Sensors - Agri-EPI Centre - Engineering Precision Innovation

Sensors

The use of sensors is an increasing part of novel farming technology. Feeding back data for analysis on a wide range of different areas, both for plant and animal monitoring and analysis of behaviour in different environments. Supporting the evolution of modern farming techniques, at Agri-EPI we explore and deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across soil, crops and livestock.

UK farmers confident about benefits of agri-tech but unsure of its role in net zero, new research suggests

While most UK farmers are using agri-tech, many are doubtful of its ability to help them meet net zero targets, a nationwide survey by Agri-EPI Centre has revealed.

The Agri-EPI research sought to understand how and why farmers are using agri-tech, shed light on barriers to its use and explore the technologies farmers think will be needed in the future.

The research, conducted through interviews with farmers across the UK, found that 78% are using some form of agri-tech, with the highest adoption rates among younger farmers and those with large farms. The biggest reasons for its use are increased productivity and profitability.

Yet, while the same percentage (78%) of farmers believe that it is important to reduce their farm’s greenhouse gas emissions (rising to 94% of those under the age of 45), only just above a third (35%) are confident that technology will help them reach net zero carbon emissions.

One reason for this could be that farmers need greater skills and support to understand the benefits of technology and to adopt it. The research found only half of farmers rate their skills in using agri-tech as ‘good’, with less than half (43%) of all farmers interviewed feeling well supported in introducing or making better use of existing technology.

Agri-EPI centre’s Chief Executive, David Ross, said: “While the majority of UK farmers recognise that agri-tech has an important role in supporting their priorities of productivity and profit, we are struck by the fact that only around a third felt tech has a role to play in environmental sustainability.

“Technology is one of the solutions to helping farmers reduce their emissions –agri-tech that helps farmers be more efficient and productive usually offers a win-win for sustainability.

“The findings of our research provide important insights for Agri-EPI and our fellow Agri-Tech Centres, as well as for those with a role in developing, evaluating and promoting technology, particularly the agri-food sector, policy makers, agri-tech companies and the R&D community. The farmers we spoke to told us they need accessible training, funding, and more evidence and independent advice to help them make the best use of agri-tech. We want to collaborate with partners across all of areas to ensure the benefits of agri-tech is make clear and the avenues to adoption are easily accessible.”

Of the farmers interviewed who are using agri-tech, popular technologies include machine guidance systems (40% reported they are using this), soil mapping (35%), livestock growth monitoring (30%) and variable rate application (28%).

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm.

Robotics and automation for a variety of purposes featured strongly in farmers’ thoughts on the tech that will be important for the future, along with the capability to integrate data gathered by different systems on the farm. The findings of the research will be discussed at Agri-EPI’s annual conference, titled The Path to Sustainability, on 28 October.

Defra opens its Farming Innovation Partnership competitions – how can we support your application?

This week, Defra opens its Farming Innovation Partnerships Feasibility and Small R&D competition strands. With just six weeks to go until the closing date, we want to ensure we are best able to support our members build their project collaborations and funding applications.

We have identified a number of challenge themes, in consultation with our farmer network, which we will use to guide our thinking in supporting and developing projects. These are:

Create tools to track and manage environmental impact
Improve data exchange to track productivity and impact
Develop higher resolution farm management information
Automate processes for creating management information
Automate processes for targeted actions
Improve health and welfare of plants and animals

Agri-EPI can provide access to our farmer network, testbeds and other facilities; help with building up your project and consortium; technical and project management expertise; or support with writing an application, as appropriate.
If you are considering applying to these competitions and would like support from Agri-EPI or to find out how we can help, please complete this form, with as much information as possible. This will help us best understand how we can help and where we can add value. If your idea is still quite early-stage and you don’t have all the information, or if you are looking to join a collaboration that fits into one or more of the themes above, just send us what you have. We will then direct your enquiry to the member of our team best able to advise how to take your idea further.

Your information will be dealt with in confidence and we won’t approach any additional partners without consulting you first.

Please get back to us by 29th October at the latest, but the sooner we hear from you, the better position we will be in to provide support.

A winning solution for autonomous farming safety 

Agri-tech company Agribot AI has won the Agri-EPI and Hands Free Farm (HFF) hackathon tackling safety and security concerns around autonomous agricultural vehicles.  

A hackathon funded by Smart Agri-Hubs, Agri-EPI Centre in collaboration with Hands Free Farm tasked participants to “hack” a safety solution for unmanned machinery.  The teams which took part came from a range of disciplines, such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, drones and computer vision. 

Agribot’s winning concept brought together cutting-edge AI and vision technology to provide a cost-effective, anonymised human and animal detection system that could work with notoriously patchy rural connectivity. The company is now in conversation with the Hands Free Farm team on developing and implementing their technology on the HFF site.

Agribot were joined by five other teams that included Epitomical Limited, Continental Industry, NextGenAgri Limited, GMV NSL, MNB Networks Ltd

Agri-EPI Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “The quality of ideas and solutions from the teams that took part in the hackathon has blown away everyone at Agri-EPI, the team at Hands Free Farm and our judges – Clive Blacker, Kit Franklin, Andy Newbold and Sarah Walton. We were particularly impressed with Agribot AI’s proposal which has very real potential, and we are excited to see how it develops at Hands Free Farm.” 

Autonomous vehicles offer arable farmers a wide range of benefits, such as better utilisation of farm staff and increased precision and reduced inputs, all of which combine to improve farm economics. 

However, to ensure the implementation of agri-tech can keep pace with the rate of innovation, the safety, security and reliability of new technologies must be guaranteed. 

The lack of formal safety regulations, codes of practice and other legislation pose a potential barrier to the widespread use of cutting-edge agri-tech, hindering the progress of the entire agri-food sector. 

Hands Free Farm partners with Precision Decisions, part of the Map of Ag group. Clive Blacker, Head of Arable Produce at Map of Ag said:  

“The diverse nature of agriculture and robotics operating in off-road and on-road environments poses many challenges. Our aim with the hackathon was to bring great ideas from any background into agriculture that have the potential to support robotic safety. We have been delighted and inspired by the solutions put forward.”  

 

New film highlights technology for sustainable dairy production

Dairy Production technology

Agri-EPI’s South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset and one of its satellite farm, Parkend Farm in Fife, are featured in a new film highlighting the development of technology in sustainable dairy production.

The video was produced as part of the Horizon 2020 ‘Internet of Food & Farm’ project. It explores the work of the project’s Dairy Trial Team at Strathclyde University, led by Professors Ivan Andonovic and Craig Michie.

The team is looking at sensors and Artificial Intelligence-based solutions for helping farmers increase their herds’ milk yields, based around a new platform called Herdsman+.

Lots of data about a cow’s health, fertility and performance can be collected using tools such as internet-connect collars, leg tags and milking robots. The key to generating the most accurate picture of each cow in the herd is to be able to integrate this data. Herdsman+ does exactly that, analysing the information to allow the farmer to make well-informed management decisions for optimising each animal’s health, welfare and milk yield.

Sustainable dairy

Agri-EPI has supported the Dairy Trial Team by providing data from the SWDDC and Park End dairy farm. The two dairies have also hosted events for farmers to consult them about new and future tools which may support their businesses’ sustainability during these challenging times for the dairy sector.

 


Logo Science Animated

Science Animated

This video has created by Science Animated is a scientific communication agency who develop engaging and accessible animations based on specific researcher’s work. For more information: https://sciani.com

 

5G no leafy country lane

Duncan Forbes, Manager of our South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset has been blogging about this 5G Farm, as part of the 5G RuralFirst project. In his latest post he writes:

Rural 5G is no leafy country lane – it’s a data super highway set to put farming in the fast lane!

Sensors are go!

We’ve been busy at the Agri-EPI Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre equipping our 180-strong herd with Afimilk Silent Herdsman sensors – a key element in our activities as one of the three 5G RuralFirst testbeds. The sensors are fitted to the cows’ collars to measure health parameters including rumination, eating, fertility and health.

As a cow steps into one of the robotic milkers, sensors recognise the animal, record her health and fertility status and know how much milk she is expected to give. The rapid growth in wearable technology, data analytics and automation has the potential to revolutionise how dairy cows are milked and cared for.

It’s important to acknowledge that amongst all this exciting tech, we must never lose sight of the two essential elements of any dairy farm – the cows and the people who care for them. As we develop new technology, we must ensure that the advances benefit one or both of these constants.

Technology such as the Afimilk sensors and robotic milkers are giving us more and more information about the animals which means we can keep an even closer eye on their health and welfare. That’s good from an animal welfare point of view but it is also important in an economic sense – farmers need to get a good return on their investment in order to keep on producing good, healthy food.

Why called a 5G farm?

The rapidly growing number of sensors in farming are generating huge quantities of data. The strong, consistent connectivity that 5G can provide will ensure farmers can get the most out of this data. While farming technology is being adopted at a very fast rate, at present most of that technology connects by one means or another to a PC in the farm office.

It then connects through to the internet which is notoriously slow in most rural areas. 5G offers an opportunity to bypass a series of those steps along the way with the potential to pick up data directly from the sensors on the cows, bypass any need for a PC on the farm, get the data onto the cloud, combine it with other relevant data and deliver management support information directly back to farm staff. This data “round trip” could take only milliseconds allowing staff to make instant, informed decisions about livestock welfare and management.

The 5G Rural First project is going to explore the benefits of achieving this massively accelerated connectivity from sensors such as the Afimilk Silent Herdsman and other emerging technology on the dairy farm.

Farmers have suffered from very poor connectivity which limits the amount of data that can be transmitted.  This hasn’t stopped the development of agricultural technology and the industry has found many clever ways to get around the issue, but imagine if we can remove those barriers by having a fantastic highway for data that is 5G – the potential is enormous to transform data into useful information that can help revolutionise the management of livestock and the productivity of UK farming.

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Source: 5GRuralFirst

Journal Sensors focusing on IoT for Precision Agriculture

Submissions are being invited to a special edition of the international journal Sensors, focusing on the ‘Internet of Things for Precision Agriculture”. The special issue of Sensors, a peer-reviewed open access journal on the science and technology of sensors and biosensors, will seek to capture the latest innovations relevant to the development and adoption of precision agriculture. The journal is being guest edited by academics at the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, which Agri-EPI Centre collaborates with.

Journal topics

Topics of interest for this journal include, but are not limited to, the following themes related to sensors:

  • Intelligent Sensing Technologies
  • Data Architectures and Management
  • Edge Computing
  • Network and Communications Technologies
  • IoT Platform Integration
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence
  • Emerging Applications/Services and Cloud Analytics
  • Information Visualisation
  • Security, Privacy and Trust
  • Inter-Operability and Standards
  • Emerging Business Models

The deadline for submissions is April 15, 2019. 

For further information about this journal submission, click here.

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.