sustainability Archives - Agri-EPI Centre

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Tag Archive for: sustainability

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

Rose Judeh-Elwell joins Agri-EPI Centre as director of business development

Rose Judeh-Elwell has joined Agri-EPI Centre as the new Director of Business Development.

Rose comes from a proven sales and business development background having worked in both the public and private sector and within a number of different industries over a 14 year period including agriculture, engineering, and higher education. More recently, she was Business Manager for the newly formed School of Sustainable Food and Farming based at Harper Adams University overseeing all business development and partnership activity as well as day to day running of the school. Prior to that she spent a number of years working with companies active within the agri-food supply chain to either develop innovative solutions; or to identify the challenge areas where implementation of innovation and technology would support efficiency improvements and in turn increase productivity and growth.

Rose oversees the Business Development and Marketing & Communications functions within Agri-EPI Centre, driving forward growth and implementation of strategic direction. She has a deep understanding of the importance of science and technology as a key driver in addressing sector related challenges when working towards a more sustainable, efficient and innovative agricultural supply chain.

Dave Ross, CEO of Agri-EPI Centre, said:

“I am very pleased to welcome Rose Judeh-Elwell as Agri-EPI Centre’s new business development director. She is stepping into a critical front-facing part of the organisation and will help to build on the successes we have gained so far.

Rose will spearhead Agri-EPI Centre’s sales activity, develop relationships and services, oversee funding bids and keep the company at the forefront of agricultural innovation.

Rose will be heading up a very strong team and will bring fresh thinking on how to capitalise on the multiple opportunities we are encountering at present. Her background in commercial sales and business development, pro-active relationship management, and an excellent track record of consolidated sales growth will stand her in good stead at Agri-EPI Centre. Welcome Rose!”

On-farm conference provides unique discussions around sustainability in farming

 

Sustainability, technology, and innovation in farming were the focus of Agri-EPI Centre’s Annual Conference last month at Shimpling Park Farm in Suffolk. The event brought together over 100 guests from across the agriculture sector, from farmers and growers to tech developers, academics, and other sector representatives, for a day of discussions and networking.

The day, entitled ‘The path to sustainable farming continued: the role of precision technology’, began with introductions from host and farmer, John Pawsey, Agri-EPI’s CEO Dave Ross, and journalist and conference chair, Anna Jones.

Dave Ross said:

“It’s a relief to get back in person. There’s nothing better than actually meeting people face to face to have networking discussions, discuss the problems that are topical, and think about solutions to those problems.”

Fabia Bromovsky, Director of the Global Farm Metric at the Sustainable Food Trust took the floor as the conference’s keynote speaker to discuss the question: what exactly is sustainable farming? She explained that we lacked a common understanding and that where definitions exist, they often overlooked the interconnectedness and diversity of our farm systems.   She set out the need for a common language, a framework that recognises this holistic system and identifies where impact occurs.

She acknowledged the important role of technology to support farmers with this.  Farmers already collect lots of data, but with a consistent set of measures, in-common to all farm assessments, technology can provide solutions that make it easier to collect. Technology can enable farmers to protect their data, share data between consenting users, improve performance, and reduce time and costs.

She maintained the power of a common framework is it would provide a consistent baseline of data, the DNA of the farm, that can underpin supply chain transparency, green investment, and food labelling.  Governments, markets, and the financial sector can then reward producers who are delivering genuine benefit to the environment and public health and shift the balance of financial advantage towards more sustainable systems.

The farmer speakers were up next, with a panel made up of four of Agri-EPI’s innovation farmers, including Sophie Alexander from Hemsworth Farm, Jo Franklin from Kaiapoi Farm, John Pawsey from Shimpling Park Farm, and Ian Beecher-Jones from JoJo’s Vineyard.

They discussed the challenges within the agriculture sector including resilience to weather events, net zero goals, and price volatility, and how uncertainty in policy can affect the ability for some farmers to innovate as much as they would like to. Other topics discussed included how sustainability is inextricably linked to profitability, the need for a business mindset as a farmer, and the methods the farmers use to progress towards their sustainability goals.

The tech panel included developers Howard Wu from Antobot, Jack Wrangham from DroneAg, Jim Wilson from SoilEssentials, and James Brown from Earth Rover. Their discussions centred around how to make technology accessible to farmers, how to better understand farmers’ priorities for innovation, and how to attract more youth to agriculture with the use of technology.

Lastly, bridging the gap between the farmers and the tech developers, the final speaker panel included Calum Murray, Head of Agriculture & Food at Innovate UK and Agri-EPI speakers including CEO, Dave Ross, CTO, Trisha Toop, and Head of Engineering, Eliot Dixon.

Calum Murray explained:

“What we do at Innovate UK is try to make things happen that wouldn’t normally go ahead. First and foremost, we have to understand what the challenges are. We need to identify those areas that will deliver the greatest impact and give us value for money and give value to the UK economy”.

Dave Ross said:

“We are in an industry that has huge challenges and huge opportunities.”

The speaker sessions were followed by a networking lunch and farm tour around Shimpling Park Farm headed by John Pawsey.

John explained:

“We’ve been using the Skippy Scout Drone. There’s a huge amount to be looking at and I have to say, huge thanks to Agri-EPI and to Skippy Scout, because even though we can actually physically go out and look at all those things ourselves, because it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort to go out and get that data, if you have a drone that can go out and get it for you, then why wouldn’t you do that?”

Guests were thrilled to be back in person discussing sustainability within the food supply chain, agri-tech solutions, and innovation in farming.

Ian Beecher-Jones said:

“I think today was very much about the grower, very much about the farmer.”

Calum Murray said:

“It’s been terrific to get back on farm and hear first-hand exactly what farm businesses are having to face.”

Agri-EPI Centre is the UK’s leading centre for precision innovation in farming. They help to deliver profitable and productive solutions to empower more sustainable farms and specialise in connecting knowledgeable experts and new solutions across the agricultural sectors.

Get in touch about opportunities at team@agri-epicentre.com

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 team@agri-epicentre.com

Data-capture and use focus of innovation farm walk

Data-capture and use is the focus of a farm walk at one of Agri-EPI Centre’s technology and innovation trial farms.

The event will take place at Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh, by kind permission of farmers Robert and Jac Neill, on Tuesday 11 October.

Participants will be able to hear about the Neills’ experience of implementing new technology on the farm in conjunction with Agri-EPI Centre, including Crover, the grain-monitoring robot, which burrows into stored grain to check moisture levels and temperature. The Neills also utilise machinery and equipment from Agri-EPI Centre members John Deere, Keenan and Trutest who will talk about their technology.

Robert Neill said:

“The farming industry needs new technology and there are some things that are already delivering really good results at Upper Nisbet. My experience with GPS has been unbelievably good; I can drill crops with much greater precision, meaning I don’t sow in inefficiency at the start of the season. If I know that the combine is exactly where it is meant to be, I can concentrate on other settings, such as keeping the header full. It also means I’m much less exhausted at the end of the day.”

Ross Robertson, head of mixed farming at Agri-EPI Centre said:

“The farming industry needs new technology to become more efficient. Some things have potential and some don’t, but this doesn’t always become clear until they are trialled on working farms.

“Agri-EPI Centre works with arable and livestock farms the length and breadth of the UK, enabling us to undertake and research new technology, commercial trials and data analysis in as many different situations as possible. I am really looking forward to hearing how Robert and Jac are getting on with the technology at Upper Nisbet and to learning about what works and where they see opportunities for development.”

Agri-EPI hosts agri-tech focused tour for New Zealand delegation

This month Agri-EPI hosted a visit from Callaghan Innovation and Agritech New Zealand.

Beginning with a visit to one of their satellite farms, Kaiapoi Farm, farmer Robert Hodgkins showcased his new sheep dairy and discussed the realities of farming in the UK and opportunities for deployment of agri-tech.

Agri-EPI works with an extensive network of real commercial farms and research facilities in the UK and internationally, offering a platform through which innovators can verify the effectiveness of their new idea or technology in practice.Their farm network is key to connecting farmers with technology developers, advancing the adoption of agri-tech and enhancing the sustainability of farm businesses.

The next leg of the visit involved a tour of Agri-EPI’s new Agri-informatics building at Cranfield University and the shared Agri-EPI Centre and Crop Health & Protection – CHAP phenotyping glasshouse facility, a superb asset for companies to use for R&D and trials. They were joined there by representatives from the university, CHAP, and Innovate UK.

With a stopover to UK Dairy Day, they watched Agri-EPI members at MilktechNZ showcase their award winning CR-1 electronic cup removers, followed by a visit to Harper Adams University where Hands Free Farm demonstrated their autonomous combine harvester in action.

The final stop was Agri-EPI’s Midlands Agri-tech Innovation Hub where networking and discussions around UK funding and the potential for future collaboration took place.

Jane Lycett, International Business Development Manager at Agri-EPI, who coordinated the visit, said:

“It was great to host an inward mission of innovative agri-tech companies, led by Callaghan Innovation and Agritech New Zealand. The visit provided an opportunity to showcase a number of Agri EPI Centre’s facilities and expertise and discuss areas for future collaboration between UK and New Zealand.”

Specialising in connecting knowledgeable experts and new solutions across the agricultural sectors, Agri-EPI aims to help deliver profitable and sustainable cutting-edge technologies to market.

 

   

Tag Archive for: sustainability

Agri-EPI Farm Walk: Newton Farm

Agri-EPI invites you to attend an on-farm day at Newton Farm in Brecon, Wales on the 11th May 10AM-2PM. There are a limited number of tickets available, and we will be accepting registration on a first-come, first-serve basis

This event will be hosted by Richard Roderick, Farmer at Newton Farm and will include an introduction to the farm, a farm walk, and a networking lunch for all attendees.

About Newton Farm:

Owners Richard & Helen Roderick, along with their son Tudor, farm 850 acres including 200 acres they’ve recently rented and plan to farm regeneratively. The Roderick’s manage a diverse business, including an impressive outwintered herd of stabiliser cattle, a flock of 800 ewes, and an arable enterprise. The Roderick’s are passionate about a number of farming topics, including carbon sequestration, grassland management, and animal health.

Richard and Helen’s vision is for Newton Farm to be a profitable mixed farm, which maximises the use of its own resources, while increasing biodiversity and conserving the wildlife and historical features of the farm. To achieve this, their strategy is to focus on sustainability, genetics, and maximizing the use of forage and root crop.

Agenda:

10am- Arrival teas, coffees, and breakfast baps

10.30am- Introduction from Ross Robertson, Head of Mixed, Agri-EPI and handover for a welcome from Richard Roderick, Farmer, Newton Farm and an overview of the farm.

Explanation of the work taking place on Newton Farm as part of the Beacon Water Group from Nigel Elgar, BBMC Project Manager at Welsh Water

10.45am-Walking farm tour to include…

Demonstration of Beef Monitor and Combi Clamp from Carwyn Davies, Sales Manager for Wales at Ritchies. Ritchie were established over 150yrs ago, and specialises in the design and manufacturing of innovative high-quality agricultural and industrial equipment.

Explanation from John Smout, Sales Manager for UK & Ireland of NoFence who created the world’s first virtual fencing for livestock.

Explanation from Jose Chitty, Chief of Operations at SmartBell who provide automated monitoring solutions for animal health and management decisions and WellCalf which is a digital assistant for calf rearing.

The tour will also include a tour of the wider farm via tractor and trail.

1pm- Lunch and networking at the shed

2pm-Event ends

If you are interested in sponsoring the event please contact members@agri-epicentre.com.