot is lightweight and fully electric, avoiding damaging soil compaction and enabling a green, sustainable and resilient future for UK horticulture.

Founded by Florian Richter and Christopher Chavasse in June 2021 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and the urgent request from growers to find a solution to their labour supply challenges. Muddy Machines is now seeking additional funding to bring an initial batch of robots to market in 2022.

Muddy Machines are an Agri-EPI member and are backed by Britbots, Robotic Ventures, Entrepreneur First, and a number of fantastic business angels having won several Innovate UK grants and accelerator programs.

Listen to our Seedling Sessions podcast with Florian of Muddy Machines here – episode #4.