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Agri-Tech innovation at the heart of sustainable food production

As agriculture faces its greatest ever demands, data-driven technology is crucial to sustainable and profitable food production

The changing global economic environment is going to mean that farmers must change their approach to how they manage their business. By the year 2050, the world population is expected to grow to 9.7 billion, two thirds of the global population will live in urban areas. To meet increasing demand, the annual world agricultural production would need to increase by 60%. Technology has an important, if not vital, role to play in the transformation of the UK’s farming industry.

Together with the UK government and as one of UK’s four Agri-Tech Centres of Agricultural Innovation, Agri-EPI Centre works on facilitating the creation of profitable and sustainable agri-tech businesses.

In the next couple of months, as part of the ‘Agri-Tech Enabler’ campaign together with our wide partnership network, Agri-EPI  Centre will demonstrate the practical and commercial benefits of farm technology innovation, applied across all major commodities. We invite technology companies to bring forward new ideas that have the potential to directly, or indirectly, impact UK Farming and result in sustainable food production. Be sure to look out for #agritechenabler related news on social media in the weeks to come!

As the leading agri-tech enabler, Agri-EPI Centre supports all kinds of businesses to help maximise their innovative ideas. Unlocking the potential of agritech innovation, if you would like to discuss opportunities for your business, big or small, or have something to contribute, please contact team@agri-epicentre.com. We will be delighted to talk to you.

 

Agri-EPI Centre DairyTech webinars July 2020

DairyTech webinars

One of the sectors currently being challenged, where innovative technologies are key to improve efficiency, sustainability and resilience is dairy farming. We would like to invite you to a series of webinars where we highlight the use of novel technologies and management systems designed to improve dairy herd health, wellbeing and sustainably increase milk yields. Read more about the different webinars held in July and how to register:

The webinars give an insight into a range of projects rolled out on our various UK dairy facilities, which are operated in conjunction with our partners Kingshay, SRUC and Harper Adams University and our Satellite Farm Network.

Agri-EPI Centre and nutritional challenges of dairy calf rearing

Optimising lifelong productivity

The way a dairy calf is cared for in its early life stages can have major and long-lasting effects on the lifetime trajectory of that animal. This has significance not just at the farm level, but throughout the industry, where issues such as animal welfare, animal diseases and food safety can have substantial consequences.

Improvements in calf rearing will play a crucial role in the future sustainability of British dairy produce. Many problems exist in current calf rearing systems which threaten to restrict the sustainable development of dairy cattle in the UK. When managed incorrectly, dairy calves are susceptible to a range of health and welfare issues associated with inappropriate nutrition and weaning that can have long term impacts on the lifetime productivity of that animal in the dairy herd.

Agri-EPI has made substantial investments in a joint facility with SRUC to facilitate the measurement and management of key elements in calf rearing to optimise lifelong productivity. Colostrum management is the foundation of successful calf rearing. Colostrum contains high concentrations of protective antibodies to support a calf’s immunity, as well as a range of other constituents which are crucial to calf growth and development. Factors such as quality and amount of colostrum, as well as the timescale over which colostrum is delivered can all impact the future health status of an animal.

Getting right the energy and nutrient requirements of each individual animal goes far beyond colostrum. Dry feed, forages and water, as well as supplements and milk replacers also make up significant areas of the calf’s diet and all impact on animal health. Recent research findings suggest that the gut microbiome of the dairy calf is the key opportunity to improve early life gut health.

 

In partnership with you

The overarching aim of Agri-EPI’s dairy work is to develop and trial precision technology and techniques which support sustainable and productive UK milk production. Under an imminent Agricultural Policy reform, British dairy farmers will be required to constantly adapt, innovate and invest to ensure security for the future of the industry.

Agri-EPI’s Calf Research Facility, at SRUC’s Crichton Royal Dairy Farm in Dumfries, allows the daily monitoring of a calf’s consumption of milk, water, forage and concentrates, and its weight gain. Weigh cells in individual feeders record each calf’s intake every time they eat or drink. The data gathered by the units within the facility can be combined with data from ‘animal-mounted’ sensors, such as anklets recording an animal’s activity levels. The result is a comprehensive picture of an animal’s health and development, and how changes to intakes may influence these factors longer-term. The facility also creates opportunities for longer-term research into how different nutritional strategies may influence an animal’s lifetime health and productivity. For example, by considering how different milk formulations may impact on an animal’s growth and productivity.

Agri-EPI and SRUC are keen to partner with individual farmers, calf feed manufacturers, dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers and the wider supply chain to undertake research and trials to develop the latest technologies and techniques in calf rearing.

Example areas for research and trialling at the facility include:

  • Feed trials
  • Microbiome
  • Growth performance
  • Nutrient digestibility
  • Blood biochemical indices
  • Rumen development

For more information about our Calf Research Facility at SRUC Crichton Royal or to discuss a project/trial idea, please contact Kasi McReddie, Agr-EPI Centre Business Development Manager – Livestock.

New film highlights technology for sustainable dairy production

Dairy Production technology

Agri-EPI’s South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset and one of its satellite farm, Parkend Farm in Fife, are featured in a new film highlighting the development of technology in dairy production.

The video was produced as part of the Horizon 2020 ‘Internet of Food & Farm’ project. It explores the work of the project’s Dairy Trial Team at Strathclyde University, led by Professors Ivan Andonovic and Craig Michie.

The team is looking at sensors and Artificial Intelligence-based solutions for helping farmers increase their herds’ milk yields, based around a new platform called Herdsman+.

Lots of data about a cow’s health, fertility and performance can be collected using tools such as internet-connect collars, leg tags and milking robots. The key to generating the most accurate picture of each cow in the herd is to be able to integrate this data. Herdsman+ does exactly that, analysing the information to allow the farmer to make well-informed management decisions for optimising each animal’s health, welfare and milk yield.

Agri-EPI has supported the Dairy Trial Team by providing data from the SWDDC and Park End dairy farm. The two dairies have also hosted events for farmers to consult them about new and future tools which may support their businesses’ sustainability during these challenging times for the dairy sector.

 


Logo Science Animated

Science Animated

This video has created by Science Animated is a scientific communication agency who develop engaging and accessible animations based on specific researcher’s work. For more information: https://sciani.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.”

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:

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