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Wonder of agri-tech to be shared at New Scientist Live virtual event

The wonderful world of agri-tech will be shared with visitors to the New Scientist Live ‘Future of Food and Agriculture’ virtual event on Saturday 28 November.

Agri-EPI and its fellow UK Agri-Tech Centres CHAP and CIEL will be running a host of engaging talks, with opportunities for the audience to ‘ask the experts’ about the role and impact of new technologies and techniques supporting sustainable food.

Agri-EPI’s contribution to this year’s new scientist live

Agri-EPI will be running a live, 30-minute session from 2.30pm titled ‘Tech to Feed the World’. This will take viewers on a whistle stop tour of three of the newest and most exciting technologies involved in producing our food and getting it onto our plates.

The featured innovations, and the exerts behind them, are ‘SlugBot’, an amazing technology that helps reduce farmers’ need for pesticides by controlling crop-munching critters; Crover, a very clever robot that can ‘swim’ through grain stores to monitor conditions; and the new ‘wonder’ technology ‘cold plasma’ which has a multitude of surprising uses in farming and the food supply chain.

The Agri-Tech Centres will also be hosting virtual exhibition stand, with a packed programme of films, Q&As and resources accessible to visitors throughout the day.

Find out more and register here.

Event partners

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Agriculture, technology and the future of farming

The challenges of a growing population

The world’s population is expected to more than double by 2050, which will consequently result in a higher demand for food.

It has therefore fallen on the agriculture sector to develop new ways of meeting this demand, without compromising on the health of livestock and crops and, essentially, the quality of food produced. But the key question here is, How do we do this?

The answer: new technology.Partnership banner Future Farm Expo Farmers Weekly

Future Farm Technology expo

Events such as the Future Farm Technology expo (FFT), in association with Farmers Weekly, are held throughout the year to highlight the advanced technology being developed for tacking these issues head on. Key industry players and SMEs that operate within the industry attend and are invited to exhibit their game changing technologies.

Soil health 

It is now known that the use of more traditional and heavy machinery, as well as intense agriculture has had a knock on effect on the health of soil and its ability to support harvests in future farming. As a result of these finding companies, such as Lettus Grow and MycoNourish have developed new ways of harvesting crops, without the need for soil.

Both companies exhibited at this year’s Future Farm Technology expo (FFT) in November – as did Agri-Tech Centres CIEL, CHAP and Agrimetrics – and showcased their innovative ‘soil free’ systems.  Lettus Grow shared their next level solution to soil-free growing: aeroponics. Aeroponics sees the plant roots suspended in air and sprayed with a fine mist of nutrient solution, which significantly reduces the amount of fertiliser and water needed and increases the growth rate of a plant due to the high gaseous exchange around the roots.

UK AgriTech Centres banner

MycoNourish take a slightly different approach that tackles those plants that do not benefit or thrive from Lettus Grow’s aeroponic approach. MycoNourish uses knowledge to produce bespoke formulations, tailored to individual plant species. They compare their research to a ‘dating agency’, which essentially pairs plants up with their ‘perfect match’, i.e. fungal partners. Why do they do this? The theory is that strong fungal networks surrounding plant roots will help mitigate against challenging environmental conditions that will essentially result in more stable yields.

Agri-EPI at the FFT

With higher demand comes higher responsibility, and with that comes precision farming – well, at least in the case of farmers it does.

Precision farming is the method in which farmers optimise inputs, such as water and fertiliser, to enhance the productivity, quality and yield of their crops. But this method is not only limited to soil and can be extended to other areas of farming, such as dairy, as Agri-EPI’s Head of Dairy Duncan Forbes explains:

“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,”

Duncan shared his views at the FFT expo and spoke about the Agri EPI’s fully automated, 180-cow facility, the South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset. The SWDDC looks to offer a fresh vision for the UK dairy industry by providing a truly innovative environment that provides a platform to test and demonstrate new and emerging technologies that will help support future farming.

For more on the FFT expo and the other companies that attended, please visit: www.fstjournal.org.

Future Farm Expo 2019 impression

 

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). The event, which is in its fourth year, has been recognised as Europe’s top science festival, and is expected to welcome a crowd of over 40,000 visitors in its four day run, 10 – 13 October.

Visitors to stall 611 at the Ag Pavilion, where the four Centres and partners are based, have the opportunity to witness first-hand the positive impact that technology has on the farming industry, and on the planet as a whole, as Tom Westerman, RHIZA Digital Manager, explains:

“Agriculture is a forward thinking technical industry and has got a huge role to play in the future of our planet, ensuring food security and sustainability.”

Demonstrations at New Scientist Live

During New Scientist Live, RHIZA is helping farmers tackle this face on with its Contour desktop and mobile app, which helps farmers identify their areas of better or worse crop and is on display at today’s festival, as are GEA Group, who have brought along their DairyRobot R9500.

The robot has been designed to automatically take care of premium quality milk and free up resources to make the farmer’s daily planning and routine more flexible and effective.

David Simmons, Head of Milking & Dairy Farming Sales at GEA Group, said of the event:

“We couldn’t agree more that technology is transforming the world of farming. It’s our absolute pleasure to show students and youngsters how fast-paced and high-tech the farming industry really is.”

Considering a career in agri-tech? Visit New Scientist Live!

It’s been anticipated that by 2025, the agricultural technology sector will be worth more than £136 billion globally. The UK Government is keen to contribute to this number, and in recent years, has invested in four agri-tech centres to lead in its efforts. The four Centres, Agri-EPI Centre, Agrimetrics, CHAP and CIEL, work collaboratively to harness leading UK research and expertise as well as build new infrastructure and innovation.

The Centres also work with leading partners to drive growth and offer support for innovative ideas and projects that help farmers and business owners become more profitable and sustainable. Naomi Smitten, Projects Co-ordinator for Agri-EPI explains:

“The projects are made up of experts from all industries focused on, but not limited to, Agriculture. Most of the companies that are involved in our projects are already operating organisations and/or universities. They don’t necessarily have the time or skill set to align a project.”

To date, the Centres have worked on a number of game-changing projects, such as Hands Free Farm with Harper Adams University and Precision Soil Mapping with partners Cranfield University, AgSpace, Innovate UK and The James Hutton Institute.

Event photo impression:

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.

Beef Satellite Farmer shortlisted for Farmers Weekly Awards

Congratulations to Niall Jeffrey of Bielgrange Farm in East Lothian on being named as a finalist in the Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year award for 2019.

Niall was shortlisted in recognition of his commitment to the continuous improvement of his business – something which is also a key driver of his partnership with Agri-EPI.

Beef monitor

During his three years as an Agri-EPI Satellite Farmer, Niall has been trialling a variety of technologies, including the AFI Milk Silent Herdsman Collar for monitoring fertility and health and a quadcopter drone for aerial imagery of fields and stock.  He is also involved in ongoing trials of the Ritchie Beef Monitor, a technology he believes has great potential.

The Beef Monitor is a weigh crate with an integrated water trough, allowing cattle from 350kg to finishing to be weighed every time they drink. It can be used indoors or with animals at grass.

Data can be automatically uploaded to the cloud or exported via Bluetooth, to allow viewing of weights by phone, PC or tablet as well as on the Monitor itself.

Software is currently being developed to analyse the data collected, producing alerts if an animal is underperforming or is nearing finished weight.

Before using the crate, beef farmer Niall was weighing his cattle every three weeks in the run-up to finishing, a 1.5-hour process with EID tags, or a three-hour process without.

The £4,500 Beef Monitor offers Niall a more efficient and precise means of keeping track of animals that are nearing finishing, as well as those that are not performing.

He said:

The potential for the beef monitor is great. If you are a farmer who doesn’t weigh cattle in the run up to finishing, then to go from not weighing to using one of these is a huge leap, but it will help you hit the market spec.

We wish Niall luck in the awards, which take place on Thursday 3rd October at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London.

 

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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