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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.

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. 

Agri-EPI at New Scientist Live

Together with Farmers Weekly, Agri-EPI Centre joined Agrimetrics, CIEL, CHAP and its partners GEA Group and RHIZA for the New Scientist Live festival in London today (10 October).

Health and welfare must be viewed as one, says US dairy expert

There must be a move away from thinking of farm animal ‘health’ and ‘welfare’ as separate issues, for the benefit of both animals and productivity, according to renowned US dairy welfare expert Dr Jim Reynolds.

Speaking at a dairy research collaboration event hosted by Agri-EPI Centre, CIEL and VetPartners, Prof Reynolds said high welfare, achieved by being compassionate to the mental and physical condition of animals, must be regarded by all in the farming industry as being at the forefront of animal health.

Dr. Reynolds said: “If we are going to use animals for purposes, we must provide them with good lives. This involves considering if the animal has positive emotions – is happy – or if the animal is anxious, afraid or in pain. The science of animal welfare has progressed from focusing on reducing bad things that happen to animals to including what is necessary for an animal to have a good life.

“Providing animals with ‘good’ things such as clean, dry, and comfortable housing, also reduces the ‘bad’ things, such as disease and decreased production. We therefore need to bring the approach to animal ‘health’ and ‘welfare’ back together and build this into the cost of production.”

Dr Reynolds, a professor of large animal production at California’s Western University, is currently on a three-week tour of the UK, where he is speaking at various meetings and events.

He attended the collaboration meeting at Agri-EPI’s Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, which was attended by 13 organisations and companies involved in dairy welfare.

Professor Reynolds stressed the importance of collaboration across research and industry to address welfare issues, a message which chimed with the participating researchers, vets and farmers.

Agri-EPI and CIEL have invested in new and complementary capabilities that are now available for the dairy sector to use in finding transformative solutions for this important sector.

Matt Dobbs,  Managing Director of Westpoint Veterinary Group and close partner of Agri-EPI Centre said: “I was pleased with Agri-EPI hosting leading dairy researchers from across the UK at the new state of the art Dairy Development Centre in Somerset. With a keynote speaker passionate about animal welfare and the backdrop of the new welfare focused Dairy Centre to stimulate discussion, we were delighted that the group committed to continue collaborating to further enhance the UK’s leading reputation for farm animal welfare. Key to the future will be the application of technology and the group agreed to focus on early detection of farm health and welfare issues.”

The meeting delegates were from:

  • Agri-EPI Centre
  • Farm Vets South West
  • CIEL
  • Kingshay
  • Bristol Vet School
  • Vet Partners
  • Innovate UK
  • Duchy College
  • West Point Vets
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Queen’s University, Belfast
  • Steanbow Farms
  • University of Nottingham

ATOS Digital Vision for Farming: Dairy farm of the future

Agri-EPI Centre Project Manager Duncan Forbes is featured in a new Digital Vision for Farming opinion paper produced by Atos, a global leader in digital transformation. Through expert contributions, including a welcome from George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the paper outlines key challenges and the role of digital solutions in meeting the Government’s policy goals in supporting the UK’s food, farming and environment industries. Duncan is featured talking about the benefits to the dairy sector of measurement and data analytics.

Duncan leads Agri-EPI’s new South West Dairy Centre, a state-of-the-art, 180-cow dairy in Somerset. Funded by Innovate UK, the £1.36 million facility provides a platform for the industry and partners to develop, trial and share new technologies and techniques supporting sustainable and profitable dairy farming.

The Centre embodies Agri-EPI’s overall aim of accelerating the adoption of productivity-boosting precision farming by providing world-class R&D; connecting academia and industry; and progressing next generation technologies.

An excerpt from Duncan’s feature is reproduced below:

Dairy farm of the future

For dairy farms, using analytics and capturing more data about both the animals and their environment will deliver gains right across the board, from better productivity and animal health to higher work satisfaction and more effective environmental management.

At the heart of any successful dairy enterprise is precision management in two key domains. Firstly, the wellbeing of the cows: healthy cows are essential to healthy dairy businesses, enabling them to continue to invest inwardly and in the environment. Secondly, the welfare of the people looking after the animals: labour is one of the biggest costs of milk production and to get the best return on that investment, we need to maintain an industry in which skilled people want to work. At the same time, to fulfil their wider land stewardship responsibilities, farming operations must be profitable and sustainable.

Measure to manage

Critical to effective herd management is timely decision-making based on accurate and detailed information. It’s estimated that while 25% of the average herd are replaced annually, nearly three quarters of those losses are avoidable. Yet with milk producers and herd managers increasingly stretched, taking consistent measurements can be time-consuming. That’s where connected technologies and automation can make all the difference. It’s not unusual for six hours a day to be spent milking on a traditional dairy farm. Robotic milkers release all that ‘milk harvesting’ time for skilled workers to focus on animal welfare, while the robot milkers continue recording detailed data 24/7 about each cow’s health and milk. These robotics can be integrated with automated feeding systems, which also release significant amounts of time and optimise feed use, together with sensors outside and inside that improve precision grazing by measuring and managing the environment and each cow’s nutritional needs.

Emerging technologies

These kinds of technologies are in place at the South West Dairy Development Centre, which was set up to create a vision of the future for dairy farming, as well as operating as a commercially viable enterprise and acting as one of three testbeds for the 5G RuralFirst project. This was established to exploit the huge opportunities that 5G connectivity can provide for rural businesses. The Centre has demonstration and research facilities for emerging technologies that will help UK dairying meet some of its most important challenges.

Read more

To read the full interview with Duncan, download the full Digital Vision paper.


Source: Atos

Launch of South West Dairy Development Centre

Agri-EPI Centre has launched its state-of-the-art South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, which aims to offer a fresh vision for sustainable UK milk production.

The £1.36 million, 180-cow dairy unit provides a truly innovative environment for the development, testing and demonstration of new technologies and techniques to support sustainable, efficient and high health and welfare milk production.

The centre combines innovative building design and management systems to create a highly efficient, low cost dairy system, with the capital cost of developing the dairy from scratch amounting to less that £8,000 per cow. The centre’s remit is to offer a platform for industry to trial and review new ideas for the benefit of dairy farmers throughout the UK.

Duncan Forbes, Agri-EPI project manager for the new centre said:

Our mantra here is, ‘measure it to manage it’. Sensor technology is being used to gather data to enable us to maximise precision in many aspects of feeding, production, health and welfare across the farm: indoors and outdoors, by satellite, and on and inside the cows. The automation of many processes within the dairy releases skilled staff to devote more of their time to cow health and welfare.

Precision grazing is at the top of the centre’s agenda. While the number of robotic dairies in the UK continues to increase, and it is recognised that grass can be a least-cost feed for dairy herds, successful grazing has been difficult to implement on many robotic units.

The new centre aims to tackle this by using emerging technology such as hyperspectral imaging and satellite data to monitor and predict grass growth in its surrounding paddocks, allowing the herd access to up to three fresh areas of grazing per day. A network of tracks and flexible paddocks encourage cow flow between the between the paddocks and the robot milkers.

A number of trials are already underway or planned for the centre. It is one of three UK ‘testbeds’ for the 5G RuralFirst project, the UK’s most ambitious connectivity project. Led by Cisco and involving a consortium of partners it aims to demonstrate how connectivity will benefit rural communities and business across the UK. A number of technologies utilising 5G data are to be trialled, including cow collars, monitoring health and welfare, digital systems to monitor cow fertility through milk analysis and, in the future, a ‘virtual vet’ system connecting stockpeople to a vet using augmented reality.

The Dairy Development Centre has been established in close partnership with independent dairy specialists Kingshay, who manage the facility. The Centre has been established by Agri-EPI using funding from Innovate UK and support from industry partners.

Welcoming the Centre’s launch today at an event attended by figures from industry, academia and government, Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Agri-Tech Centres Innovation Lead, said:

The new South West Dairy Centre fits very well with Innovate UK’s vision to support the development and adoption of new technologies to help UK farming become more sustainable, efficient and profitable. It is good that the new centre is now operational and we hope it will become a central resource for use by the UK dairy industry.

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