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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.

China SmartFarm partners

China SmartFarm concept

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.

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:

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First China SmartFarm crop to be harvested

The exciting collaboration between the UK and China around Agri-Tech innovation will reach a milestone today, June 10, when the first crop to be grown as part of the SmartFarm Project will be harvested.

The aim of Innovate UK’s SmartFarm concept is to develop a holistic approach to the food supply chain for a more efficient and sustainable approach to farming and food production. Beginning with the Agri-EPI-led pilot ‘SmartFarm 1.0’ 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.

China SmartFarm

Agri-EPI Centre has been working closely with a variety of Chinese and UK partners to deliver SmartFarm 1.0.

In China, the primary partners are NERCITA, the National Engineering Research Centre for Information Technology in Agriculture – host of the main elements of the SmartFarm 1.0 – and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) which oversees the Chinese delivery partners.

In the UK, the project is funded by Innovate UK. Partner companies SoilEssentials and RDS Technologies have contributed technology and expertise to the project. As well as academic partners from Strathclyde University and James Hutton Institute. Their involvement has helped to create a platform for UK Agri-tech companies to become involved in Chinese markets.

The initial focus of SmartFarm 1.0 has been technology associated with arable crops to create a better understanding of productivity from the land resource. Agri-EPI’s Chief Technical Officer Dr Shamal Mohammed and Project Manager Freddie Reed, along with colleagues from RDS, will be in China to see the winter wheat crop harvested, yield mapped, and other datasets are collected at the NERCITA Field Station Xaiotangshan on June 10.

They are looking forward to discussing the project with NERCITA colleagues and representatives from the Chinese government during a formal reception.

Dr Shamal Mohammed said:

“Our collective aim has been to develop a smart farming concept using various layer of data layers with a holistic approach to understand current levels of productivity and provide the insight to deliver improvements in term of food production and environmental sustainability. We are very grateful to our Chinese partners for their collaboration and we are looking forward to build a long-term partnership to advance Agri-Tech sector in both countries. We are also grateful for funding and support from Innovate UK.”

 

Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Innovation Lead for the Agri-Tech Centres said:

“I am pleased that this collaboration between the UK and China is under way as part of the UK China Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy Agri-Tech Flagship Challenge. It is the output of a bold vision inspired by an MoU signed between CRTDC and Innovate UK in November 2016 and has taken of a lot of hard work with colleagues from CRTDC and NERCITA and the UK’s Agri-EPI Centre to deliver. I am sure it will help to deliver positive benefits to the Chinese people as we work together to solve some of the worldwide major challenges facing agriculture.”

Like the UK, China has a strong focus on increasing agricultural efficiency, productivity and environmental standards. Its 13th 5-year plan on Science and Innovation, adopted in 2016, positions Agri-Tech at the heart of the programme, with a significant £1.5 billion of government investment in this area between 2016 and 2021.

Following on from this, Innovate UK and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technologies China Rural Technology Development Centre (CRTDC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2016, in which both parties agreed to explore mutual collaboration.

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 last December in London.

PartnersPartners SmartFarm 1.0SoilEssentials, NERCITA, James Hutton Institute, University of Strathclyde, RDS Technology, CRTDC and Innovate UK (funder).

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International Rural Conference delegation visits Parkend Farm

As part of the OECD Rural Development Conference earlier this year, Agri-EPI Centre’s Satellite Farmer Brian Wetherup of Parkend Farm hosted a widespread international delegation to showcase Scottish rural innovation. The attendees represented various international organisations and governments: South Korea, Romania, Belgium, Hungary, Netherlands, France and Germany to name a few. The rural field trip was initiated by Scottish Enterprise and included a tour around the facilities and provided further insights into robotic milking.

OECD Rural Development Conference

The 11th OECD Rural Development Conference brought together leading policy makers, private sector and renowned experts to exchange experiences and good practices on issues related to innovation in rural areas, including the development of policies to benefit from the 10 key drivers of rural change, and making the most of opportunities for job creation, economic growth, and service delivery. Read the full report about the Conference on the Scottish Rural Network website.

Partners

Organised by the OECD, the Conference is hosted by the Scottish Government, European Commission and the UK Government in close co-operation with Highlands and Islands Enterprise & Scottish Enterprise and the European Network for Rural Development.

© Photography: Sandy Young Photography

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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.

Precision agriculture technology opportunities in New Zealand

Innovate UK awarded Agri-EPI Centre funding to explore precision farming technology opportunities in New Zealand. Although in terms of economic performance New Zealand dairy and beef sectors are world leading, uptake of precision farming technology has been limited, especially in comparison with European countries such as France and The Netherlands.

New Zealand partner

Earlier this year, the Agri-EPI Centre team has met up with local partner Massey University. Researchers at Massey University are leading a large project to understand the variation in productivity, efficiency and environment impact across New Zealand Dairy and Beef Farms. Through Innovate UK funding Agri-EPI Centre is supporting this research by installing automated measurement technologies developed in the UK. This will involve the installation of 3D camera technology to remotely monitor the growth and carcass quality of beef animals, alongside collar-mounted sensors to monitor the activity, eating and rumination behaviours of both beef and dairy animals. The data collected from this project will give UK companies a chance to develop their products for a new market.

For more information about precision agriculture opportunities in New Zealand, please contact Agri-EPI Centre Technical Team via enquiries@agri-epicentre.com.

Photo gallery

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DawnFresh Seafoods signing up to Agri-EPI Farm Network

Stephen Burns (Senior Project Manager) had a great visit to Loch Etive a few weeks ago where he discussed how we would be working with DawnFresh Seafoods as part of our satellite farm network. Dawnfresh is one of the UK’s largest producers of fish and seafood, and the largest trout producer in Britain. Projects discussed included wireless connectivity across the loch to collect sensor data such as water quality and fish health.

Satellite Farm Network

Thirty-two commercial farms have signed up to form the Agri-EPI Centre satellite farm network. They have been carefully selected to provide a wide geographical spread within the UK and give a representative cross-section of UK agriculture. Poultry, pigs, dairy, sheep, beef, cereals, vegetables, horticulture and fish farming are all represented.

Agri-EPI’s Satellite Farm Network can be of benefit to its customers is by providing huge potential for large scale field trials, creating opportunities to benchmark and gauge the commercial impact of new technologies as applied to real world production systems.

Perhaps the most important role that the network plays, is the real connection it gives to industry. Not only does this provide a stream of ideas and problems that farmers have encountered in the field, it also represents an invaluable source of industry knowledge and experience that can feed into other activities.

The list of putative projects continues to grow and it will be very interesting to review the impact of the connected satellite farms on the Centre’s performance in a few years. The satellite farms themselves will continue to be independent, production-orientated businesses throughout. The Agri-EPI team believes this production focus is important and will enhance the commercial impact of the Centre’s work.

~ This synopsis was extracted from an interview with Agri-EPI that was published in the Food and Science Technology Journal in August 2017.

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.