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Data project paves way for improved cow management and breeding

A new project combining the know-how of agri-tech experts at Agri-EPI Centre and genetics scientists at The Roslin Institute hopes to pave the way for more precise dairy cow management and breeding.

The DairyMine Project is seeking to integrate on-farm cow performance data with genomic data, by assembling a pilot dataset from project farms. The project partners will ‘mine’ the dataset (the process of finding patterns, correlations and anomalies within large data sets to predict outcomes) to develop a data-driven cow management and breeding platform for use by farmers. They will also project the impact of scaling the DairyMine to more farms.

This accessible means of viewing the whole range of information about each of their animals in one place could help farmers with day-to-day cow management, such as picking up illness at the earliest possible stage, as well offering medium to long-term impact on animal performance by supporting more accurate breeding predictions.

The project outcomes will also support training of a new generation of farm data scientists at the Easter Bush Campus in Edinburgh. In March 2021, it was announced that the Easter Bush Agritech Hub would receive £27 million from the UK Government, £1.3 million from the Scottish Government, and £31.3 million from the University of Edinburgh, as partners of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal.

Agri-EPI Centre’s Head of Dairy, Duncan Forbes, said: “Information about the health, fertility and performance of the herd at our South West Dairy Development Centre is recorded in a variety of ways, including through multi-sensor embedded milking robots and animal wearables. Combining this wealth of data with each animal’s genomic information, which will be obtained by the team at The Roslin Institute, will allow us to consider the whole picture when it comes to making both short and longer-term management and breeding decisions.”

Gregor Gorjanc, Chancellor’s Fellow in Data-Driven Innovation for Agri-tech at The Roslin Institute explained: “While cow performance and genomic data is already available to farmers, its volume, and the lack of a single means of analysing, integrating and viewing it presents a barrier to farmers. We hope to prove that this can be achieved, bringing benefits to the dairy sector and to future researchers here in Edinburgh.”

This project is supported by the Scottish Funding Council’s Covid-19 Recovery Scheme via The University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Innovation initiative.

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.”

Hackathon inspires solutions for tackling impact of COVID-19

Concepts for a solar powered, zero emission orchard robot and a remote, digital veterinary diagnosis tools which requires no apps or software installation have been announced as the winners of the Agri-EPI Centre agri-tech hackathon. A total of 11 teams took part on the hackathon, which was held to support the development of technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19. The winning teams receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre.

Hackathon team winners

The Hackathon focused on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors:

Horticulture hackathon

The winning team in the horticulture sector is Orcharbot with their concept for a solar powered, zero-emission crop scouting and weeding robot featuring six technology innovations for weed identification and organic removal, fruit surveying and picking. The team members came from University of the West of England, Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Antobot.

Judging this section of the hackathon were Rob Wilkinson of Grimme; Ali Capper of the NFU; David Telford of Knowledge Transfer Network and Adam Spate of Bardsley England. They were highly impressed with the ambitious, zero emissions concept.

Veterinary hackathon

The winner of the veterinary hackathon is a team from technology provider FarmVet Systems. Their concept – ‘VetAccess’ – builds on their existing VetIMPRESS secure data management platform. Their idea focuses on enabling farm teams to benefit fully from the technology in the face of challenges created by vets working remotely due to Covid restrictions.

The judges in this category were Jan Van Dijke of Zoetis; Tim Potter of WestPoint Farm Vets (VetPartners); George Paterson of Landmark Systems; and Lucy Mather of the Knowledge Transfer Network. They particularly liked the farmer-focused vision behind the concept.

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

“The level of interest and enthusiasm from all the entrants to our hackathon exceeded all of our expectations and we thank all the competitors and the judges for taking part. The Agri-EPI team is very excited about the coming year, as we work with both winning teams to support the feasibility testing and development of their concepts.

“There were many other strong ideas put forward during the hackathon which show great promise, so we have decided to work with all teams to provide support as they build on their ideas.”

Partners

We thank our challenge partners for their support: Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network, Landmark Systems, Bardsley England, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

 


This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, through an Open Call issued and executed under the project SmartAgriHubs (Grant Agreement No. 818 182)

Agri-tech hackathon seeks solutions to COVID’s impact on farming

Registration now open for an agri-tech Hackathon aimed at developing technological solutions to problems posed by COVID-19

Winners will receive a year of product launch support from experts at Agri-EPI Centre. 

The Hackathon will focus on the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Participating teams will be challenged to explore solutions in two areas: the shortage of labour supply for field operations in horticultureand the restrictions on how vets can travel to conduct farm diagnoses and prescription.  

They will have the 12-hour duration of the Hackathon, on 23 and 24 September 2020, to come up with proposed technical solutions within their chosen stream which, if deemed by the judges to have winning market potential, will become the focus of the year-long ‘product launch programme’ delivered by Agri-EPI. 

Agri-EPI’s Business Development Director Lisa Williams explained:

“We invite any businesses, organisations and academic institutions with an involvement or interest in agri-tech to take part in what promises to be a really exciting event, with the aim of delivering new products that address some of the serious impacts of Coronavirus on the farming industry. Collaboration is key to innovation and we look forward to working with the participating teams, and the winners, to develop new ideas. 

“The winning teams will have 12 months of access to Agri-EPI’s technical and project management expertise, our world-class research and innovation facilities, testbeds and research assets, and our extensive network, which includes a membership of more than 120 companies across agriculture, technology and the supply chain. 

The Hackathon is supported by the European Horizon 2020 project Smart AgriHubs. The Challenge partners for the veterinary Hackathon are Vet Partners, ZoetisKnowledge Transfer Network and Landmark Systems. For the horticulture Hackathon, the challenge partners are Bardsley, Grimme, NFU and Knowledge Transfer Network. 

To find out more and register, visit the following website.

Hackathon launch webinar

If you’re a business or academic institution with an interest in agri-tech, join us today (18 August) at 2:00pm to hear more from Agri-EPI Centre’s CEO, Dave Ross, as he goes into more detail about the Hackathon and challenges faced by many in the horticulture and livestock/veterinary sectors. Register now at register.gotowebinar.com/register to secure your space!

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.

China SmartFarm partners

China SmartFarm concept

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.

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.

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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.

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