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UK-China SmartFarm partnership takes next steps

Utilising UK technology in China

Agri-EPI Centre and one of China’s largest food companies, the Tianjin Food Group, have today signed a collaboration agreement to develop a smart farming project utilising UK technology in China to boost early disease detection and productivity monitoring in pigs.

The project, called “SmartFarm 1.5”, will involve Agri-EPI and UK companies RoboScientific, Greengage Lighting and Innovent Technology, working with pork producers for the Tianjin Food Group in north eastern China. It is being funded by Innovate UK from the UK and supported locally by the Tianjin Food Group.

The new project is a continuation of the SmartFarm concept developed in China by Agri-EPI Centre, which seeks to develop international collaboration to support efficient and sustainable approaches to farming and food production.

The first SmartFarm project looked at precision-based approaches to nitrogen application in wheat production. It ran successfully between 2018 and 19, co-sponsored by Innovate UK, led by Agri-EPI and involving UK companies SoilEssentials and RDS, with autonomous and measurement systems contribution from University of Strathclyde. The Chinese partner organisations were NERCITA, the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC).

Following the successful delivery of this inaugural project, Agri-EPI and the Tianjin Food Group agreed to explore further opportunities, resulting in today’s signing of an agreement at the 4th Tianjin World Intelligence Congress.

Agri-EPI Centre Chief Executive Dave Ross said:

“We are honoured to be taking China SmartFarm to the next level by working with the Tianjin Food Group to deliver this important project. China is the world’s

largest producer and consumer of pork and technology and to support better productivity and earlier disease detection has significant potential economic benefits. Agri-EPI is excited to be building relationships with a range of international partners, in China – as well as New Zealand and Paraguay – in delivering SmartFarm projects.”

Committee Secretary and Chairman of Tiajin Food Group Zhang Yong said:

“Agri-EPI Centre is an important part of UK Research and Innovation. It has the world’s leading level in precision agriculture, the application of engineering technology in the entire agricultural industry chain, and the application of agricultural robots. With the continuous development of 5G, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and other intelligent technologies, agriculture has entered the era of intelligence. Precision feeding, precise management, real-time disease monitoring, and automatic environmental adjustment are all improving the level of agricultural production. At this critical historical opportunity, we hope to co-operate sincerely with the British side, make full use of their respective advantages, jointly develop and demonstrate the promotion of smart agricultural technology, and contribute to the progress of global agricultural technology.”

Alasdair Hamilton, Head of the Science and Innovation Team at the British Embassy, Beijing said:

“Partnerships in agricultural technologies that support sustainable, environmentally friendly farming is a priority area for science and innovation cooperation between the UK and China. The production of sustainable food with a low carbon footprint is a global necessity. It is therefore a pleasure to see that the MOU between Agri-EPI and the Tianjin Food Company will deepen cooperation in data driven technologies that will improve how we farm and produce nutritious food.”

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

“I am delighted that this SmartFarm 1.5 collaboration agreement has been signed today. It marks the next step for both countries working together under our prestigious Flagship Challenge to address the global challenges facing the agriculture and food sectors. This follows on from SmartFarm 1.0 an initiative that formed a key output of the UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy’s Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge, and which was a direct result of an earlier MoU signed between CRTDC and Innovate UK in November 2016.”

The new SmartFarm 1.5 project builds on a long history of UK-China co-operation in agricultural research and innovation. The relationship was enhanced in 2017 with the signing of the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy. SmartFarm is a core part of one of the strategy’s major deliverables, the Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge.

Food security and increasing farmers’ income remain a primary importance in China’s agriculture and rural policies. Technology plays a key role in the government’s plan to achieve this, with more investment being directed at deploying large agri-tech research programmes and innovation systems.

China’s approach to agricultural innovation overlaps many of the UK’s priorities including those set out in the Industrial Strategy.

On June 30, join Agri-EPI Centre, in partnership with 8 Hours Ahead, for a webinar exploring agri-tech opportunities in China. For more and to register, visit: www.agri-epicentre.com/land-and-grow-the-agri-tech-china-opportunity.

For further information, please contact Jane Smernicki, Agri-EPI Centre Communications Manager on 0131 239 7030, 07985 691 765 or jane.smernicki@agri-epcentre.com.

Chinese trip opens new opportunities

Agri-EPI is making great steps in opening up 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 SmartFarm test facility and to engage with international scientists at the Global Forum of Leaders for Agricultural Science and Technology (GLAST). 

The China-UK SmartFarm 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 

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. 

ISCF Transforming Food Production

What is ISCF?

The ISCF Transforming Food Production programme has been set up to drive the UK’s agriculture and food production towards achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040, in line with the NFU’s target for the sector.

Funding opportunities:

Future Food Production Systems

> Open date: 17 September 2019

> Closing date: 22 January 2020

What is available?

£20 million

What projects will be considered?

  • Large scale, high impact projects that are truly transformative in nature, and that rethink the production system
  • Novel, scalable and high value production systems
  • Data-driven solutions that drive productivity, whilst also achieving net zero carbon emissions
  • Aquaculture, indoor/ controlled environment farming systems and novel food sources
  • Radically transformative proposals that target more traditional agriculture sectors
  • Projects worth £1 million – £10 million

Find out more and apply here.

Science and Technology into Practice

Dates to be confirmed.

What is available?

£30 million

What projects will be considered?

  • Strengthen links between research and industry
  • Demonstrate near-market technologies at scale in a commercial environment
  • Integrate technologies into systems
  • Show both technical feasibility and economic viability
  • Contribute towards driving productivity and low emissions

Bilateral funding opportunities: joint funding call for the UK and China

> Open date: 14 October 2019

> Closing date: 23 January 2020

What is available?

£500,000 per project

What projects will be considered?

  • Drive productivity while also driving low emissions production including:
        • Remote sensing for decision making
        • Smart pasture production
        • Precision technologies for indoor or controlled environment agriculture
        • Systems exploiting big data
        • Robotic systems

Please note: UK-based activity must target UK agriculture, as well as export opportunities

Find out more here

Agri-EPI and China Rural Development Centre (CRTDC) Collaboration

An Agri-EPI team, led by Agri-EPI Chair (Willie Thomson) CEO (Dave Ross) and Business Manager (Claire Lewis), have recently returned from a Science and Innovation Network facilitated visit to China. The visit marked…

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