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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: www.agri-epicentre.com/hackathon-2020.

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!

Calling all ‘astropreneurs’!

Agri-EPI Centre and its fellow UK Agri-Tech Centre Agrimetrics are taking part in a webinar on Tuesday 19th May for start-ups and SMEs interested in the role space technology can play in sustainable agriculture.

The Centres are teaming up with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the European Horizon 2020 Astropreneurs Space Startup Accelerator, which seeks to turn space-related ideas into viable businesses. Due to finish at the end of December 2020, the programme provides successful applicants with business, commercial and technical mentoring and training.

Agri-EPI Project Manager, Freddie Reed, will talk about how satellite imagery is current being utilised within the organisation’s network of 28 innovative farms. Agri-EPI works with this network to develop, evaluate and share information about new technologies and techniques.

Agrimetrics’ Chief Product Officer, Matthew Smith, will discuss the commercialisation of space data through the data marketplace.

Nick Trigg is Innovation Manager at the Science and Technology Facilities Council and UK manager for the Astropreneurs programme.  He will give a rundown on the space data that is available, and how it can be accessed.

Nick said:

“The space sector has a huge amount of technology that is useful for other sectors and this webinar will show how far sighted and technology driven the agriculture sector really is.  Both Agri-EPI and Agrimetrics are at the forefront of agriculture’s drive into these new technologies and it is great to have a them talking at this webinar.”

The webinar takes place at 10am (BST) on Tuesday May 19. Sign up here.

Unlocking new funding for agri-food innovation

Agri-EPI Centre can help

Agri-EPI is seeking to lend its expertise to businesses in the agri-tech space to help them access the UK Government’s £1.25 billion government coronavirus support package.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the new package this week to protect firms driving innovation in the UK. It includes a £500 million investment ‘Future Fund’ for high-growth companies impacted by the crisis, made up of funding from government and the private sector. SMEs focusing on research and development will also benefit from £750 million of grants and loans.

Agri-EPI has the expertise to help de-risk both the financial and technical aspects of accessing and utilising grants from the new support package.

Chief Executive Dave Ross explained:

“Agri-EPI works to develop partnerships and provide support to UK businesses seeking to develop, evaluate and market technical and engineering products which support efficiency, profitability and sustainability across the food supply chain. We work closely with academia and science and have a portfolio of publicly-supported facilities and assets which are open for use by our partners.

“With a strong track record of success in supporting businesses of all sizes to successfully access funding and to invest in opportunities, we are primed to offer our expertise to any businesses seeking to access this new UK Government funding and we urge those in the agri-food sector with an interest accessing the funding to contact us so that we can lend our expertise to making it happen.”

Rishi Sunak said the targeted and tailored help would ensure firms in some of the most dynamic sectors of the UK economy – ranging from tech to life sciences – are protected through the crisis so they can continue to develop innovative new products and help power UK growth.

For further details on the new fund, visit the UK Government’s website.

To discuss collaboration with Agri-EPI Centre, please contact Business Development Director, Lisa Williams.

World-class agri-tech in Africa

Establishing trust between farmers and investors

GRID tool

An innovative digital farming system is helping to increase yields across thousands of hectares of farmland in southern Africa while also creating new jobs locally and in the UK.

AgSpace Agriculture’s new GRID system gives farmers access to the most advanced agricultural satellite mapping and analysis available, backed by independent agronomic advice. The information helps producers to make better management decisions and allows them to offer evidence of their crops’ performance to financial providers to gain access to credit and insurance.

Partners GRID

GRID was developed under a two-year European Space Agency-backed project involving AgSpace, Agri-EPI Centre and Rhiza. It is the first tool on the market specifically allowing farmers and financial providers to track crop performance.

There has been rapid uptake of the product following its launch earlier this year. It is now operational in nine African countries, and involves financial providers including Standard Bank. Further expansion is predicted to create up to 775 jobs between the UK and Africa by 2024.

AgSpace Director, Vince Gillingham, said:

“Some 80% of the African workforce makes a living from agriculture but many are crippled by a lack of access to financial products to develop their businesses. Price fluctuations for inputs and products, along with crop failure, due to pests, diseases, temperature or variable rainfall, hold the entire agricultural ecosystem back. 

“It is very difficult for credit providers to measure risk in the face of such variables without good data from farmers. GRID offers a precision data-driven opportunity for overcoming this barrier, giving providers the evidence and confidence they need to support farmers in increasing yields, growing their farms and ultimately contributing to wider economic development.”

GRID uses high resolution satellite data to monitor crop performance while providing local weather data for every farm on an hourly basis. It provides soil mapping and soil health monitoring, supports fertiliser planning for increased efficiency and higher yields and calculates yield predictions.

Farmers access agronomy advice by smart phone to improve production while financial providers use the same satellite data to monitor crop performance and build a clear picture of each farm, whatever its size and however remote.

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Centre CEO said:

“We are delighted to have contributed to the emerging success of the GRID product. By using our company assets, including our database of high-resolution earth observation data, combined with analytics, this has enabled the optimal refinement of the system, which has now moved rapidly to a commercial offering. We are particularly pleased that Agri-EPI has assisted in the near-future prospect of up to 1000 jobs shared between the UK and Africa. This makes a valuable contribution from Agri-EPI input and continues to show evidence of world-class agri-tech solutions from the UK being exported around the globe.”

Francesco Feliciani, Head of the Commercial Applications Section of ESA, added:

“We are proud for having hosted the development and validation of the GRID service as part of our Integrated Applications Programme. We are convinced that GRID is a game changer in supporting farmers and associated financial services to understand the performance of farming businesses virtually everywhere in the world. This is key especially in times challenged by extreme weather events.

We have directly witnessed how the GRID service is used by farming companies in Africa, and we are fascinated by its capability to turn complex datasets and analytics into easy to understand information through a very intuitive and appealing user interface.”

More information

For further information about GRID, please download the GRID information brochure or contact Vincent Gillingham, AgSpace Director.

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.”

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?

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:

Agribots and the tech revolution on the farm

To share best practices and promote the UK as a leader in precision agriculture innovation, the American Science and Innovation Network (SIN) invited a delegation from the Agri-EPI Centre to visit the US, covering visits…

Events

SIMA 2020

Fulfilling the requirements of all farmers

At last year’s event, 1,800 companies from 42 countries, representing fifteen different sectors of farming including traction equipment, crop protection equipment and robotics exhibited.

Held in Paris, the SIMA 2020 event aims to fulfil the requirements of all farmers, regardless of the size of the farm they own and run, or their production method. Innovation will take centre stage and visitors will gain invaluable insight into the future of farming.

For more information, and to register for this event, please visit: https://en.simaonline.com.

Tesco Agri T-Jam 2020

Opportunities for agri-tech start-ups

Tesco T-Jam, in partnership with the World Agri-Tech, is calling for agri-tech start-ups to apply for the opportunity to work with Tesco, the UK’s leading food retailer, and its supply chain partners.

For a chance to win the competition, entrants must have an innovation or solution that will benefit and improve the UK’s supply chain efficiency and sustainability, and that address one one or more of the following priority areas:

  • predictive farming
  • crop specific solutions, shelf life and storage
  • improving soil health and resilience
  • water quality analysis and irrigation
  • robotics, automation and sensor technology
  • protecting and supporting biodiversity
  • livestock: animal health and Welfare
  • supply chain efficiency and waste reduction
  • indoor and vertical farming
  • operating remotely.

The competition will close on Wednesday 28th July. Following a selection process, the final ten selected finalists will be invited as guests to the 2020 Tesco Agri T-Jam Final, which will be held online on Monday 19th October, to present – via webinar – their innovations or solutions to a panel of Tesco colleagues and supply chain partners. The winner will be announced following another presentation in a showcase webinar promoted to the World Agri-Tech global network.

For more information and to apply, visit: www.worldagritechinnovation.com/tesco-agri-t-jam-2020.

Last year’s impression video