As a new starter at Innovate UK, I was asked if I wanted to take part in the Agri-Tech centre event at the Agri-EPI Hub at Newport in Shropshire. This was a prime opportunity for me to gain an insight into the facilities being developed by each centre.
I was thrown in at the deep end as a tour guide, which allowed me to absorb the positivity that exuded from attendees, as they learnt how to encapsulate the best cutting edge research to drive productivity into their own business.
What is the challenge facing the world in Agri-Tech?
Accelerating efficiencies in food production is now more vital than ever. In 2050 the world population will reach 9 billion people and food production needs to increase by 60% to meet these needs. We need to find a way of producing foods that are both efficient and sustainable.
What do the centres do?
The Agri-Tech centres offer a unique collaboration between the Agri-Food sector, government and academia.
The centres allow business to access the best specialist expertise which in turn will drive new science, research and technology into the sector. Each centre has its own focus area across Crops, Livestock, Precision Agriculture and Big Data. Together they encompass the needs of everyone across the whole Agri-Food supply chain and support the UK in becoming world leaders delivering sustainable food and farming solutions.
The aim of the event
The event held at the Newport Hub in Shropshire was designed to showcase to decision makers across the whole Agri-Food supply chain, the facilities and services being developed by each Agri-Centre and how they can work with them to solve their problems.
7 things I learned from the Agri-Tech centres showcase event
1. The power of data
Sometimes we end up with too much data and not enough information. Sound contradictory? The Agri-metrics centre works to make data more accessible. This was demonstrated by the field-based data product currently being developed at the centre, where fields act as the building blocks for national data sets of integrated data.
2. Cutting edge innovations in crop production
One example which sprouted much interest was CHAP’s mobile demonstration of LED lighting on basil. This technology has the potential to address challenges around population growth, food security and climate change. Some delegates were even lucky enough to take a basil plant home at the end of the day.
3. Livestock meets gaming technology
From the use of Xbox Live technology to track the behaviour of pigs, to the application Nintendo Wii movement-detection technology in cattle breeding. CIEL showcased some incredible examples of cross-industry innovation.
4. Satellites in agriculture
The Agri-EPI centre showcased the concept of their satellite farms, which measure variances within each farming system using precision agriculture equipment and sensors. This gained much interest as a technology which can have huge impacts on productivity and efficiency in the sector.
5. There are four centres but they have one vision
The centres have capabilities that cut across the breadth of the supply chain. Although each as a specialist focus area, this event was a clear demonstration of their individual strengths coming together to address challenges that no one part of the sector can address alone.
6. Tour guiding is more difficult than expected
Having never been a tour guide before and with interested industry members to look after, it actually proved to be more difficult than I imagined. I hope that the conversations I saw that sparked interest during the day will lead to further successful collaborations for the centres.
7. I’ll be heading back next year
This was the first time the four centres had come together under one roof to showcase their facilities. The sheer innovative technology that had been developed since their inception has been astounding, and undoubtedly the advances that will be made in one years’ time will be equally impressive. In such a fast moving industry it is paramount to keep up to date with new science and technology innovations, and what better way to do this than following the centres that are leading the way?
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