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Radical Bubble Technology for Agricultural and Environmental Sustainability

Exciting possibilities for more profitable, sustainable and productive farming are being offered by the emerging technology ‘ultra-fine bubbles’ (UFBs). The technology is being explored in a £250,000 Innovate UK-funded project, led by MagGrow UK in association with Agri-EPI Centre and the Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP).

UFB Technology

UFBs, also known as nanobubbles, are tiny, very stable and long-lasting bubbles, 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair, or about the size of a virus. Unseen by the naked eye, even when present in large numbers in water-based liquids, they do not rise to the surface and burst, but remain stable and buoyant for long periods of time, typically days and weeks.

The bubbles can carry gases, and substances of different kinds on their surfaces. Their stability and longevity offer great potential in agriculture for environmentally friendly spraying and irrigation, along with other applications that help address food security and environmental problems.

The use of UFBs containing ozone is already established in medical and industrial disinfection processes to kill bacteria and destroy viruses. UFBs are also used in oil, gas, and mineral extraction processes; pharmaceutical processes; food-flavouring; the production of cosmetic fragrancies; and in wastewater treatment.

While the technology is already generating huge market value in these sectors, its use in agriculture is still in its infancy. The purpose of the new project is to explore the potential for agricultural applications and integration with other technologies to provide innovative, environmentally friendly solutions for sustainable food security.

Project partners

 
Agri-EPI
CHAP
MagGrow

The project will initially focus on irrigation for delivery of the UFBs. Using Agri-EPI and CHAP’s shared soil and crop technology facilities alongside soil science expertise at Cranfield University, the project will compare the growth of plants treated with oxygen-containing UFB-water, with that of plants given untreated water. The aim of the study is to determine the effect on root development, nutrient absorption, growth and overall crop yield.

Farming application

The project team believes UFBs potentially have a host of additional applications in farming, including supporting a reduction the quantity of chemical inputs required when spraying and irrigating crops to control pests and diseases.

Dr Anthony Furness, MagGrow’s Chief Scientific Officer, said:

“From time-to-time a technology comes along that offers potential for revolutionary change and disruptive economic benefit, such as CDs and smart-phones. We believe that UFB technology has similar transformative potential for agriculture. The versatility of UFB technology, and recent advances in UFB research which have further validated its significance, suggesting too that there is huge potential for their use in advancing spraying and irrigation processes.

“Not only will this help serve to address global food security challenges and the question of how farming can be more sustainable, productive and profitable, it also offers huge potential for new enterprises and job creation across the UK.”

CHAP Innovation Hub Lead, Richard Glass, said:

“Using the unique Phenotyping and Soil Health facility, CHAP, supported by key soil experts from its partner Cranfield University, will assess and explore the application of this innovative technology and its potential role in transforming UK crop production.”

Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr Shamal Mohammed, said:

“We’re excited to be contributing our expertise and capabilities in plant phenotyping – the ability to measure the structure and function of plants – to this project. UFBs offer great potential within agriculture and our research will allow us to greatly progress knowledge and understanding of useful UFBs treatments.”

Agri-tech Conference explored food resilience in COVID age

Together with the Agri-Tech Centres, Agri-EPI organised the Virtual Conference ‘Innovation for Food Resilience’. The event, hosted by BBC Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith, was designed to showcase and discuss a host of new technologies and techniques helping farming and food production to become more resilient and sustainable. The conference gathered an incredible interest: over 1200 delegates attended the conference and over 20 countries took part. Recordings are made available on demand for those unable to join on the day.

Accelerating agrifood innovation

‘Innovation for Food Resilience’ features insights into key challenges and opportunities for the food and farming sector from industry thought leaders and how new technologies and solutions being developed across the family of UK Agri-Tech Centres could play a pivotal role in supporting productivity and sustainability.

Professor Tim Benton, from international affairs think tank Chatham House, has a clear message about the need to adapt to frequent and unpredictable change and how building resilience is a key strategy for being able to effectively adjust.

NFU President Minette Batters focuses on UK trade and transition and the seismic impact that the current unknowns will have on farming businesses. She highlights how data and innovation can empower farmers to avoid risk and the opportunity for farming to offset carbon for other sectors

Ellen Wilson, Microsoft UK’s Sustainability and Smart Cities Lead highlights the importance of measuring your own journey to sustainability to effectively manage and understand the impact achieved.   Evidence points to sustainability being better for business.

Food resilience and innovation in agriculture

The 4 Agri-Tech Centres explored different aspects of the work underway to promote innovation throughout the food supply chain. Themes covered are climate smart food systems, sustainable productivity, crop and livestock health, and food provenance and quality.

In particular, CHAP’s Dr Harry Langford, spoke about Climate Resilient Food Systems, highlighting the work of CIEL’s Duchy Future Farm; Agri-EPI Centre’s Hands Free Farm and Gelponics, a CHAP project focusing on developing an autonomous, hydroponic system centered around a novel hydrogel growing media. Another project he talked about was the Agrimetrics’ regenerative agriculture platform regenagri, an initiative aimed at securing the health of the land and the wealth of those who live on it.

Stuart Blyth, Head of Business Development of CIEL, covered Food Safety and Provenance, using CIEL’s Agriplas, a cold plasma research facility investigating the potential uses of the antimicrobial properties of this pioneering technology for the food industry. He also spoke about CHAP’s NLG Centre and Crop Storage facility, and Agri-EPI Centre’s Opti-beef project as a good example of the wide range of work being done in this area. The Opti-Beef project is about creating an enhanced decision support platform to modernise, standardise, and drive efficiency improvements across the UK beef supply chain.

Dr Shamal Mohammed, Chief Technical Officer at Agri-EPI Centre looked at Sustainable Productivity, including CHAP’s Soil Health Facility, Agrimetric’s Verde Analytics and CIEL’s Precision Grazing. Last but not least, Anna Woodley, Agrimetrics Head of Sales, covered Crop and Livestock Health with a focus on looking at whole systems rather than managing risks in isolation.

Presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session, with lots of interaction from delegates across the globe. Closing remarks, by Dr Ian Campbell, interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK, provide the key ‘takeaways’ from the event. In particular, he notes how collaboration is key and how the combined capability of the UK Agri-Tech Centres offers the front door for industry to world leading expertise and capabilities.

View on demand

The event can be viewed in its entirety on the UK Agri-Tech Centres YouTube channel.

Event impression

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Let us know what Agri-EPI, together with the Agri-Tech Centres, can do for your organisation or how we can inspire innovation in agriculture even further and fill out our contact form.

PepsiCo chief opens Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility

Agri-EPI Centre are pleased to be leading participant in supporting Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive of PepsiCo, one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies in officially opening the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility at Cranfield University. The facility is a key component of UK’s Agri-Tech Strategy and has been set up to enable industry, famers, agronomists and agrichemical companies to understand soil management issues and to observe changes in crop health over space and time.

Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP are full partners of the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility and work together to bring the solutions to the industry. This facility provides unique primary-harvest to post-harvest technology at Cranfield University and is funded by Innovate UK through both Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP. To discuss a research collaboration or a commercial project using the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility, please contact Agri-EPI Centre via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com.

On the day the AgriTech facility was officially opened, Indra Nooyi – who is considered one of today’s world-leading businesswoman – also received an honorary degree from Cranfield University.

Previously, Mrs Nooyi served as PepsiCo’s President and Chief Financial Officer. Since joining the company in 1994, she has directed the company’s global strategy and led its transformation, including the acquisition of Tropicana and the merger with Quaker Oats that brought the Quaker and Gatorade businesses to PepsiCo; the merger with PepsiCo’s anchor bottlers; and the acquisition of Wimm-Bill-Dann, the largest international acquisition in PepsiCo’s history. PepsiCo’s main businesses include Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Walkers and Pepsi-Cola, with more than $63 billion in annual net revenue.

To discuss a research collaboration or a commercial project using the Plant Phenotyping and Soil Health Facility, contact us.

Minister’s key role for Cranfield in ensuring quality of UK soils

George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, will today announce on a visit to Cranfield University, that DEFRA has confirmed its continued and long-term support for the National Reference Centre for Soils and associated information system, LandIS, hosted by the University.

The soil collections and associated data, contained within LandIS. will underpin and support the UK Government’s goals announced in its ’25-Year Environment Plan’, providing the basis for achieving sustainable soil management by 2030.

Previous research released by Cranfield University has revealed that soil degradation costs the economy in England and Wales an estimated £1.2billion per year. The National Reference Centre for Soils, at Cranfield, will be invaluable to establishing the metrics to assess progress towards the 25-year goals.

LandIS is a substantial environmental information system, operated by Cranfield University. It includes soil and soil-related information for England and Wales, spatial mapping of soils at a variety of scales, as well as corresponding soil property and agro-climatological data. LandIS is the largest soil information system of its kind in Europe, and together with the World Soil Archive (WOSSAC), covers 329 territories worldwide, establishing Cranfield as one of the largest soil reference centres globally.

Data from LandIS was recently used by the Welsh Government to develop its Predictive Agricultural Land Classification (ALC) Map, which enables land users, planners and policy makers to make informed choices about how agricultural land is used in Wales.

Nurturing our nation’s soils

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “Protecting and nurturing our nation’s soils is a cornerstone of our future farming policy. As we work towards delivering our ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan, I look forward to continuing our essential work with Cranfield University.”

Professor Ronald Corstanje, Head of Cranfield University’s Centre for Environmental and Agricultural Informatics, said: “For 40 years, information from LandIS has supported planners, Government and land users to make decisions about how land is used. With an increased focus from Government on the importance of soil health to the UK economy, LandIS will play a vital role in securing the future of the nation’s soil.”

Professor Leon A. Terry, Cranfield University’s Director of Environment and Agrifood, said: “This is fantastic news for Cranfield and the nation’s soil. With our recent Queen’s Anniversary Prize for soil science, and our role in two of the UK’s Government-backed Agritech Centres, Agri-EPI Centre and CHAP, Cranfield is cementing its reputation as the leading soil science university in Europe.”

On his visit to Cranfield, the Minister will also ‘break ground’ on the construction of a new £3.2 million agri-informatics facility which will address a wide range of research challenges in the environmental and agricultural sectors. The facility will be shared with Agri-EPI Centre who will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. It is funded with investment from Innovate UK, Agri-EPI Centre, the Wolfson Foundation and the University itself and will become the home of National Soil Archive.

Source: Cranfield University

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Construction begins on new agri-informatics facility at Cranfield

A ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony has today commemorated the start of construction on a new £3.2 million agri-informatics facility at Cranfield University. The new facility will provide the UK with a centre of excellence in data science related to precision agriculture.

Cranfield University and its partners will use the facility to increase data quantity and quality, while using innovative informatics to support novel business, management and policy approaches in the agricultural sector. It will be shared with Agri-EPI Centre who will focus on agri-tech research and innovation. The new facility will be the home of the National Reference Centre for Soils and associated Land information system, LandIS.

Agri-Informatics funding

Funding for the facility has come from Innovate UK, Agri-EPI Centre, the Wolfson Foundation and the University itself, with construction being completed in 2019.

The ‘ground-breaking’ ceremony was led by George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; representatives of Innovate UK and Agri-EPI Centre; and Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University.

Farming Minister George Eustice, said: “Protecting and nurturing our nation’s soils is a cornerstone of our future farming policy. This new agri-informatics facility will help us develop the science, research and innovation that we need in this area, combined with the lessons that have been passed down through generations.

“As we work towards delivering our ambitious 25 Year Environment Plan, I look forward to continuing our essential work with Cranfield University.”

Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Cranfield University, said:

“Cranfield has a proud tradition of making world-leading contributions to the environment and agricultural sectors, recognised earlier this year by the award of our fifth Queen’s Anniversary Prize. This new facility will play a key role in addressing future research challenges and will be an invaluable resource in achieving the goals set out in the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.”

Ian Cox, Innovation Lead of the Agri-Tech Centres:

“Innovate UK is proud to be a significant funder through the Agri-EPI Centre of this joint facility which is focusing on innovation in agri-tech. This new facility will once completed help address some of the major challenges facing agriculture globally. Soil Health is becoming internationally recognised a key contributor to improving crop productivity and quality so I am especially pleased that the National Reference Centre for Soils will be housed in this new facility.”

David Ross, CEO of Agri-EPI Centre Ltd. said:

“Agri-EPI Centre is the UK lead Centre for Agricultural Innovation across precision and engineering technologies. We are delighted to both contribute, and be actively involved in this new facility. With our partners, this platform will allow us to meet the national and international productivity and sustainability challenges in the agri-food sector.”

 

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Source: Cranfield University

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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.

UK Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation unveil shared vision online

The four UK Agri-Tech Centres have come together as one voice to showcase their commitment to positioning the UK sector as a global leader in sustainable food production.

A new website launched last month at the Agri-Tech Centres ‘capability showcase’ event organised by Innovate UK at Newport, Shropshire, summarises the vision, aims and achievements of the four Centres. In line with the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy to Create a Better Britain, the four Centres are positioned to provide the expertise, infrastructure and commitment to deliver innovation and new growth for the UK agrifood sector.

UK AgriTech Centres banner

Each Centre has its own unique focus and purpose:

  • CHAP is fundamentally changing the way plant disease and pest threats are managed;
  • CIEL is driving new industry-led research to deliver sustainable animal production;
  • Agri-EPI Centre is accelerating the uptake of precision engineering solutions;
  • Agrimetrics is harnessing data to identify new agrifood solutions outside the scope of traditional thinking.

“It’s important that each Centre focusses on their specific objectives, but also, that they work together to address some of our most pressing food challenges that no one Centre can address alone.”

~ Innovate UK’s Calum Murray

This new website provides new and existing audiences alike with an inspiring and compelling summary of why the Agri-Tech Centres are so important to UK food and farming – and what each Centre sets out to deliver.

Discover more about the vision, aims and impacts of the Agri-Tech Centres at www.agritechcentres.com

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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