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New Agri-informatics facility opens to help accelerate digital adoption in agriculture

A new £3.2 million Agri-informatics facility has been officially opened by the Rt. Hon. George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Agri-EPI Centre, Cranfield University and its partners will share the facility to create informatics in support of innovative business, management and policy approaches for the agricultural sector.

Environment Secretary, George Eustice believes that the new centre will ensure that planned agricultural policies are “underpinned with world-leading science.”

Fostering collaboration between the industry and academia

“We are delighted to share this key facility at Cranfield,” said Agri-EPI Centre CEO, Dave Ross. “It will complement our existing facilities and allow us to foster collaborations with both industry and academia to meet the significant productivity and environmental challenges facing the agri-food sector, now and in the future.”

The site has been funded by Cranfield University and Innovate UK through Agri-EPI and the Wolfson Foundation.

The Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “Cranfield has a world-leading role in driving agricultural innovation and development and I was pleased to open the new facility today. Soil health is central to delivering our objectives on biodiversity and profitable agriculture and this new centre will ensure that the policies we plan are underpinned with world-leading science.”

Leon Terry, the university’s Director of Environment and Agrifood had this to say: “By utilising data science, we can create new technological interventions that will improve crop yields, improve soil health and reduce food waste. All of these things are vital to reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production.”

Accelerating adoption of precision data agriculture

Agri-EPI’s activities at the new site will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. Our work will accelerate the development and adoption of engineering technology and precision data agriculture, which will in turn boost sustainable productivity across the entire agri-food chain.

Ian Cox, Agri-Tech Centres Lead at Innovate UK said: “I am delighted that this new joint facility, part funded by Innovate UK, is now open. It will expand the capabilities of both Agri-EPI and Cranfield University, and will help to address some of the major challenges – facing not only the UK but the world – around how we feed everybody sustainably.

“The facility will help to drive forward the competitiveness of the UK’s growing agri-tech sector into the next decade and beyond.”

UK agri-tech company receives investment boost to agricultural robotics

With the UK agricultural industry facing unprecedented challenges, such as the increasing global population, pressure to achieve Net Zero and a dearth of agri-food labourers, AI and robotics may provide the key to unlocking agriculture’s productivity.

Agricultural robots can undertake short-cycle repetitive tasks that currently make inefficient use of resources; by undertaking tasks that can be costly and limited, or reliant on large diesel-based machinery, agro-chemicals or human labour, cleaner, smarter robotics could enable the feeding of future societies.

The future of farming

In an exciting development for robotics’ use in British agriculture, UK-based startup Antobot, developer of affordable robotics for sustainable agriculture, has secured £1.2 million in their seed funding round following a strategic investment from a leading automotive electronics solutions provider in China, Intron Technology Holdings Ltd.

Founded by embedded controls and robotics experts, Antobot is developing innovative vertically-integrated robotics AI solutions optimised for agriculture aiming to increase efficiency and sustainability whilst maintaining accessibility and affordability with products expected in the market in 2022.

Smart, sustainable solutions

Antobot’s first product line is its fully integrated automotive-grade universal Robot Control Unit (uRCU®), the “brain” of the robot. Once requiring multiple separate modules, the uRCU®’s sophisticated design combines the core hardware and advanced software for agri-robotic applications in one compact single unit.

Antobot’s CEO, Howard Eu, explains: “The integrated design makes the uRCU® smaller, more reliable and affordable than other existing solutions, and the full-stack AI also confers performance benefits with its universal, configurable design that can adapt to different farmer needs.”

Delivering Insight

This funding will also enable Antobot to develop various full applications using its modular platform, starting with its scouting robot, Insight. Focusing initially on the £875 million UK fruit sector, Insight travels autonomously through the farm and, using artificial intelligence, gathers accurate, timely and rich data for deeper insight into crop yield, profile, and pest/disease management.

Unlike manual scouting or scouting using large heavy machinery, Insight is powered by renewable energy and does not require any labour. Working with a selection of partner farms in England, Insight will be trialled in UK fields this summer of 2021.

“The development of Insight has been directly informed by the experiences of our partner fruit-growers in the UK and understanding their concerns over achieving Net Zero and the loss of agri-labour,” said Marc Jones, Business Director at Antobot.

“Insight will provide accurate yield forecasts, real-time crop management and digitisation of the supply chain using this early growth-stage data, which can give growers greater weight in contract negotiations, decrease avoidable food waste and enable more efficient use of limited labour.”

Supporting innovation in agri-tech

From its inception, Antobot has been supported by various organisations including Agri-TechE, Agri-EPI, Innovate UK, Eastern Agri-Tech Growth Initiative, St John’s Innovation Centre, ideaSpace of Cambridge University, and Anglia Ruskin University. This strategic investment from Intron Technology will provide valuable support in supply chain, manufacturing and quality assurance to bring Antobot’s uRCU® and Insight to market in 2022.

Eddie Chan, Co-CEO and Executive Director of Intron Technology, said of the investment: “We are strongly committed to Research and Development at Intron, particularly when promoting sustainability. And we are looking forward to working with Antobot, learning from each other, and helping Antobot grow into the leading force in the agricultural robotics sector we know it can be.”

To find out more about Antobot, visit their website and to see more of our work supporting innovation in agri-tech, and see how you can benefit from Agri-EPI Centre’s support, visit our project pages.

As agriculture continues to embrace technology the risk of cyber attacks is increasing

We spoke to Agri-EPI member Chris Milnes from Partner& to find out about risks to agri-tech businesses around cyber security.

The last year has transformed the business environment in which we all work. As we have all had to get used to a new way of working, those with more nefarious aims and ambitions have also had to pivot, and we have seen a huge spike in cyber-attacks.

Over the past 12 months

  • 88 percent of businesses have reported a breach of their IT systems.
  • One small business has been hacked every 19 seconds in the UK
  • 37 percent of businesses in the UK have reported a data breach to the ICO

The cost associated with these breaches can be huge, both directly and indirectly

  • A third of all businesses said that they have lost clients due to cyber breach
  • 41% of customers said they would never return to a business that had suffered a cyber attack.
  • The average cost of a ransomware attack is nearly £600,000, and 48% of businesses have reported being subject to an attack of this variety.
  • Investors are increasingly looking at firms cyber security/defences as part of their due diligence

Agri-tech

Agricultural firms are quickly turning to ‘smart farming’ and ‘precision farming’ and therefore becoming reliant on technology to run their machines and equipment.  The ‘Locking’ of these systems due to a cyber-attack could lead to a loss of production, spoiled stock (severity determined by food type), compromised integrity of quality control systems, unfulfilled customer contracts with traders and processors, project delays…and most importantly, very expensive system damage costs to rebuild the systems and get back up and running again.

For many of the firms in the Agri Epi ecosystem they are fully reliant on their intellectual property, and whilst they are at the start of their journey, a breach could be catastrophic for the business. We are seeing ransom demands well into the millions when technology has been compromised.   Equally, because agriculture is so heavily dependent on seasonality and have a very small harvesting window, a cyber-attack during these periods as the ability to wipe an entire year’s revenues.

Some of the food network technologies being used that are susceptible to an attack include:

  • Online portals for rural payments and livestock tracking
  • SCADA production systems
  • HVAC systems in livestock farms, production lines
  • Agricultural machinery
  • Smart sensors for soil moisture, weather stations
  • Logistics management software

Given agricultural firms are a crucial component of the supply chain, firms will be working with multiple vendors and suppliers leading to frequent and high cost inbound/outbound fund transfer payments.  Malicious actors will often look to intercept these and conduct a classic social engineering scam diverting funds elsewhere.

Threats

The threat from Cyber Criminals is ever evolving and increasing, and is underestimated by firms across all sectors. Only 1 in 3 firms currently buy any level of cyber insurance, and we estimate that only 1 in 11 firms buy the right level of cover.

Due to the increase in claims there is an increasing realisation from larger corporates that they have to invest in cyber security defences, and as such we are seeing a substantial increase in budgets to combat the risks –we are seeing cyber criminals pivot again to attack smaller firms, where the size of the prize may be lower but they are easier prey

The team at Partners & are keen to help their clients understand the ever-increasing threat around cyber attacks and as such we’ve invested substantially in our offering around cyber risk. One of the key tools that we have access to can run a non-invasive report on your website, which enables you to see what gaps cyber criminals may look to exploit – many of which are easy to fix

We’re keen to support the Agri Epi community and if you’d like for us to run one of these reports, free of charge, or discuss anything else around cyber risk and insurance, please drop us an email or call

 

Partners& aims to be the best insurance advisory business in the UK, providing expert advice that makes a real difference across business insurance, management and employee benefits.

Partners& services cover the energy and renewables, food and drink, manufacturing, retail and wholesale, science and technology and waste management sectors, among others.

Contact:
chris.milnes@partnersand.com 07917028965

Innovative agri-tech companies invited to enter inaugural Agri-Tech Excellence Awards

From yield-boosting robotic milkers to disease-detecting arable drones, the rapid growth of on-farm technology is helping farmers around the world boost their productivity, sustainability and profit.

In celebration of the power of innovation, Agri-EPI Centre, is inviting the most forward thinking small to medium-sized agri-tech companies to enter the inaugural Agri-Tech Excellence Awards.

What are the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards?

Sponsored by Leyton, Kubota, Barclays, Syngenta and Marks & Spencer, the awards will recognise the ground-breaking work of agri-tech companies that have had significant impact on sustainable productivity on-farm, in the UK and internationally, between January 2019 and January 2021.

To be eligible for the awards, companies must have taken their innovations beyond the development stage and be supplying their technology commercially on-farm.

The awards have two categories:

  • Category 1: Agri-tech Excellence demonstrated on a UK farm
  • Category 2: Agri-tech Excellence demonstrated on an international farm (based outside of the UK)

Entries will be judged against a number of areas: impact on productivity, health and welfare; impact on environmental protection and enhancement; and business efficiencies.

Judges & winners

The judging panel will comprise experts in the field of sustainable agri-food and innovation. It will include representatives of the awards sponsors and Charles Nicklin, Chief Executive of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers (IAgrE) and Andy Newbold, Director of Farm Smart Publishing and Farm Smart Events, with more to be announced.

The winners of each category will be announced during Agri-EPI’s national conference on the September 30, which is attended by a large audience of companies and organisations involved sustainable agri-food.

Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive Dave Ross said: “The UK has a vibrant and dynamic agri-tech sector.  The UK private investment into the agri-food tech sector is also on the march – and we are European leader in this regard. Agri-EPI is pleased to be involved in catalysing new innovations and our awards seek to celebrate the success that agri-tech companies are achieving in all sectors of farming. We’re very excited to have first class sponsors and an expert judging panel supporting the awards and we look forward to receiving what will no doubt be very high quality entries from a diverse range of companies.”

About the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards sponsors

Agri-EPI Centre is delighted to have such fantastic sponsors on board supporting the inaugural agri-tech event and helping to promote the importance of innovation in agri-tech.

Kubota

Kubota, a agricultural machinery manufacturer, also expressed their pleasure at being a part of the Awards. Business Development Manager Daria Batukhtina, from the Kubota Innovation Centre Europe, highlighted the importance of innovation in resolving “the increasingly serious problems faced by agriculture on a global scale” and Kubota’s dedication to “promoting smart agriculture that realizes ultra-labour saving, high-quality and high-efficiency cultivation by utilising robotics technology and ICT.”

Daria added: “We support agriculture throughout the world by working closely with farmers and developing agricultural machinery that meets their needs in the field. There are many partners throughout the world with advanced technologies that will have a tremendous impact on society in the future. Therefore Kubota joined Agri-EPI Centre Awards for agtech start-ups to support those SMEs that have had significant impact on sustainable productivity on-farm.”

Syngenta

Syngenta’s Digital Agriculture Manager, Sam Grimsdell, noted that innovation in agri-tech will be “instrumental in the continued drive to sustainable agriculture that delivers the efficient and profitable production we need, alongside the protection of essential environmental resources.”

“Through the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards we are actively seeking to help and reward inspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas that can be practically implemented on farms. As a global business, Syngenta is committed to investing in sustainable agriculture and delivering the key breakthroughs to make that happen in the UK and across the world. We would urge all innovators exploring this incredibly exciting area to get involved in the Awards.”

Barclays

Also supporting the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards is Barclays bank, which has been involved in many agricultural projects in recent years. Oliver McEntye, Barclays’ National Agricultural Strategy Director for Barclays said: “Barclays is proud to sponsor the Agri-EPI Centre Awards, not only to recognise the achievements of the entrants and winners, but also to help inspire the next generation of innovators to bring the technology for the farming of the future.”

M&S

Marks & Spencer described their interest in the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards as a way to “celebrate businesses that have made a significant sustainable impact on-farm” and opening up a wider discussion of UK agriculture: “British agriculture is probably seeing the biggest period of change in generations, as we adapt to new trade deals, agricultural support and consumer awareness of animal welfare and the environment,” said Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture & Fisheries Sourcing at M&S.

“Success will come from embracing new ways of farming, being more meaningful to consumers, and continuing to produce quality food in a climate-friendly way … We look forward to seeing the entries.”

Leyton

Founded in 2009, Leyton, is the UK’s largest specialist innovation funding consultancy. To date, their teams of highly qualified tax and technical experts have helped thousands of businesses to successfully claim more than £880 million in tax relief. Agri-EPI Centre and Leyton are proud partners working together to connect agri-tech companies with funding, finance and tax relief to help  bring their agri-tech solutions to market – find out more here.

Enter the Agri-Tech Excellence Awards

  • To enter, please complete the online form on the Agri-EPI website. The deadline is Friday 30th July at 12pm.
  • You will be asked to submit evidence for the social, environmental and economic benefits for impact on farm.
  • A shortlist of entries will be agreed, and a representative from each shortlisted company will be invited for a short on-line interview with the judging panel on Thursday September 9 2021.
  • If you have any questions, please contact awards@agri-epicentre.com

 

 

Drones In Agriculture: Automation is the Future

Drones offer a huge range of applications in the agricultural sector and are a hugely exciting part of up-and-coming agri-tech solutions. The key to maximising drone technology’s huge potential in agriculture, according to Agri-EPI Centre’s Chief Technical Officer, is the introduction of commercial services for automated drones (drones able to pilot themselves over farmland).

Dr Shamal Mohammed described his vision for the future of drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), when he spoke at a recent meeting of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Science and Technology in Agriculture.

Future of Drones

After infrastructure, agriculture is the world’s second biggest market for the commercial application of drone technology, according to PwC, with an estimated potential value of $32.4 billion. The APPG invited experts from across the sector to discuss the opportunities and challenges inherent in realising the economic and environmental value of drones in UK farming.

Speaking alongside fellow drone experts from UK agri-tech company Hummingbird Technologies and Harper Adams University, Dr Mohammed described how drones are currently being used on farms. They most commonly undertake ‘eye-in-the-sky’ diagnostic activities like soil analysis, crop monitoring and disease detection, and apply inputs such as fertiliser and pesticides.

Challenges

Shamal described a range of challenges associated with the commercial use of drones. These include the need for qualified pilots, as current commercial models involve farmers purchasing and operating drones themselves or bringing in a company to do the work for them.

Further challenges include regulations requiring flying within the ‘visual line of sight’; their small payload; weather dependency; rural connectivity problems and the current gap in regulation around reducing ‘drift’ of chemical applications.

The future

Dr Mohammed believes that automated or semi-automated drones would alleviate some of these issues. Farmers would use commercial drone-programming services which, once connected to weather stations, would enable the drones to know when conditions were right, take off and fly automatically. The UAVs would then upload data gathered to an easy-to-view farmer interface, providing quality insights and enabling better decision making for farmers.

“This new and as-yet unrealised model would make it easier for farmers to access the benefits of drones,” said Dr Mohammed. “They won’t replace existing systems entirely – for example, farmers will still need tractors and sprayers – but drones might be integrated into their sprayer programmes to carry-out specific small-scale tasks.

“The development of commercial services involving automated, modular-based drones with better connectivity and supported by localised regulation is the key means of achieving the biggest benefits for agriculture.”

Working together on the future of agri-tech

Agri-EPI’s Agri-tech Innovation Support partner Leyton has seen R&D activity in the crop production sector. Dr Matilda Hayward, R&D Technical Consultant, Leyton, says: “The use of drones within the agriculture sector can significantly enhance precision and accuracy for more targeted farming strategies. Developing and integrating drone software platforms for a range of benefits is a popular innovation which may fall under the R&D Tax scheme. Agriculture business who are working on technically challenging projects involving the use of drones should explore R&D tax relief as a method of funding their projects.”

Agri-EPI Centre’s member network includes several innovative UAV and drone companies that are establishing their technology in the arable sector, including:

Featured Drone Members

Drone Ag

DroneAg uses drones, automation and simple AI technology to make farming more productive and efficient. Bringing together the expertise of farmers, agronomists, drone pilots and software engineers under one banner, Drone Ag draws on the team’s own experience of running a 6,000-acre farm to provide innovative and practical solutions for farmers today, from field mapping and crop spraying to software and drone training courses.

Hummingbird Technologies

Hummingbird Technologies is an artificial intelligence business, using imagery and data analytics from satellite, drone, plane and robot technology, along with proprietary algorithms, to provide farmers with high-resolution maps of their crops at critical decision-making junctions in the season.

Omega Crop

Omega Crop’s patented crop modelling technology, which analyses drone-gathered images of a wheat crop to identify the presence of preventable disease and weeds, often before a farmer or agronomist could detect the problem by eye. This gives the farmer time to make an informed choice about if and how they can intervene to protect their yield.

Animal Dynamics

Stork, is Animal Dynamic’s heavy-lift, aerial payload delivery vehicle has the potential to significantly improve the safety, speed, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of aerial fertiliser, pesticide, or bio-stimulant application. Being fully autonomous and packaged with a user-friendly interface, it will be a quick and easy process to highlight a field area, and let the vehicle do the rest of the work. Stork will take-off, apply the payload across the desired location, and return to land all without any need for human control.

We are confident Stork has the potential to improve yields, reduce waste and pollution, save time, and also reduce costs, making these benefits affordable to a broad range of customers. This technology will help meet the growing demand for high quality food without needing to increase costs or damage the environment in the process.

Agri-Tech Innovation Support

Did you know that Innovative businesses are able to claim back up to 33% of the costs which relate to their research and development activities, such as the advancement of new or existing products or processes?

Innovative use of technology such as drones, sensors, scanners and software can qualify for R&D tax credits. Get in touch with Leyton today:

 

 

Innovation Week 2021: Five days celebrating innovation in agritech

Agri-EPI Centre’s Innovation Week 2021 may have taken place entirely online, but the expertise of the speakers and the fantastic response from attendees ensured the week was a huge success.

In five webinars over five days, we were joined by more than 15 speakers from across the agritech sector discussing the latest innovations and advancements in agricultural technology, from robotics and AI to crop sensing and animal health monitoring.

The event was a chance to bring together everyone and anyone with an interest in agritech innovation; we were joined by engineers, manufacturers, investors, business owners and academics eager to learn about the exciting projects Agri-EPI Centre has been involved in around the world.

A webinar a day

For the first session to kick off Innovation Week we explored the use of agritech to monitor animal behaviour and improve the health of livestock on-farm, and were joined by Dr. Chris Cormack of Quant Foundry, Gary McCarten of Pocket Sized Hands and Dr Rick D’Eath from the SRUC.

You can watch Monday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Discussion covered the Behaviour Analytics Project, looking at how AI methods and analytics can be combined to offer farmers crucial insights into animal health, as well as the SmARtview and Tail Tech projects which, although currently in their infancy, have huge potential to improve farmers’ decision making using technology to closely monitor the animals’ wellbeing, whilst also improving the productivity and efficiency of farms.

Tuesday’s webinar explored how robotics, drones and ultra-fine bubble technology can be utilised in agriculture to increase the accuracy of yield prediction, prevent grain loss in storage and improve the efficiency and precision of crop spraying. Jared Bainbridge from Omega Crop opened the session, followed by presentations from Crover’s Lorenzo Conti and Professor Anthony Furness, of MagGrow.

You can watch Tuesday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Wednesday’s presentations on increasing the productivity, quality and consistency of livestock across the entire supply chain. Andrew Loftus, Carol-Anne Duthie and Diego Sprekelsen, the team behind the OPTI-BEEF project, discussed how their work is contributing to improved sustainability and quality in beef production, as well as how the Agri-Tech Innovation Hubs supported both OPTI-BEEF and Healthy Heifer.

You can watch Wednesday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

 

Towards the end of the week the webinars explored broader topics in the agrifood sector. Thursday’s discussion of how the incredible work of SmartFarms around the world, in partnership with academic institutions and government bodies, is supporting farmers across the globe to improve productivity and earnings, was followed by Friday’s session on aquaculture lead by Greg Riddle of Northern Light Consulting.

You can watch Thursday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

From reducing pollution and minimising the environmental impact of fish farms to insights from Innovation Week 2021’s partner, Leyton, on how agritech innovators can source funding and tax relief to get their solutions to market, the final day of Innovation Week 2021 rounded off the week’s webinars perfectly.

You can watch Friday’s Innovation Week webinar below.

Until next time!

We’d like to say a huge thank you to all our speakers, including Agri-EPI Centre staff who did a fantastic job chairing the sessions, and also to the guests and attendees and anyone following along on Twitter. We were treated to 15 fantastic presentations and some really engaging discussion at the end of each session, inspired by insightful questions from the audience.

For information on Innovation Week 2022, and to keep up with all upcoming events from Agri-EPI Centre, make sure you’re following us on Twitter or keep an eye on our dedicated events page

Tag Archive for: Agri-Tech

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