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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.

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.

Webinar to highlight Colombian opportunities for UK agri-tech

International collaboration

The diverse opportunities in Colombia available to UK agri-tech companies is the focus of an Agri-EPI Centre webinar on Thursday 23 April.

Agri-EPI’s Director of Business Development Lisa Williams, who will co-host the webinar, was part of a recent trade mission to Colombia, organised by the Prosperity Fund, the Knowledge Transfer Network and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). During a tour of the country, Lisa witnessed first-hand the many opportunities, particularly those associated with fruit, coffee, livestock and cocoa supply chains.

Lisa said:

“There is so much potential in Colombia for UK agri-tech businesses. At present, there is a significant gap in yield between the smallest and largest producers and technology is needed to help fill the gap.

“It’s clear that the Colombian government and its agri-food sector want to increase food production, but, crucially, they want to achieve this sustainably, meaning technology has a huge role to play in increasing precision and efficiency across all sectors. The various organisations I met are extremely interested in working with UK agri-tech companies so there is a huge opportunity in this diverse country.”

Colombia is the third largest Latin American country by population (49.8m) and the fourth largest by GDP. It had an average economic growth of over 4% between 2001 and 2017 and grew 2.7% in 2018. Ranked third in Latin America and the Caribbean for “ease of doing business” in 2017 by World Bank and the IMF, Colombia has access to 60 countries and more than 1.5 billion consumers through its network of trade agreements. Some of these agreements include the US, Canada, the EU, and South Korea.

Hosting the webinar with Lisa will be representatives from the British Embassy Colombia, Catapult Satellite Applications and Knowledge Transfer Network.

The speakers will provide an overview of findings from the trade mission and how UK agri-tech companies can respond to the needs of the Colombian agri-food supply chain. There will also be information about Colombia’s major trade show, ‘Expo Agrofuturo’, which, coronavirus restrictions allowing, is planned for August this year.

More information and sign up details for the webinar can be found here.

Visit creates fertile ground for growth of UK-China Smart Farm project

New opportunities arising from the UK-China SmartFarm collaboration were the subject of fruitful discussion at Agri-EPI Centre’s Northern Hub in Edinburgh today (18.12.19).

Agri-EPI hosted a visit by a high-level delegation from the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, along with representatives of Innovate UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the University of Strathclyde.  The purpose was to explore Smart Farm opportunities with the Tianjin Municipal Commission of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and Tianjin Food Group.

Agri-EPI is helping to realise Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. SmartFarm is a key component of the Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge, one of the major deliverables under the UK-China Science Technology and Innovation Strategy signed in December 2017 in London.

With the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ already well underway in China, the plan is to create a transferable model for utilising a range of technology to gather data on inputs and outputs, in order to measure and reduce variation and increase productivity at all levels of the supply chain.

Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0. The project has now come to the attention of officials in Tianjin, who wish to explore how the project’s activities and positive impact may be extended to their region.

The delegation comprised senior representatives from the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Commission of the Tianjin Municipal Government, Tianjin Food Group Company, Tianjin Jinhai Husbandry Group and Tianjin High Quality Agricultural R&D Demonstration Centre.

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said: “The China SmartFarm project is looking at how Chinese food production can utilise UK technologies to improve efficiency and reduce its environmental impact. We are delighted to have had the opportunity to discuss how we can build on current activities to further support sustainable food production in China.”

Dave Ross, Agri-EPI Chief Executive said: “It has been a pleasure to discuss further SmartFarm opportunities and we thank the delegation from Tianjin for their interest in Agri-EPI and the current activities in China. We have already developed exciting collaborations with several Chinese partners and are keen to build on existing relationships to extend the reach of the China SmartFarm initiative.”

Bridging the gap on climate change

Japan is embracing climate-smart technologies and practices for sustainable agriculture; and Agri-EPI is now helping to advance this for global benefits. 

At Defra’s invitation, Agri-EPI’s CTO Shamal Mohammed attended an international workshop in Tokyo on scaling up these technologies in early November, where he presented several case studies on bridging the gap between science, technology and farming.  

The key case study – the Satellite Farm Network – aims to increase the use of smart technologies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, he says. This fits nicely with the SmartFarm concept being rolled out in China through Innovate UK – something in which the deputy director from the Ministry of Agriculture of Japan showed interest – see Agri-EPI’s China visit for more information. 

Shamal also discussed using technology to maximise productivity, with some UK studies demonstrating that 11m tonnes of carbon can be saved just by improving efficiencies.  

Linked to this is research into helping farmers understand limitations of productivity. “If soil is not in good condition and there are compaction issues, more fertiliser won’t increase productivity, but will increase emissions,” explains Shamal.  

Other case studies were presented from every delegate country, with the Canadian Living Lab proving most interesting as it put forward ideas in union with Agri-EPI’s initiative to unite science, technology and farming practice. 

Additionally, Agri-EPI shared ideas about creating a carbon market with the US Department of Agriculture, with potential for investment from private American investors. “It’s about building that market mechanism and space for trading the carbon stored in soils,” says Shamal. 

Japan G20 Workshop November 2019 Japan Shamal Mohammed

The final day of the trip involved visits to three Japanese farms of varying size and layout, Shamal explains: “It was good to see how they managed their land and cropping and what they are doing to increase productivity and store carbon.” Japanese farmers are using labelling to persuade consumers that their products are more sustainable, shifting attitudes and purchasing behaviour. 

The conference – which followed the G20 meeting in September – offered Agri-EPI the opportunity to meet and set up communication lines with individuals and organisations across the globe with similar aims. In addition, it helped to build relationships and share the SmartFarm concept – something Japan and other countries may now also be interested in establishing. 

Next year, Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 Ministry of Agriculture Chief Scientists (MACS) meeting. Agri-EPI is looking into the possibility of getting a slot at the MACS next year.

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. 

Global Business Innovation Programme to Canada

Are you an innovative SME working in the agri-tech sector?

Innovate UK are calling for UK based SMEs to apply for a one week Global Business Innovation Programme to Canada in 2020.

Dates for your diary

Closing date: Wednesday 11 December 2019

Briefing event: Wednesday 15 January 2020

Programme: Saturday 25 January 2020 – Saturday 1 February 2020

Post visit event: Wednesday 11 March 2020

Why should you apply?

The programme, which will run from Saturday 25 January – Saturday 1 February, aims to support research and development (R&D) collaborations between British and Canadian SMEs that operate in the agri-tech sector.

Successful applicants will be supported throughout the programme, and will receive bespoke one-to-one support from Enterprise Europe Network advisers to help them exploit the opportunity before, during and after the visit to Canada.

When in Canada

Delegates of the programme will be based in Alberta, the country’s prime beef production area that is open to opportunities for the adoption of new precision technologies for livestock production. They will also attend the Precision Agriculture Conference & Ag Technology Showcase in London, Ontario and the Guelph Agri-Food Cluster.

Apply now

Register here. Once registered, you will receive an eventbrite email invitation to the programme’s application form.

Need help?

Please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Lewis, Agri-EPI Centre’s New Business & Proposals Manager, at rebecca.lewis@agri-epicentre.com if you need more information.

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