Farmers Archives - Agri-EPI Centre

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Putting farmers at the centre of innovation

Agri-EPI Centre has enlisted a network of farms spread throughout the UK to participate in the Agri-EPI Farm Network.

Why a network of commercial farmers?

The innovation farm network was developed by Agri-EPI from the desire to “close the gap” between research and the end-user, by creating a platform to host research projects and evaluate developing technology in a commercial farm environment, rather than in a simulated or research environment. Each farm has technology deployed to measure variance at every stage of production, understand inefficiencies within the system, and inform the agri-tech industry to direct their research to those areas. The goal is to ensure technology is developed to be robust and relevant to meet the challenges and requirements of the end users.

The network is diverse, comprising different farming systems, sectors, sizes and business structures producing a range of agricultural commodities, all equipped with the latest precision sensor technologies that are purpose-built to measure your agricultural innovation. We provide a set of services to assist in the creation of agri-tech products through either commercial or grant funded projects. We assist in the development process through a combination of a strong technical team and a world class set of equipment and facilities. Our innovation services include validation, full use requirement and analysis, data collection and interrogation, market insight and analysis, sustainability analysis, economic modelling with the focus of ensuring agri-tech solutions will have a positive impact on-farm.

Lorenzo Conti, Founder & Managing Director at Crover, said:

“The Agri-EPI Centre has been our first and main partner for on farm demonstration projects. Being able to access a variety of commercial farm sites for testing and demonstration from early on and getting feedback from some of the country’s most innovative farmers about what works and what doesn’t has been invaluable for us.

Like every new technology, it is ultimately only as good as the value perceived by the end users, and the Agri-EPI Centre’s leadership in Knowledge Exchange and dissemination activities has also meant that we have been able to refine and deliver the message to farmers and grain storage operators and created a regular stream of inbound requests.

We are glad to see Agri-EPI’s team and footprint grow at a similar pace to our own business so as to be able to support agricultural innovation projects at more stages and geographies.

For any public-funding-backed innovation project in the UK, partnering up with the Agri-EPI Centre is a no-brainer!”

Read more below:

Farm offer brochure

Agri-EPI’s Farm Tech Circle

Last summer Agri-EPI Centre launched the Farm Tech Circle, a new platform for farmers, growers and producers to discover and connect on topics that focus on enhancing the profitability and sustainability of agriculture.​ To learn more and to share this new network with members of the farming community who you think would like to be kept up to date with the latest news in agri-tech, please see below:

Farm Tech Circle


FTC Newsletter 1

FTC Newsletter 2

FTC Newsletter 3

FTC Newsletter 4

Presenting your agri-tech product

By: Amber Barton, Market Insight & Proposals Lead

Agri-EPI Centre helps develop precision tech solutions to empower more sustainable farms. But once the solution has been trialled and tested, how do we communicate the benefits and enable uptake of the tech? Amber Barton provides tips on what’s important when presenting about your agri-tech product.

Tip number 1. Too much background, waffle, and unnecessary information is not required, nor desired. Focus on you and your product

Keep your presentation direct and to the point.

Use real life examples from trialling your tech on-farm – admit what worked well and what didn’t and how this has been addressed.

Provide video footage to demonstrate your technology in action. Video phone footage would be fine.

Use photos and importantly, remember to introduce yourself, your team, and your backgrounds.

Tip 2: Presentation structure should centre around the product, cost, and application

What is your product/ service?

This should be one slide. It should be direct and easy to understand for someone unfamiliar with the subject matter.

What does your product/ service do?

This is your use case and should be a call to action. It should still be explained simply and directly but it’s your chance to appeal to them in a more emotive way. Use facts and figures, but only if they are strong enough to make someone think “WOW”.  Do you know your facts and figures if questioned?

How much does it cost?

You have told the farmers what your product/ service is and now they want to know if it is worth investing any more time listening to you. They will do this by assessing what the cost is to them. You could present something to them that is pure magic, but if it’s not financially viable then you are wasting their time (something they do not have a lot of). Make use of this valuable opportunity. If you are at this stage, then you should already be confident that your product is being produced at a cost that is agreeable to them so it shouldn’t need to be hidden. More on presenting costs can be found further down the page.

How is it practically applied?

You have told them you have something that will make their life easier/ save them money etc. Now decision makers  need to know how this will practically fit into their system. You may not know what kit they use or how they farm, but they do, and if they want to use what you’re selling then they will be open to making it fit or speaking about the possibilities. You just need to tell them the requirements. Is it sprayed? If so, how? Is it pulled behind something? If so, what are its power requirements? Is it robotic? What are the power/ connectivity requirements? Does it require mapping in advance? What is the timeframe needed for this to take place? Give them the facts and figures to help them see how this could fit into their own set up.

Is there training need?

Who is going to be using this? Is it them? Their agronomist? Is it simple enough for anyone on the farm to operate? Have these details to hand and any cost associated with them, including training time. Is it a 1-hour module or a two-day course with top up sessions etc.

How will your solution benefit them?

Round things off by highlighting any direct or indirect benefits your product will have. Think outside the box. Benefits to the bottom line are often at the top of this list but is there anything else that might not be so obvious?  Environmental benefits? Farmers are stewards of the land after all. Work life balance benefits? Will time saving help them get home to their families any quicker? Really put yourself into their shoes and consider the wider picture.

Value of your product

If you can show them this, in real terms, then they are far more likely to get on board and work positively with you.

So how can you help to “Onboard” farmers through considered costings?

First you need to understand their operating environment and their cost of production (COP). Most farm enterprises don’t have huge profit margins. As such, your product needs to either save them money in an existing area (e.g., labour saving) or enable them to increase the value of their product in a significant way. That is tricky in most farming sectors.

If you have a product that saves labour, then you need to know what the labour cost element of the total COP is and ideally you need to show that your product fits within that, or even reduces it. I will use labour costs in tabletop strawberry growing as an example:

Redman, G., 2022. The John Nix Pocketbook for Farm Management 2023. 53rd ed. Published: Melton Mowbray: Agro Business Consultants

Using this example from John Nix we can see that the costs for labour are mostly in the fieldwork, harvesting and grading/ packing areas which comes to between £31,676/ ha for low output and £54,129/ ha for high output production.

If you can show how your product offsets cost in actual figures, then there is a tangible benefit.

If your product costs £50,000 but provides a labour saving of 25%/ ha then you can show the benefit to the bottom line, the payback period etc. In this example a high performing farm would see the payback within one year across less than 4 hectares. You can then discuss the other benefits, such as not having to manage as many people (something that often causes the farm manager the most headaches) or helping to overcome the struggle to secure the labour in the first place.

There are a few places to find COP information – John Nix Pocketbook and ABC’s “The agricultural Budgeting and costing book” are a good place to start for a comprehensive guide. The AHDB also does a lot or work on farm economics and their Farmbench programme has a lot of good data.

Showing farmers you have a good understanding of what you are trying to help them achieve will go a long way to helping you achieve success in this sector.

Agri-EPI network explores data needs for farmers online

Agri-EPI Centre hosted a member community online special interest group titled What has data ever done for you, that brought farmers and tech developers from across the agri-tech sector together online to discuss data needs, successes and challengers for farmers.

The event was chaired by Eliot Dixon, Head of Agri-Tech (Engineering) at Agri-EPI Centre, and discussions were led by David Smurthwaite, Head of Dairy at Mackie’s of Scotland, and Jose Chitty, COO of Smartbell.

Jose Chitty began the conversation with an overview of his Smartbell project, an animal health monitoring and management system that provides unique data insights, focused on detecting health issues in calves. Smartbell makes it easy to gather data and present insights directly on a phone, and allows for farmers to spot problems faster and more easily, and create benchmarks for tracking changes and improvements on farm. This kind of data gathering can help to improve profitability, improve animal health, justify spending, and help to access funding.

David Smurthwaite, one of Agri-EPI’s innovation farmers, then took over the discussion to comment on the farmer perspective for using data and tech on farm. He uses Smartbell on his farm, and though he was cynical and had a hard time believing in the data at first, the app has improved and the system is working well for his team. For David, data needs to be user friendly, as implementing changes and getting an older team on board to use tech can be a challenge. He would like for the information to be more accessible but has very much started to rely on tech to aid him and his team in improving the welfare of their animals.

Discussion followed, where a number of questions were posed to the audience, and an array of thought-provoking answers were shared:


Q: What is the ultimate destination for this technology in the future?

A: Data transfer across the industry for benefit and joined up decision making, data that drives actions to help business, and a hand holder for farmers improving sustainability and profitability.


Q: What data sources are already vital for farmers?

A: Data associated with productivity, data that mitigates known risks, data that enables yield to be optimised, and data that provides efficiency on farm.


Q: What are specific challenges on farm that could be solved with data and information now?

A: Yield forecasting, connecting environment with individual animal performance, prediction rather than just alerting, investment, storing data, and statistical analysis for data.


Q: What is stopping farmers from getting the most information out of the data they have?

A: The data isn’t always the farmers but rather the equipment manufacturers, the data is too complex, farmers may lack certain skills or digital knowledge needed to understand the data adequately, farmers may not have enough time or have inoperable systems on their farm, and a lack on interoperability.


Q: What are disadvantages of using information and data?

A: Becoming over-reliant on certain companies and pieces of tech, the lack of accuracy of some data, or getting landed with the wrong application. Trust in the system needs to be ensured.


Q:Who should own the rights to the data from farms?

A: Farmers should own the data and be able to have a say on what is done with it, but secondary information could be owned by third party. Both parties should understand contractual laws and come to their own agreements, since data sharing is extremely important for the agriculture sector.


Agri-EPI will host their next member community special interest group in person at Cranfield University on 17th January, entitled Accelerating robotic systems for agriculture. Find out more here:

Autonomous and robotics solutions for agriculture and horticulture

By: Duncan Ross

Farming has been embracing evolving autonomous technology for many years. Milking robots are now commonplace and accounted for 30% of all new installations in the UK in 2015 (Heyden, 2015). By that time, robotic milkers had been adopted by 5% of UK farms (ibid.).

Satellite navigation and variable rate application of fertiliser and seed, and chemical spraying using “green on brown” (only spraying green weeds identified in stubbles) or more latterly “green on green” (identifying target weed species in grass leys), are developments that have been based on existing machinery platforms which growers are comfortable with as they are seen to be familiar.

The leap to the next level of robotics and autonomy is a step most growers have yet to take, as barriers to adoption including integration, costs, and skills which all hamper uptake. Despite this, Agri-Tech developers are keen to move their products forward in their capability, learning from grower experiences and interactions, and breaking down those barriers.

One of the major reasons for robotics adoption is access to labour, both seasonal and full time, with rising wage pressures and competition from other sectors in the economy. This is especially apparent in the horticulture sector with many operations still requiring large numbers of people.

There is a vast range of alternative robotics solutions being created which can be categorised into different types:

Large autonomous platforms that perform the same functions as conventional tractor/implement combinations but without a driver, such as those from John Deere and CNH and a smaller offering from AgXeed. TAFE are developing an autonomous electric drive train tractor, and Hands-Free Farm have been converting conventional Iseki tractors to be autonomous during research projects at Harper Adams University, both adapting conventional smaller machinery.

Scouting for incidence of stress (heat, pests, disease, or weeds) has led several companies to develop combined or standalone solutions. Companies are also investigating how to mount sensors on robotic platforms to capture more representative data from pest and spore traps that are currently left in one position in a field.

Weeding such as Small Robot Company’s combined solution using two separate robots, one to map a field and another to treat it with low powered lasers. Standalone solutions from NAIO, BAKUS use machine vision and AI to identify and cultivate weeds, whilst Earthrover uses light systems for control. FarmDroid works in a different way as it plants crop and maps the precise location so that it can return post establishment and weed around the plant. Nissan have developed a Duckrobot that swims in paddy field and removes weeds.

Spraying of orchards with the GUSS robotic platform which is a direct replacement of tractor and driver. Robots that can identify pests and disease with artificial intelligence and on-the-edge processing will allow those infected areas to be treated and not the entire crop, saving significant cost in agrochemicals as well as being more environmentally sustainable.

Crop scouting being developed by Antobot to count fruit numbers in orchards and strawberry tunnels, assessing maturity and yield, providing data beneficial for resourcing of staff and accurate prediction of produce to marketing cooperatives and retail supply chains.

Soil sampling on robotic platforms from E-Nano and GMV NSL will give far greater granularity on soil nutrient status and possible organic matter content. By precision mapping a field, a robot can return to the same spot several years later and sample again, to ascertain how regenerative management practice may have improved soil health.

Harvesting is probably the hardest area to crack but also the greatest need for growers to save labour input. This could be picking top fruit with developments by Tevel, Octinion, Agrobot and RootAI, soft fruit with SAGA, Dogtooth and Field Robotics, asparagus with Muddy Machines, and broccoli with Earthrover. Currently the degree of computer processing power needed to replicate human hand-eye coordination means all the platforms are slow compared to existing picker rates and need further development and refinement before they can gain parity and be considered a viable alternative to an experience picker.

However, an area that is seen as really labour saving is the logistics platforms being developed by BurroAI, Antobot and Fox Robotics, where the harvested fruit is moved around the plantation by a robot, delivered to a central point and returning to the harvesting location with empty trays. This prevents the need for harvest staff carrying fruit to the central point and allows them to do what they do best which is keep on picking, thus maximising use of available labour.

Automation and robotics will have a wide impact on the agriculture and horticulture sector in the future, replacing humans in menial tasks, simultaneously creating higher skilled jobs attractive to different people. Data capture and processing will allow growers to have far more visibility of their growing crops, providing information for better decision making on targeted interventions of irrigation, fertiliser, Agro-chemicals, and labour resource. This will enhance financial and environmental farm businesses and assist the drive towards a net-zero agricultural sector.


Get in touch to find out how we can support you: Go to Project Enquiries or email

Farm Tech Circle launched by Agri EPI Centre

Agri EPI Centre has launched a free membership network for farmers to discover and connect on topics that focus on enhancing the profitability and sustainability of agriculture.

Agri-EPI has identified that there is a need to bridge the gap between academia, research, technology development and the farming community to support technological adoption on-farm.

“From a recent farmer-led survey conducted by Agri EPI Centre, 78% of those questioned believe reducing greenhouse gas emissions was important to their business. However, only 35% have confidence that technology will help them reach net zero.

“These results highlight the disconnect between those creating technology and those that are using it to support the sustainability of their business. This is where being part of Farm Tech Circle will help.” – Trish Toop, CTO at Agri-EPI Centre

Agri EPI Centre has worked in collaboration with farmers, growers and producers since its conception.

“We have a network of 25 Satellite Farms which are commercial farms that we engage with to trial and validate innovative technologies.

“Farm Tech Circle is an extension of our current engagement with farmers. It is an inclusive membership for any farmer looking to enhance the sustainability of their farm business through knowledge exchange and the support of technology.”

As part of the free membership, farmers will be able to connect, learn and engage through access to the following benefits:

  • Priority registration for Agri-EPI Centre hosted events
  • Engagement with our technical team
  • Quarterly newsletters featuring information and articles on technology, systems or processes to help support business decisions
  • Member networking opportunities

Those wishing to find out more about Farm Tech Circle and/or join are encouraged to visit:

Tag Archive for: Farmers

Easter Bush Facilities Tour – seeding innovation and collaboration

Agri-EPI and the Roslin Institute invite you to an Easter Bush Facilities Tour on Tuesday the 17th October 2023.

This facilities tour will provide an opportunity to visit specialist campus facilities and network with experts to explore opportunities for collaborative innovation. Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit the Roslin Innovation Centre, which offers physical and virtual co-location for high growth innovative companies with a focus on Agritech, Animal Health and Aquaculture, enabling them to establish and grow.

Tours will include:

Aquaculture Genetics Research Facility – a freshwater aquarium facility designed for early-life stages of farmed fish species.

Agri-EPI’s Northern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub – a facility aimed at fostering new ideas and technologies from academia, start-ups, established companies and farmers. Agri-EPI’s dedicated team works to develop profitable, productive, and sustainable solutions for the agriculture industry, bridging the gap between early-stage commercialisation to implementation. They offer office, lab, and workshop spaces for start-ups and SMEs, providing them with necessary resources and helping them connect with like-minded individuals

Roslin Innovation Centre – a business gateway to innovation providing office, laboratory or virtual space for companies. The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies incorporates the Roslin Institute, the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, the Roslin Innovation Centre and other entities. World-class infrastructure at our Easter Bush Campus offers a gateway to expertise to collaborate and drive sustainable agriculture, control diseases and enhance health.

Bio-imaging & Flow Cytometry Facility – featuring a range of high-end microscopy, cell sorting and flow cytometry equipment and expertise, based in the Roslin Institute.

Proteomics and Metabolomics Facility – featuring ultra-sensitive mass spectroscopy instrumentation and expertise to characterise the proteome and metabolome in living systems, based in the Roslin Institute.

There will be complementary networking lunch and arrival drinks.