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Agri-tech partners support COVID-19 food security

Cutting-edge crop monitoring solution

A collaboration involving Agri-EPI Centre and leading agri-tech start-up Mantle Labs is offering a cutting-edge crop monitoring solution for UK food security during the coronavirus pandemic.

The recent surge in consumer demand and potential trade disruptions caused by the virus pose a real threat to uninterrupted food supply. To avoid this, retailers, supermarkets, food processors and government departments need to have visibility of what is happening across UK agriculture and be able to quickly monitor food supply chains for forward planning.

Mantle Labs is offering its unique ‘Geobotanics’ platform to retailers and others involved in the supply chain, free-of-charge for a period of three months. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) – based platform mixes imagery from multiple satellites to assess current agricultural conditions and provides early warning of potential supply issues.

The platform works seamlessly even in cloudy conditions to give a clear indication of potential problem hotspots around the country and provide projected crop yields. The Geobotanics platform runs on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which enables Mantle Labs to scale its platform quickly and easily to analyse very large volumes of high resolution crop satellite imagery across large surface areas.

Agri-EPI is supporting Mantle Labs in promoting the technology. Discussions are at an early stage with a key organisation within the agri-food industry.

Jon Pierre, Mantle Labs’ Chief Business Officer, said:

“The information provided by our dashboard can be factored into retailers’ procurement and inventory planning. They can work closely with their supplier farmers to tackle problem spots early, determine if issues can be remedied and therefore provide additional resilience and certainty to supply chains of individual items. Government departments can utilise the platform to flag issues relating to national food security.

Analysis can be farm-level, regional and country level; thereby allowing for constant monitoring and forward planning for a variety of procured produce.”

The Geobotanics platform identifies all standing crops on the ground and indicates crop health for all fields including any anomalies likely to impact the production. The total acreage under cultivation by crop type can be quickly accessed which helps in identifying any shortfall in production at a very early stage.

The platform also identifies fallow land, allowing decisions to be taken to bring this under immediate cultivation to fill the gaps in overall demand.

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

“Innovation and collaboration are vital to identifying solutions to the issue of potential supply chain disruption and we are doing all we can to support our members, working with Mantle Labs and Amazon Web Services to deliver this offer to retailers and UK Government.”

Those interested in discussing this opportunity with Mantle Labs should in the first instance contact Agri-EPI Centre Project Manager, Freddie Reed.

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.

New venture for Agri-EPI at Dairy-Tech 2020

Agri-EPI is for the first time exhibiting at the major Dairy-Tech event

Taking place at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry on February 5, this one-day event showcases ground-breaking concepts and innovation.

Agri-EPI is teaming up with partners Glas Data and AgSenze to showcase technology at the event’s Innovation Hub – find them there at 10.55am.

Head of Dairy, Duncan Forbes, will be giving a talk about the ground-breaking activities taking place at the Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, such as the use of 5G connectivity for improved health and welfare, precision grazing trials and automated milking systems.

The partners will also exhibit at the stand, where visitors can learn more about each company as well as new projects, trials and technologies supporting sustainable milk production.

Lisa Williams, Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development said:

“We see this is a key event for us so are looking forward to being there. Due to the transformation in the dairy industry over recent years, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that farmers need to be competitive and irrespective of their system type and market they supply. Regardless of their cost base, future successful dairy businesses must be informed, resilient, proactive and efficient. Dairy-Tech provides this platform, alongside a recognition that dairy farming has become a professional industry.

If you would like more information about our presence at the show, please contact Lisa by email or phone: 07950 697 212.

Transforming Scotland’s aquaculture industry

Increasing fish health, welfare and productivity

A partnership between Agri-EPI Centre and the world’s largest fish manual vaccination company, Stirling-based Aqualife, is set to help increase fish health, welfare and productivity in the aquaculture sector.

With support from Agri-EPI, Aqualife has won £250,000 funding from the Seafood Innovation Fund, awarded by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), to develop and launch a ‘transformational’ fish vaccinating robot by the end of next year.

The robot, named Incubot 2 will be able to vaccinate fish at sizes below 20 grams, as opposed to the common weight of between 30 and 120 grams, allowing producers to increase productivity by growing their fish out of hatcheries far sooner. It will be capable of vaccinating most species of farmed fish, in large numbers.

Incubot 2 will be a mobile platform, allowing Aqualife to offer automated vaccination to smaller fish farms which cannot afford to invest in large scale immobile systems.

The robot will also help to improve fish quality using artificial intelligence and ‘deep learning’ algorithms to increase vaccination accuracy and improve fish grading.

Aqualife Chief Executive, Gordon Jeffrey, said:

“The aquaculture industry in Scotland aims to double its economic contribution from an estimated £1.8 billion in 2016 to £3.6 billion by 2030. To achieve this, it must develop solutions to reduce fish losses, most of which result from disease.

“Health and welfare issues have also attracted public attention. Aqualife wishes to play a key role in transforming the industry by embedding engineering excellence within our company to offer a range of truly innovative products and services. This grant ensures we will be able to do that.

“Agri-EPI Centre has played a key role in us winning this grant. From initially pointing us in the direction of the competition to hands on helping us to prepare the application, Phil and the Centre have been crucial.”

Agri-EPI Project Manager, Phil Cassidy, said:

“Agri-EPI aims to stimulate collaboration and innovation to support sustainable food production and this project is a fine example of this. We look forward to managing the project to develop Inocubot 2.”

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.

Aqualife and AEC

Visit creates fertile ground for growth of UK-China SmartFarm project

New opportunities arising from the UK-China SmartFarm collaboration were the subject of fruitful discussion at Agri-EPI’s office in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Agri-EPI hosted a visit by a high-level delegation from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, along with representatives of Innovate UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the University of Strathclyde.  The purpose was to explore Smart Farm opportunities with the Tianjin Municipal Commission of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and Tianjin Food Group.

Agri-EPI is helping to realise Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. SmartFarm is a key component of the Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge, one of the major deliverables under the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy signed in December 2017 in London.

With the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ already well underway in China, the plan is to create a transferable model for utilising a range of technology to gather data on inputs and outputs, in order to measure and reduce variation and increase productivity at all levels of the supply chain.

Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0. The project has now come to the attention of officials in Tianjin, who wish to explore how the project’s activities and positive impact may be extended to their region.

The delegation comprised senior representatives from the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commission of the Tianjin Municipal Government, Tianjin Food Group Company, Tianjin Jinhai Husbandry Group and Tianjin High Quality Agricultural R&D Demonstration Centre.

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said:

“The China SmartFarm project is looking at how Chinese food production can utilise UK technologies to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to discuss how we can build on current activities to further support sustainable food production in China.”

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Chief Executive said:

“It has been a pleasure to discuss further SmartFarm opportunities and we thank the delegation from Tianjin for their interest in Agri-EPI and the current activities in China. We have already developed exciting collaborations with several Chinese partners and are keen to build on existing relationships to extend the reach of the China SmartFarm initiative.”

Bridging the gap on climate change

Japan is embracing climate-smart technologies and practices for sustainable agriculture; and Agri-EPI is now helping to advance this for global benefits.

At DEFRA‘s invitation, Agri-EPI’s CTO Shamal Mohammed attended an international workshop in Tokyo on scaling up these technologies in early November, where he presented several case studies on bridging the gap between science, technology and farming.

The key case study – the Satellite Farm Network – aims to increase the use of smart technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, he says. This fits nicely with the SmartFarm concept being rolled out in China through Innovate UK – something in which the deputy director from the Ministry of Agriculture of Japan showed interest – see Agri-EPI’s China visit for more information.

Shamal also discussed using technology to maximise productivity, with some UK studies demonstrating that 11m tonnes of carbon can be saved just by improving efficiencies.

Linked to this is research into helping farmers understand limitations of productivity. “If soil is not in good condition and there are compaction issues, more fertiliser won’t increase productivity, but will increase emissions,” explains Shamal.

Other case studies were presented from every delegate country, with the Canadian Living Lab proving most interesting as it put forward ideas in union with Agri-EPI’s initiative to unite science, technology and farming practice.

Additionally, Agri-EPI shared ideas about creating a carbon market with the US Department of Agriculture, with potential for investment from private American investors. “It’s about building that market mechanism and space for trading the carbon stored in soils,” says Shamal.

Japan G20 Workshop November 2019 Japan Shamal Mohammed

The final day of the trip involved visits to three Japanese farms of varying size and layout, Shamal explains: “It was good to see how they managed their land and cropping and what they are doing to increase productivity and store carbon.” Japanese farmers are using labelling to persuade consumers that their products are more sustainable, shifting attitudes and purchasing behaviour.

The conference – which followed the G20 meeting in September – offered Agri-EPI the opportunity to meet and set up communication lines with individuals and organisations across the globe with similar aims. In addition, it helped to build relationships and share the SmartFarm concept – something Japan and other countries may now also be interested in establishing.

Next year, Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 Ministry of Agriculture Chief Scientists (MACS) meeting. Agri-EPI is looking into the possibility of getting a slot at the MACS next year.

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.

China SmartFarm trip creates new opportunities

Agri-EPI is making great steps in new collaborations for UK businesses following a successful trip to China last month. Dave Ross and Lisa Williams visited Beijing and Chengdu province to explore the opportunities for developing the China SmartFarm test facility and to engage with international scientists at the Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST).

The China-UK Initiative in Beijing supported by Innovate UK and NERCITA – the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture gathered its first wheat harvest this year. The aim of the project is to show how new technology and data can reduce yield variation and increase productivity throughout the supply chain, with UK agri-tech businesses well placed to deliver for Chinese producers.

China SmartFarm concept

Next year, Agri-EPI hopes to move the farm to a more commercial environment covering a wider commodity base, to test and trial UK technology. To help facilitate this, Dave and Lisa met with the Tianjin Municipal Commission of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and Tianjin Food Group, which has links to livestock and arable production and works across the supply chain.

“We are hosting the Tianjin Food Group here in the UK in December to progress relationships for taking UK technology to China,” says Dave.

 

Agri-EPI Centre in China Nov 2019

Further to this, they visited the China Academy of Agricultural Sciences’ Dairy Facility near Beijing, with a view to establishing networks and consider future projects. Watch this space.

Another UK-China collaboration came in the form of a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to explore the establishment of eco farms in both countries.

Finishing the trip at GLAST, Dave represented Agri-EPI on the session ‘IT bases and smart agriculture, alongside organisations from all over the world. There were some truly thought-provoking sessions.

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.

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